The old coot is back on the scene
Time has not been very kind to the once dominant bandicoot. Though never as iconic as fellow platform compatriots Mario and Sonic, Crash brought a unique flavor of his own to the genre. While Mario and Sonic moved side to side, Crash ran vertically up linear levels full of puzzles and obstacles. From his debut on the PlayStation to today, the bandicoot has been involved in far too many forgettable spin-offs and cash-ins that never seemed to go anywhere. Meanwhile, the new kids in town, Jak, Daxter, Ratchet, and Clank, have since taken over as Sony’s mascots, leaving poor Crash in the dust. Thankfully, the folks over at Radical and Sierra Entertainment heard of Crash’s plight and decided to give him a make-over for the next generation. With a new art style, arsenal of moves, and fresh world to explore, Crash is looking to gain back the fan base he has lost over time. Can he succeed?
Visually, each version of Crash of the Titans differs because of the hardware power found in its respective console. However, the 360 version is easily head-over-heels the most superior version graphically. Though not as impressive as say Kameo or Viva Pinata, Crash of the Titans features some sharp visuals and impressive landscapes. Whether it is a vast jungle, expansive canyon, barren desert, or mechanical factory, each location looks as it should, with the detail more enhanced if played on an HDTV. For a game that is featuring a non-linear world for the first time, you have to credit the developers for putting forth such an honest effort.
On the same topic, nearly every character has undergone a makeover in entering the next generation, and in my honest opinion, each one looks a lot better than before. Whether it is Coco’s new wardrobe to Aku Aku’s more realistic facial features, the new designs will probably only bother hardcore fans of the series. Cutscenes are nice and look almost as if they were taken off of the in-game models. What helps drive these scenes though is the terrific humor that has always existed in the Crash Bandicoot games. From the always insane Crash to the hilariously short-tempered Cortex, each break in the gameplay will no doubt have you smiling.
Crash probably won’t be though because the predicament he is in this time around certainly isn’t anything to shrug off. The plot in Crash of the Titans takes place shortly after the events of Crash’s last adventure. Just like any particular day, he is off lounging around his home in N. Sanity Island helping Coco, his younger sister, with one of her crazy devices. The peace doesn’t last for long as the evil Doctor Neo Cortex soon arrives in his airship looking for trouble. Coco and Aku Aku are suddenly nabbed and Crash’s brother Crunch is quickly sealed off within a crystal. Not wanting to lose his trail, Crash then jumps into action and manages to separate Aku Aku from Cortex before he gets away. After some explanation on the part of the shamanistic spirit, Crash realizes what he has to do: collect the mojo Cortex is trying to get his hands on and stop the mutants that are appearing because of it.
Taking control of the wily bandicoot, you will find yourself jumping, punching, and spinning across twenty fairly expansive levels or “episodes” as the game calls them, collecting the magical mojo and thwarting monsters. Unlike past Crash Bandicoot titles, the world within the Wumpa Islands is finally expansive, no more linear pathways separated by invisible walls. Though the formula is new to the series, the creators have seemed to pull it off very well, with more emphasis on exploration and combat than puzzle solving. This may seem disappointing for fans of the series, but it is apparent (from the lack of popularity) that the series needed a new spin on things. And for those still a little skeptical, the collecting aspect seen in a lot of the earlier titles is gone as well, keeping the balance between linear and non-linear in check. Speaking of keeping things in check, the enemies of Crash of the Titans need some counseling, and Crash is just the animal for the job.
Yet another new aspect of the game is the way in which you stop the opposition. Over fifteen unique “titans” are to be found within the game and each has their own move-pool that Crash can utilize. This is accomplished by dazing the mutant with a flurry of punches. Once stunned enough (indicated by a bar above their head), the titan will be available for the taking. When under your control, the creature will offer you up to two unique moves to use depending on the situation. From heat seeking missiles and a power tackle to giant thorns and massive claws, the titan you call on will have an effect on certain enemies and obstacles that others will not. It is this aspect of the game that attempts to deepen the gameplay in Crash of the Titans, more so than any game in the series before it.
Hijacking massive beasts isn’t the only thing you will be doing throughout your adventure. Taking a nod from the first few games in the series and inspiration from the Jak and Daxter games, Crash now sports quite the arsenal of acrobatics. From a dizzying tornado spin attack to a spinning scissor kick, Crash is as tough as he’s ever been, must be the new tattoo. As you continue to progress from episode to episode, new moves will be available for use as you continue to collect mojo. So, while there isn’t as much emphasis on collecting as before, it is still necessary in order to upgrade your offense. The new features don’t end with Crash though. The environment also has some tasks of its own that haven’t been seen in the early Bandicoot titles. Taking advantage of the wider spread world, players can now swing on vines, dash alongside the side of cliffs, wade through treacherous waters, and even use Crash’s pal Aku Aku as a dirt-board for canyon surfing sequences. Hey, what are friends for?
Though everything sounds well and good so far, Crash of the Titans is not without a detriment or two. The first problem is the lack of variety between objectives when traveling from episode to episode. Each one will primarily have you collecting mojo, hijacking certain creatures, and accomplishing some situation in a certain amount of time. Some enemies throughout try to sweeten the combat, but aside from the fifteen you can take over, they are pretty much just cannon fodder. It is a shame that there isn’t more to do now that Crash has been given such an expansive world to traverse through. The other issue is the camera, which makes the above mentioned missions even more frustrating at times. With the right thumb stick, it is possible to alter the angle a tad, but most of the time it will stay centered on Crash. This results in it being impossible to see when too much is on the screen at once or when Crash is between two cliffs or buildings. If just a little more attention was paid to allowing for multiple camera options, the gameplay would flow a lot smoother.
The strange thing about Crash of the Titans is that for every flaw found, there is a positive waiting around the corner, or in this case, a mode. Two players can now join in on the action through the co-operative feature, and it certainly tends to liven things up. Nothing more fun than dual hijacking some titans and going to work right? Even though the second player will just be a different colored Crash rather than a new character, the difference is apparent enough to be able to tell the difference. It doesn’t just end with making the combat easier, working together will be a big part of progression in the co-op mode. Using each other as a perpetual bridge to cross gaping ravines and even hijacking each other to increase your firepower are all part of the newly found strategic elements in Crash of the Titans.
In the end, Crash of the Titans merely exists to put Crash back on the map. Nearly forgotten after so many new platform icons have come and gone, someone had to get the poor bandicoot back on track. Despite following the same formula as a lot of adventure titles, Crash of the Titans’ new idea of taking over enemies to resolve battles and solve puzzles is quite unique. Throw in a two player co-op mode and you have some nice replay value on your hands. There are some quirks here and there with the camera and the repetition between episodes, but neither are devastating enough to bring down the overall quality of the game. Expect to beat the single player in about fifteen to twenty hours, but add even more if you have a friend to tag along. As said earlier, what are friends for?