Hi there, welcome back to “GenreQuest”. I must apologise for last week’s inpromptu break from the series, I can only blame the fact that I genuinely forgot and I am only human, after all (as far as you know). Well, we continue now with our journey into the annals of gaming’s most ‘meh’ mascot, Crash Bandicoot, as we see where the series went after the last game’s attempt at recreating his glory days.
I have both been dreading and looking forward to this week’s load of reviews. As I made clear last time, the post-Naughty Dog Crash games had a tendency to….suck, a lot. So, it might come as a shock to you that I say Twinsanity is easily the best Crash game that wasn’t made by Naughty Dog and is actually very enjoyable to play through for many, many reasons.
The story does the old Crash shtick of following on directly from the ending of the previous game, with Cortex and Uka-Uka the evil mask being frozen together in a block of ice, floating across the sea. They escape and begin an attempt to capture and presumably destroy Crash in vengeance for all of his foiling of their previous plans. However, once again something goes wrong, and our hero ends up being constantly stuck with Cortex as they have to save the day together this time from a pair of new villains.
The easiest difference to notice here is that the world is much more open and explorable, something that was experiencing its first surge of popularity in gaming at the time. It means that while you can just rush straight through each section, completing the minimum of platforming challenges and the like, you can also explore each nook and cranny to find all of the hidden gems. It’s a nice change to not have each gem simply be hidden somewhere in a level, or have it so that each gem is something you get for the same challenge in different levels, instead we’re presented with the infinitely more interesting exploration mechanics to collect our prizes.
Another huge difference here is that this game is genuinely funny. Now, previous games had elements of humour in them, mainly through the visuals and general theming, but this game actually tells jokes, most of them are actually quite funny. There are even a few quips poking fun at Crash’s history, like the fact that Cortex always tries to blast him with projectiles that he knows Crash can spin back at him. Little touches like this make the game more interesting to play, it keeps you going through some of the less interesting sections when you know there’s going to be more funny dialogue from the characters around the corner. (Incidentally there’s a section in the beginning where Cortex is dressed as Coco Bandicoot, and it’s just beautiful).
The open world elements of the game combine nicely with the linear sections that connect each area, and the addition of some new playable characters like Cortex’s niece Nina serve to freshen up the series a little bit. There’s also a nice variety to the gameplay, sections where you’re in a ball rolling down slopes because you’re fighting with Cortex, sections where you slide on his back to make it down a snowy hill, sections where you simply run along battering enemies by swinging Cortex around in a wide circle. All of these features are something that needed to be in this game to make it what it is. This game actually feels like someone tried to take Crash and make it their own thing, instead of just attempting to recreate the glory days of Naughty Dog’s involvement with the series.
Control-wise, everything feels much nicer than it did in the previous instalment, the jumping, sliding, and bellyflopping all feel more smooth, and getting around works perfectly with the new open ended levels. They also managed to approach something seeming more like the classic Crash in visuals, while still being able to add their own elements to the world, with more rounded designs on lots of the characters and bosses than were in the series previously.
Overall: A surprisingly good addition to the series. If you’re going to try and play one of the post-Naughty Dog games, then you should try this one. It has a great sense of humour and the gameplay actually feels like something new.
Crash Tag Team Racing
A quick warning before I jump on into this one, it should really just be considered a brief interlude before I continue with the actual 3D platformers on the list. While Crash Tag Team Racing is in fact a racing game (shock/horror), there are a fair few sections of the game where you decide to ditch the car to go platforming across the land.
The story (yes, there’s a story) follows a motor theme park owner who has lost all of his power gems and will lose his park without them. So, he starts a race to see who can recover them all, and whoever wins gets the park. Pretty basic stuff, really.
The game mainly consists of races where you have to try and beat your opponents both by racing better than them and also by fusing your car with other racers to make super cars which can destroy your opponents’ vehicles. However, each ‘land’ in the theme park must be traversed on foot by platforming your way around, collecting coins to spend, and opening different races by winning the previous ones.
There’s not really much to mention here, the platforming is fine if a little imprecise. The visuals look…fine, I suppose, they’re not amazing, however, and for some reason some of the returning characters just look strange. The music is basic and dull, and overall the entire game just feels mediocre.
Overall: A mediocre racing title with mediocre platforming strung between all of the races. Don’t bother getting this no matter which genre you enjoy.
Crash of the Titans
And so we come to the last two games of the Crash franchise to date, the two that are basically accused of having killed the series, mainly with good reason too. I have a little experience with at least one of these games, but I remember very little about the time I spent playing it, except the voice actors, I remember the voice actors. So, let’s begin.
Crash of the Titans follows a very basic storyline where Cortex decides to go back to his old ways of turning normal animals into evil monsters, creating creatures called Titans to take over the island that Crash and his friends live in. It’s all very basic, but the story is not why you’d come to a Crash game, so let’s talk gameplay.
The game actually controls satisfactorily. It’s not stellar, but it works very well, and moving around as Crash feels nice. The combat is a bit of another story, at first all you can do is swipe ineffectually at enemies that are quite close to you, gone are the days of spinning your enemies into oblivion. This is a huge departure from the rest of the series, and it is easy to see why many fans decry this game as a wrecker of dreams and hopes, even if that stance is a little melodramatic. Eventually, you do gain the ability to take control over the large Titans that walk the island and use their power as your own in combat, which does add some nice variety to the proceedings, but this cannot save the fighting system from its own mediocrity.
Interestingly, you also do not have the old system of ‘one hit, you’re dead’. Instead, the game opts for a standard health bar that you can fill up by eating the game’s classic ‘Wumpa’ fruit. You also have to collect a lot of glowing blue-green gems that are called ‘mojo’ which apparently makes you more powerful by giving you new combos to use in combat, such as ‘old school’ which is literally a spinning attack taken straight from the older games…too soon man, too soon.
The visuals actually look really nice. The characters have all been redesigned, and surprisingly the new designs actually really suit all of the characters. Crash has some tribal tattoos across his hands instead of his old fingerless gloves, and he wears detailed jeans along with some new looking red sneakers. His actual hair and body have been altered too, bringing him more in line with modern graphic capability. One of the biggest changes is Aku-Aku who has a much more rounded appearance now, and looks nothing like his old self, which actually isn’t a bad design either, even if my nostalgia feels pained by this massive change.
The sound is actually a place where the game truly shines. The music suits well enough for each area and manages to give every environment an at least passable atmosphere. However, it really does all hinge on the voice actors, they have really brought the thunder to make each character sound amazing. Voice actors like Greg Eagles (Grim from The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy) as Aku-Aku, John DiMaggio (Jake from Adventure Time) as Uka-Uka, and even Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants) as just the basic enemies that you fight, it all gives the entire thing some stunning star power. Even Crash sounds good, much like the previous games he doesn’t really talk, but he occasionally says a single word or grunts and squeals when he jumps or punches; this helps to characterize him as an over excited heroic bandicoot with mental deficiencies.
Overall: The worst thing you can say about this game is that it’s mediocre, but even then it’s better than Crash Tag Team Racing. It’s worth trying out, and even if you don’t end up remembering the game too much, the voice acting will stick with you.
Crash: Mind over Mutant
We arrive at the final leg of this week’s journey, and the last leg of the Crash Bandicoot special. It has been both fun and painful to revisit one of my favourite gaming series of all time, and that feeling will likely continue as we finish on the game that ended it all, Mind over Mutant.
I am genuinely shocked at myself. I have been playing the PS2 version of these games, so that might tell you something about the version I was playing, but this game was so much fun that it took me far too long to stop playing and start writing. I know that this is the game that ended it all for the series, and as far as I know the fans of Crash called it a complete travesty, but I enjoyed the crap out of this game.
The story follows Cortex and his old partner N. Brio as they attempt to trick everyone on the Wumpa Islands into using their new headsets which secretly control their minds. After sending them out for free to everyone they can, the Titans are once again back under their control, and they begin their quest for world domination.
Gameplay-wise, this game is open world, in a similar style to Twinsanity, but with much more to find and do. The controls follow directly from the last game with some minor variations, mainly that you keep all of the upgrades that you unlocked in the first game like your spin attack and drill dive. The controls are nice and smooth; the jumping, spinning, and climbing all feel nice and simple, a nice change from some of the other games in the series.
Many of the previous game’s voice actors reprise their roles, and we also see a reappearance of N. Brio, once again on the side of evil. The cutscenes are the real standouts of this title with them being done in various different styles, including The Animatrix, Dragon Ball, and even South Park, which threw me a curveball considering it’s a family game.
Once again the game’s humour is a selling point, and it’s easy to see why, there are plenty of jokes aimed at satirizing modern culture and vapid consumerism. The cutscenes are the primary source of humour, with the normal visual humour that was present in the older games being a little left behind this time. However, there is plenty of humour in the dialogue of the enemies you come across, most of whom are once again voiced by Tom Kenny.
Visually, everything works really well, and they’ve managed to design levels and areas that feel really huge and open, something that was very necessary to get that open-world feeling they were looking for. The fact that you can one minute be hanging around the front of your house then the next be clambering across huge teetering mountain peaks above huge ravines speaks wonders for the overall design of the island you play on.
At the end of the day, I cannot see why this game gets the bad rap that it does, it is a genuinely fun experience and one of the more enjoyable 3D platformers to have come out in recent times (although that has more to do with a lack of 3D platformers these days than anything else). I assume that the game did poorly because it didn’t really seem to be anything like the Crash that we used to know, and I can say that it is certainly different, but it’s definitely not bad, and I would even go so far as to say it’s better than the last game, and maybe even Twinsanity.
Overall: A fun experience that you could certainly not get from many other modern Crash titles. The visuals and voice acting are stunning, and you won’t get a better fix of Crash after polishing off the original trilogy.