IGN Review of Crash of the Titans
Oh Crash Bandicoot, you were never popular enough to hang around with the cool kids like Mario and Sonic, and yet you've still avoided that depressing mascot retirement home where the likes of Aero the Acrobat and Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel reside (look them up if you have no idea who I'm talking about). However, as spotty as some of Crash's adventures have been in the past, there is still something likeable about the slightly deranged marsupial. Maybe it's because he looks like he stuck his finger in an electrical socket while biting into a lemon. Yeah, that might be it.
Nonetheless, the unfortunately-named Crash of the Titans sees Crash return to his platforming roots: no kart racing or party-games are to be found, thank goodness. Instead, the hook of the game is the ability to take control of (or "jack") some of the larger enemies in the game, and use them to rain destruction on the baddies. Now let me tell you something: I don't care who you are or what you do, but mind-controlling a giant monster and smashing things into tiny bits is fun. It's a universal truth. However, there are still some pretty large issues that keep this game from being the definitive Bandicoot return.
First of all, let's talk graphics. Sporting a brand new art design that's probably aimed at younger kids who've never heard of Crash before, Crash of the Titans is not a bad-looking game in the least. All versions have pretty sharp character models that are well animated, but the Xbox 360 has the sharpest graphics of the bunch (HD helps). The backgrounds have a clean, cartoony look to them (almost like a pop-up storybook), but some muddy textures drag them down. It's somewhat weird: the backgrounds are pretty varied, but there's still a blandness to them. There's usually some impressive focal point to the level (like a big temple in the background that keeps getting closer as you progress), but the roads to these set pieces are pretty boring. There's also some screen tearing and a few framerate issues, but nothing too bad. The graphics get the job done and the entire game looks like a Saturday morning cartoon. That's sure to please the kiddies.
As a side note, the 360 version inexplicably adds an annoying motion blur to Crash's jumps. Note to developers: adding motion blur to something does NOT make something next-gen. In fact, it's kind of irritating. Please don't abuse the motion blur, guys. Thanks.
In terms of presentation, the kooky humor of Crash and his gang is still there. The smaller minions actually say some pretty funny, if not dated, things (yay for Chuck Norris and l33t jokes
I guess). The main story doesn't pretend to be anything it's not, but at the same time you get the feeling that the writers are trying a wee bit too hard. Especially when one level is called "Don't Eat the Yellow Brick Load." Yeesh.
For the most part, the game is as linear as past Crash games. In fact, it's probably more so-- since the game is all about jacking mutants, combat is emphasized over everything else. So a typical level will be like this: run forward and punch normal guys, find a monster, jack said monster, use the monster to kill other monsters in a large circular arena, and then continue in a straight line. There really is no variation throughout the entire game, and that's where Crash starts to suffer. There aren't any real puzzles that go beyond the standard "shoot the target to open a door" sequences, and most of the unlockables or special items can be found just floating in plain sight: there's not much exploration at all. Granted, this is great news for people obsessed with achievement points. In fact, you'll probably be able to get most of the 1000 points on your first play through.
However, repetition in a brawler isn't so bad if the actual gameplay is rock solid. Too bad that's not the case. Basic combat is easy enough: hit X multiple times to do a simple combo or you can hold Y down to do a charged attack. More moves can be automatically unlocked by collecting "Mojo" orbs, and you can do things like have Crash spin like a top or do headbutts and the like. But you don't care about this, you're reading to know about the monsters you can control.
And what a pretty interesting lot they are. The designers went the Avatar: The Last Airbender route and came up with a lot of them by combining two animals (for example, there's a large gorilla / scorpion creature that's appropriately named "Scorporilla"). There are fifteen controllable enemies total, but this is a little misleading because a fair number of them control exactly the same. You have the basic monsters that are good at brawling, there are the ones who can throw projectiles and snipe targets, and then there are the huge, slow moving guys who can take out large groups at once. Each monster has his own special move and combo, but they usually just involve mashing X over and over. To jack a monster, you first need to punch one of the beasties until the star meter above his head fills up, and then you simply push a button. You can then use a low level monster to jack a larger one, and effectively climb up the food chain. So you can even call this game educational. Or maybe not, but whatever.
However, this monster-jacking process is where some of the bigger problems seep in. The monsters will constantly block, and the only way to break the blocks is with a charged move. However, it's typical to have three or four guys rush you when you're charging, do their special moves while you're defenseless (which each hit for three times or more) and utterly ROCK you. That, or you work on one guy for a while just to have two guys appear out of nowhere and break your combo (you need to constantly hit the monster or it regain health). Or you get locked in your own combo animation so you can't block a super powerful attack. But then again, sometimes all the bad guys just wait their turn while you calmly jack one monster. Regardless of what's happening, the inconsistency is irritating.
Adding to the problems is the camera: it's seemingly always focused on Crash so you can't really see what's around you. There were times where rolling bad guys sped in from off screen and ran over my poor Bandicoot without warning. You can nudge the camera a few centimeters around with the right stick, but this feature is so useless, I don't even know why they included it.
Even still, Crash isn't a hard game (with the possible exception of one of the later bosses
that cheap jerk). These gameplay problems will annoy you but they don't make the game impossible. However, the game is less fun than it should be because of it. Take into account that the game can be typically finished in 6-8 hours (or even five if you rush), and the dullness really shows.
On the plus side, there is also a co-op mode that is surprisingly fun. Player Two takes control of a Crash clone, and both players play on the same screen (which does cause more camera issues because the camera always wants to focus on Player One). Combat becomes easier because the two of you can help each other jack a monster faster or provide cover for the other character. However, the neat thing is that one player can actually jump in the other person's backpack and ride around while the other player is fighting as normal. This makes jumping from platform to platform MUCH easier, and thus solves one of the main problems that has plagued platforming co-op.
But if this isn't enough for you, turn on "Leapfrog" mode. The backpack thing works the same as usual, but there's a crazy twist. If a person who's holding another guy in his backpack jumps and lands in the game, the person in control trades places with the person in the backpack (so if Player One was controlling before, Player Two will then take control after the jump). This plays as weirdly as it sounds, and it really takes tremendous coordination between the two players: especially while constantly jumping on moving platforms and avoiding stabby things of death. And even stranger, this makes a simple game more strategic. One can only hope that this co-op angle is expanded upon in a possible sequel.
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