Bandicoots, Mutants, and Evil Plots. Oh My!
Crash Bandicoot is an icon in the gaming world. Perhaps not as notable as Mario and maybe a bit more memorable than Spyro, Crash Bandicoot is an instantly recognizable character that many people have grown attached to over the years. His return to the world of console games has been bittersweet for many, as changing developers and consoles have altered the Crash experience considerably. However, if you were a fan of the original PlayStation Crash Bandicoot titles, then the new Crash, Mind Over Mutant, has plenty to love.
The story behind this title is admittedly paper-thin (just like any other Crash title) and deals with another one of the evil Neo Cortex’s creations. This time, Cortex has created a tech-happy helmet that allows users to text, blog, and play video games, all at the same time. However, the headgear will also turn you into a slobbering mutant! As Crash Bandicoot, your task is to once again thwart the evil plans of Neo Crotex and his minions and restore peace to your home. Luckily, you have gained the ability to “jack” these mutants and harness their powers for your own devices.
The game is formatted almost identically to previous Crash games and features linear platforming. The ability to take control of the mutants certainly adds some strategy to the game, but it isn’t exactly groundbreaking. I really like the gameplay in Mind Over Mutant, but if you are not into linear platformers, and instead crave open worlds, this game will not be for you.
One of the main criticisms that could be made about this title is the lack of choices it gives you. Generally, there will only be one path for Crash to follow, and there are no expansive maps to explore. Some might find this to be a little too limiting and claustrophobic. Another huge issue this game has is the fixed camera. While this isn’t immediately a problem in regular play, if you are trying to complete some of the game’s bonus objectives, which normally require collecting certain items, you might wish you had a way to look around the level. This can also become a problem when you play in the game’s local co-op mode, as it becomes difficult for you to keep both of your characters in the same frame if they are going in different directions.
Another big problem with the game is that it isn’t nearly long enough. Playing the game straight through without going for any extra objectives will probably take between eight and nine hours. If you do decide to go for 100% completion, you may have another two or three hours at the most. This game is way too short, and I can recall even the earliest PlayStation Crash titles lasting longer than this. All these limitations sound pretty bad, and they really do make the game seem rather cumbersome at first. However, if you can tolerate these shortcomings, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised by how much fun this game can be.
< p> One of the most redeeming qualities of this title has to be its humor. The tone of the game is irreverent and offbeat and features quite a bit of topical humor. Though all the pop-culture references have definitely been heard before, they are definitely good for some belly laughs. The game pokes fun at celebrities, technology, and infomercials, so there is plenty to laugh at. And, of course, it references several of the earlier Crash games, so longtime fans will definitely recognize some of the “in” jokes.
The platforming battle system here is also very good and features classic button mashing combat. You also have a special attack system that is tied to the different mutants in the game. Because there are different “species” of mutant in the game, you will be able to “jack” the different mutant powers as you see fit. For instance, if you have jacked an ice mutant, you can use ice attacks, and if you have jacked a mind-control mutant, you are able to move certain objects around the stage with your special attack buttons.
As good as the battle system is, I was a little disappointed with the overall control scheme. Using the buttons for basic attacks is fine, but tying Crash’s signature spin attack to the left stick (the same one you use to move around) just feels weird and imprecise. Some of the more complicated button combinations are also a little cumbersome to deal with, and the control scheme definitely could have been better.
Another big boon for Crash: Mind Over Mutant is the animated cutscenes. The animation in these scenes is very smooth, and each cutscene is done in a different style. For example, one is done in a cheesy ’70s anime style, while another is all in black and white with a grain filter. However, because of all the different styles, the cutscenes do feel a little disconnected from the gameplay. But I find this forgivable, as the quality was very good, and I looked forward to the different genre lampoons.
As entertaining as the cutscenes may be, the best component of Crash: Mind Over Mutant by far has to be the sound. The music in the game is fun, whimsical, and never boring. The voice acting here is also topnotch and includes an A-list voice cast including John DiMaggio, Maurice LaMarche, and Mark Hamill. Although some of these names might not sound familiar at first, once you listen to them, they are very recognizable. One thing that was truly appreciated here was that the in-game dialogue was never repetitive. Enemies are always talking to each other, and if you listen, they always seem to have something new and funny to say before getting completely wiped out. This title is quite a joy to listen to; you definitely won’t be disappointed with the music or the voice acting.
The Crash Bandicoot series has been around for what seems like forever. The franchise began as one of the most groundbreaking titles for the original PlayStation. It’s safe to say, however, that the Crash franchise has lost its clout in the video game world, especially as games advance both technically and creatively. Some might argue that the Crash franchise is tired and should go the way of so many other PlayStation-era platformers: quietly into extinction. However, I think it is fair to say that there is a place for retro-inspired games. Even though the type of linear platforming that is prevalent in Crash: Mind Over Mutant is scantly seen in this generation, it is still exciting to play, especially for those of us who have been with the franchise since the beginning. Sure, Crash: Mind Over Mutant doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and there’s no way it’s vintage-inspired gameplay can stand up to modern titles. But, it still manages to be quite fun, and it’s worth a spin if you have ever played (and loved) a past Crash game.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.9 Graphics
Graphics look very sharp, but environments are very bland and there is not a whole lot of action. Cutscenes are very well animated. 3.3 Control
Controls work fairly well, with the exception of the left stick spin attack, which is far too difficult to execute and control. 4.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music is quite good, and voiceovers are topnotch. This is definitely the best facet of the game. 3.8 Play Value
Despite having a very linear progression, there is a surprising amount of things to explore. However, don’t expect to spend more than 9-10 hours with this one. 3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.