Crash: Mind Over Mutant
“You should never go back” is a quote which we can all apply to an experience during our lifetime. Maybe you’ve moved back to a place you once loved as a child only to return without those rose tinted lenses. Maybe you’ve decided to give your old sweetheart from school another chance only to realise you don’t like her anymore, or just maybe the newest instalment of a classic series of old hits the shelves, only to discover the main character has a new voice, has lost of all his old friends and grown a ridiculous new hat of hair. The jeans are back, though.
One could be forgiven for being a little apprehensive about Crash finally making the next generation leap after the spectacular face-palm the series took making the step-up to PS2. Wrath of Cortex (the first PS2 outing) was the start of Crash’s demise from conquering the world with his last outing, to entertaining the few deluded diehards. A little like hardcore Travis fans, then. This time however, there is a sign of hope.
Instead of frantically attempting to mimic the golden days of old in high definition (oh hello there, Sonic), Mind Over Mutant takes the bread of the original Crash experience but leaves the butter behind in favour of a completely new flavour. The game plays like a classic 3D linear platformer, but in one continuous world surrounding Wumpa Island. The island has several paths which in a way act as a giant room of doors which open up the core levels. Each level has the same basic path to offer a pure platforming experience, however because of the ‘open world’ nature, often the objectives require the player to backtrack the levels. This can grate after spending the last half hour reaching a destination, only to go all the way back to the start of the level to come back again a short time later. At least the game recognises when you’re repeating a section though, and introduces optional timed challenges to take on return, no gems and relics though.
Despite ripping a few of the internal organs out of Crash’s ageing body, the heart of the series has been spared for the time being, as Wumpa Island’s very own Bin-Laden wannabe (Dr. Neo Cortex) is plotting world domination once more. Seriously, can’t this guy take the hint? This time the world is at risk from some glorified swimming goggles which turn the residents into raging mutants he can control, and is told through comic book styled cut scenes. At least it makes a little more sense than fighting giant frogs and wizards.
Naturally the only way Crash can stop Cortex is from either slitting his throat or jumping on the mutants heads to navigate dangerous environments and defeat him in battle for the n’th time. I’d have chosen the former but Radical Entertainment seemed to elect against it, for now. These mutants bring diversity to the proceedings, offering some variety to the platforming but leaving the option for purists to play with just Crash for the most part.
Surprisingly, this clichéd attempt at adding variety adds dimension to an otherwise hollow engine. The difficulty requires a better balance because unless you’re playing on the highest difficulty then, the mutants make levels a little too easier than it should be in parts, as the minor enemies can be taken out in a single sweep. Fighting the other mutants is also a breeze due to the inexcusably dumb A.I. This however is part of the appeal, the game feels refreshingly basic in a year of complex, mind boggling releases which need total focus; games like Fallout 3, Fable 2 and Grand Theft Auto IV are hard to dip in and out of for half an hour at a time so can feel daunting to invest time in.
This theme translates into the presentation too, which feels stolen from the PS1 era. The graphics are varied and detailed, without being so technically impressive they feel disconnected from the core gameplay, and the menus feel like they’re ripped out of Crash 3: Warped. Imagine a classic Crash theme combined with the technical quality of Kameo and you’ve got the idea. They’re not going to blow you away but it doesn’t feel out of place on current generation consoles, with a distinct old-school feel enhanced by the generic blinging sound effects and 90s cartoon-pop themes.
Despite featuring no online features, players can go through the game in local co-op mode as player two controlling Coco. Although only the extreme minority will get anymore playtime from this mode, it’s far more welcome than a tacked-on online mode. No matter how accomplished Mind Over Mutant online could be, the curse of poor sales would ensure a potentially enjoyable mode would go to waste by the lack of community presence, much like Beautiful Katamari online.
It’s oh so easy to try and hate Crash: Mind Over Mutant. The whole game feels like a bland and unambitious platformer with a Crash Bandicoot skin stuck over the top to increase sales. It’s shamelessly repetitive and predicable and collecting mojo feels even more pointless than Wumpa fruit did, but none of that truly matters when playing. After generation after generation of classic platformers, this generation feels completely lacking of innocent collect ‘em ups and bright cartoony palettes – even Banjo Kazooie didn’t have the testosterone to give us a traditional experience. Despite its shortcomings, Mind Over Mutant’s charm makes it worth a punt for all those sick of the soulless and deep experiences of late, it’s easy to digest and doesn’t pretend it’s something that it can’t be and unless you own Super Mario Galaxy then you won’t do much better than this. It’s good to be back; let’s just hope you’re feeling a bit more adventurous next time, Mr. Bandicoot.