Crash of the Titans
Crash Bandicoot is a franchise that has a lot of making up to do to its fans. Ever since the release of the original 1996 PS1 title, the series has barely lived up to its potential. It has been a huge disappointment so far, as the first three games were all solid titles that enabled the series to build an international following, propelling Crash to almost iconic status. Unfortunately, a number of spin-offs later, the series had pretty much dug its own grave. The task for Radical Entertainment couldn’t be clearer; get the series back to its roots and return the gang to where they belong.
It is obvious from the moment you first load this game up that the development team have taken this series back to its beginning. No more churning out pointless sequels that barely make an impact. Instead, they have created a game that, for many, will set the series back on the right track.
In typical Crash style, the story has you pitting your might against the evil Dr Neo Cortex, a familiar foe from previous games. A new substance known as “Mojo” has been identified, giving Cortex the means to build a mutant army from the inhabitants of Wumpa Island. As Crash lives there himself, he steps up to the challenge of stopping Cortex once again. Another incentive for the game’s protagonist is the rescuing of his younger sister, Coco. Within minutes of the game beginning you will witness her being captured by Cortex. It’s a basic plot, but suits the game perfectly. With the uprising of Cortex’s new monstrous army, Crash must use everything he can to eliminate the threat…
The structure and layout of the game is an extremely simple one. An almost back to basic approach from the developers enables players to quickly gain enough experience of the controls in order to survive the later levels. The concept is easy enough for any generation to get to grips with. Crash will face a number of smaller enemies, before having to tackle a larger opponent, known as a Titan. Players will have to dish out enough damage to these daunting creatures in order to paralyse them, thus making them available to “jack”. Throughout the game, one minor draw back became apparent. Every Titan can be taken down in the same way. Holding the heavy attack button for a few seconds will charge up, enabling you to injure them enough for you to take control. This isn’t particularly inspiring, as each Titan should have a different weakness to take advantage of. Although this is the case, it is these Titans that give you the means to go on and move through each level without needing any other assistance. Your ever-faithful mask companion, Aku Aku, helps you control them and acts as your guide throughout the game. Once on the back of any of these huge beasts, the havoc starts to rise immensely…
“The concept is easy enough for any generation to get to grips with”For a short while at the beginning of the game, being in control of a Titan will initially enable you to destroy anything in your path with one swipe. However, as you quickly progress through each individual episode, you will realise that it isn’t as simple as it first appeared. Players will find themselves switching Titans constantly in order to stay alive and maintain the much-improved power. In the latter parts of the game you will need to work your way through the food chain in order to control the highest class of Titan, the “Captain”. Once on one of these mountain sized monsters, nothing will stop you. Although the use of these huge creatures brings something new to the series, it also takes away other elements that have been recognised as a success in previous games.
An extremely noticeable factor missing from the game was the amount of platform style puzzles that ran throughout older titles. Don’t get me wrong, this is a platformer all the way, it just lacks the amount of challenges that the series is loved for. When these sections do come up, it is a great distraction from what is a combat heavy title. A little more variation is needed throughout the game, as each level quickly becomes an alternate themed version of the last. It is a shame, as for the first couple of hours of play; the take on combat is a fresh one. It quickly wears thin however, making the rest of the game feel tiresome and repetitive.
The only break from this intense combat is the chance to use Aku Aku as a skateboard throughout sections that enable you to gain large amounts of speed. Although it is possible to play most the game riding your pal, it really isn’t the best idea, as attacks are weaker and generally less accurate. There are clearly sections for which this kind of extreme transport is best to use, as Crash will jump onto Aku Aku automatically. It does provide a short break from the combat, but once again becomes tiresome within a few levels.
The level designs become predictable as you literally travel from one fighting arena to another, sometimes with the skateboarding thrown in en route. Although each episode looks different, with a huge variation of settings, it doesn’t do enough to stop the repetition of the gameplay. Players can expect to travel through deserts, volcanic bases, castles, and many other colourful settings. A positive for the game is the vibrancy of each location, as the range of colours will satisfy any preference you might hold. It’s a huge plus for the game to offer a selection of contrasting settings, as without them every level would be an exact clone.
For a title that has such variation in the themes it uses, the graphics aren’t particularly flattering. At times it suffers from the last-gen look that can make and break games from today. Textures aren’t shaded particularly well, and the locations tend to look blocky. You would think by now that this kind of poor graphical status could have been eliminated in favour of a little more sharpness. Another downside is when the action gets extremely hectic, with lots of enemies on screen, the game suffers from huge slow down. This is disappointing, as the characters themselves look impressive. Crash looks detailed when close to the screen, a description also matched by the enemies of the game. The titans’ appearances mimic the detail shown by Crash, and are easily the most impressive visual aspect of the game.
A nice touch for gamers is the many references to modern day culture throughout the game. This title is film reference galore, with nods to popular movies such as Brokeback Mountain and King Kong amongst others. Characters are based on famous personalities and give the game a great sense of humour. Expect to rub shoulders alongside characters based on Mr.T,Mike Tyson, and even Gollum from The Lord of The Rings. It works nicely, as the inclusion of these likenesses gives the game greater appeal to the older generations. There is also an underlining sense of humour throughout the title that will wash over the younger gamers heads as they bash their way through. The voice acting does come across childish, but certain characters tend to come out with memorable one-liners that will gain a smile from the more mature player.
“Characters are based on famous personalities and give the game a great sense of humour”Running alongside the story mode is the chance to complete the entire game with a friend via co-op play. This is the only form of multiplayer the game offers. Unfortunately, co-op can only be played if you are in the same room as your friend, as Xbox Live isn’t used at all. This could have been a major coup for the developers, as online multiplayer would have attracted many players. Even if it were just the story mode available, it would have been enough to gain a larger gaming audience. The co-op that is on offer does work well however, as double-teaming the onslaught of enemies is extremely fun. It also becomes a much easier task, so the opportunity for a friend to drop in whenever needed is a positive one. During the skateboarding sections, player two will jump into Crash’s backpack. This means player one will control the direction you go in, until the next time you land. The roles then swap, as a quick switching of positions occurs. These sections are easily the most exciting, as the co-operative element comes into its own. Unfortunately, the lack of Xbox Live options means an opportunity certainly missed.
“The opportunity for a friend to drop in whenever needed is a positive one”All in all, this game is a mixed package. It does a lot of things right, but doesn’t capitalise in other areas. It is this lack of finishing touches that makes the game feel a little incomplete in some areas. Although it will appeal to many, the short story mode isn’t enough to give a full recommendation to go out and buy the title. At around eight hours of play, it won’t last seasoned gamers very long. With the lack of multiplayer options, it really is a quick bang for your buck. One thing is for sure though. The series is in a rehabilitation process, trying to get back to where it deserves to be. It isn’t as impressive as the original games were, but overall Crash seems to be making titanic steps in the right direction.
Six out of ten
- Simple gameplay suitable for all ages
- Great sense of humour
- Makes Crash fun again
- Two player co-op is a blast
- Becomes repetitive quickly
- Over way too soon
- Lack of online multiplayer
- Slow down when things get hectic