Crash of the Titans Review

Lee Abrahams

We all know how it was supposed to go; back when the Playstation first hit the market Sony were looking for a figurehead, a character that would go up against the deadly duo of Mario and Sonic in a bid to launch the new console into the stratosphere. After all, they reasoned, if a single character could help Nintendo and Sega sell so many consoles then surely we need something similar? Into that breach stepped Naughty Dog’s creation Crash Bandicoot, full of platforming vim and vigour, here was the character that was going to pull some kudos Sony’s way… but it never quite materialised. Luckily for Sony the Playstation flew off the shelves regardless thanks to an amazing line up of top quality titles, but even though Crash starred in a long series of pretty successful games they never quite took off in the same way as his esteemed rivals.

Despite the fact a full blown console game has not appeared on a major format since the ill fated Crash Twinsanity back in 2004, it was decided to bring back the furry critter for another stab at the big time and, somewhat surprisingly, it seems that the rest has done him good as a solid action platformer has been created on a 360 console that is sadly lacking much in the way of competition. The reigns have been passed to Radical Entertainment and it’s nice to see that they weren’t afraid to take the game in their own direction. The tried and trusted formula of villains, platforms and collectables is still in place as you would expect but the game feels more like a beat ‘em up than anything else, with Crash having a range of combos to unleash upon his foes. The other key mechanic coming in the form of ‘jacking’ which allows Crash to control his enemies and use their powers to aid his progress. As a gimmick it works pretty well and provides some impetus for you to jump from enemy to enemy using their powers at whim.

Crash's hours on Street Fighter 2 finally paid off.

Story-wise if you’ve played one Crash you’ve played them all, but it’s nice to see the developer taking it away from the strictly kiddy end of the market by throwing in plenty of pop culture references and in-jokes that will raise a chuckle or two. Crash is once again struggling against the twin menace of Dr Neo Cortex and his niece Nina, plus their voodoo henchman Uka Uka (gifted with the amazing ability to speak without the presence of a discernible mouth) who have swiped his sister and plan on releasing the imaginatively named Doominator robot to destroy Crash’s island paradise. As generic as it sounds, real effort has been put in to make the game as much fun as possible with plenty of levels oddly familiar to movie sets and the cutscenes adding enough sparkle to keep you entertained. It’s nothing new but the tongue in cheek atmosphere of it all is enough to make you ignore the clichés for the most part.

The gameplay is primarily old skool Crash too, seeing him leaping around platforms and solving pretty easy puzzles to progress. This difference comes in the fact that a lot of the game involves you beating up a lot of minions to open gates and banish barriers, rather than having to pull the obligatory switch. It’s a lot of fun and becomes even more so once you are introduced to ‘jacking’ the bigger foes in your way. With the help of a Freejack mask, if available, or your trusty fists you can weaken them enough so they are stunned and then with the help of your friendly neighbourhood voodoo mask Aku Aku take control of them. Once you are riding the beast of your choice you get access to their powers, which can be turned on your other foes or used to clear a path through the scenery. As the game progresses you come up against increasingly stronger foes which require you to jack your way up the food chain, grabbing the weaker titans to hurt tougher foes and then jacking them in turn. The same theory applies to the boss fights, with you having to jack them before you can inflict some damage. It’s a pretty smooth mechanic and each of the enemies has their own quirks, such as the vomiting ooze monsters – truly death by sick has never been so satisfying. Jacking a certain number of each enemies also unlocks a related costume that, when worn, means you can jack that specific enemy in one hit in future.

Use weaker enemies to stun stronger ones, then take them for a ride.

Each level also has its own share of secrets and unlockables, obviously with achievements on offer for diligent goodie hunters. Rewards are also available for finding hidden idols (which aren’t that well hidden) and beating Mojo room challenges (which aren’t that challenging) both of which are found one per level. Crash also levels-up in a basic manner depending on the amount of Mojo he collects, which in turn unlocks or improves upon his powers. The additional powers aren’t really necessary considering you can jack super powerful monsters and use their much superior skills but it does give you some kind of purpose in collecting the Mojo scattered around the levels.

The game does a good job of gradually introducing your foes so that the idea doesn’t get old too fast, but the one gripe can be that should you find yourself without a jacked ride it can be incredibly frustrating to stun an enemy to ride. A group of enemies can swiftly take down an unarmed Crash and trying to single one out in order to stun it can be a pain. The story itself is also incredibly short taking only a matter of hours to rush through, even if you take the time out to find all of the secrets on offer you’ll soon blitz through the game. Starting the story on Hard mode will also ensure you have no real reason to return to the game in future as you will undoubtedly see, do and unlock everything you require – especially considering you can replay levels at will if you do happen to miss anything. Levels are graded depending on how you did, requiring you to get a certain number of combo hits, find spybots and kill a number of weaker minions, but none of the requirements are ever too taxing to require more than one or two attempts at best.

Grin when you're winning.

Graphically the game is pretty weak and it’s obvious that the game was primarily developed for the PS2 and Wii, with a few added touches on the 360 version seemingly added as a mere afterthought. Despite the nice cartoon feel it’s apparent even in the cutscenes that the characters look blockish in places which is unacceptable really, especially as this game could easily be mistaken for any one of its predecessors. There are no real issues in terms of frame rates or collision detection though, and you never feel like you’ve missed a tricky jump due to bad graphics or misplaced camera which is vital in this kind of game. The audio is a lot better on the whole as the voice cast is surprisingly funny and well worth a listen, watch out for N’Gin in particular who makes his levels a lot of fun by screaming a constant stream of invectives at you through a loud speaker. You can also listen into enemies grousing conversations at various points, as they moan about their bosses and each other. A lot of effort has gone into the voice work with thousands of lines of dialogue and it shows.

On the achievement front this is an easy 1000, simple as. All of the achievements can be grabbed in a solitary play-through and should you miss getting a gold rating or a specific collectable on any particular level you can just replay it. The only mild annoyance comes in the form of jacking 5 of each enemy, as this total also includes bosses. Meaning you either have to fight them five times or jack them and then die so you can jack them again, either of which is a bit of a pain. The list itself doesn’t include anything wholly original or inspired and this is more a case of the developers making the game first THEN seeing where achievements would fit rather than designing certain fun aspects with achievements in mind. It also wouldn’t have hurt them to make the so-called hidden collectables a bit more hidden as they are laughingly obvious. Still if you are after a fun and simple 1000 in a few hours then this game wouldn’t go amiss.

Probably the best part of the game, a well done script with plenty of character and dialogue. Even the minor villains are worth a listen for a good laugh.

A PS2 game with make up on, not nearly the standard you would expect and no different than any other Crash game.

Enjoyable while it lasts but with no excuse to go back for more it just comes up short.

Does exactly what it says on the tin, a solid platformer with a few twists and some nice ideas. Could have done with another coat of polish though.

Bog standard list that will over joy points hunters everywhere, let down by the fact there isn’t one glimmer of originality.

This game is one of those that will give you a lot more fun then you could have hoped for, while at the same time not being quite as good as you would like. It’s a good effort but far too short and not nearly nice enough to look at, plus a bit more of a challenge wouldn’t have gone amiss either. It’s nice to see Crash back on form but he’s still a long way behind his illustrious peers.

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