Thursday, October 18, 2007

Crash of the Titans

Developer: Radical Entertainment
Publisher: Sierra Entertainment
Release Date: Oct. 2, 2007
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), Wii, PS2, PSP
ESRB Rating: E10+
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: Crash is back, but is he better than ever? Or at least better than recently?

0:01 A loading screen with white paws marching across. This is before the company logos even. I hope this isn't another load-fest like Wrath of Cortex.

0:02 It's shadow puppet theater for the intro. Neo Cortex created Crash to work for him, but Crash bonks him with a shovel and escapes. So Cortex creates some more monsters with his monster-creator ray. And then even more. He sets them on destroying stuff. Including Crash, who just stands there smiling. Nice stylized animation and no need for clunky voice acting or scrolling text. Bravo.

0:03 "Episode one, a new hop." Should that be episode four? Anyway, the puppets have gone away in favor of fully spoken in-game cut scenes. There's some red guy who talks like Mr. T. There's gas jokes and and talk of butter recycling for some reason. As for Crash, he talks like a cross between the Warner Bros. Tasmanian Devil and a baby. Anyway, Cortex comes by in a blimp and freezes the red guy in a block of ice and takes Crash's sister (I think it's his sister) and his magical floating mojo mask. "I'm off to do bad things. Ta ta." he cries. They seem to be going for cute and self-referential, but it comes off as just bad. Bring back the puppets!

0:06 All right, walking around and such. Interesting blurring effect when Crash moves. Makes him look like a pre-rendered sprite more than a polygon model. I kind of like it. First thing I do is go in a red door where I hear bathroom sounds. That was pointless.

0:07 There are glowing blue orbs everywhere. What happened to the fruit from the old games? I really like the jumping controls. The double jump is perfectly natural and jamming A lets him helicopter float down gently. Great animation too -- Crash looks like a hand-drawn cartoon.

0:09 "Use X to smash stuff" with a punch. Are you kidding me? Crash's spin was one of the best attacks in gaming. Why replace it with a generic, lunging punch that makes Crash look like a mental patient? BTW, the blue stuff is "mojo," but I still have no idea why I'm collecting it.

0:10 I stumble upon some rat scientist enemies talking about bandicoots. Apparently we're immune to mojo control, meaning we can't be controlled by Cortex. You think he'd have known that when he created me. I like the Jerry Lewis-style voices.

0:11 So jumping on the enemies just stuns them... I have to use this crappy punch attack to take them out. You have no idea how depressing this is to me. These games used to be classic run-and-jump platformers... now it feels more like a bad Streets of Rage knock-off. What's more, all the enemies take multiple hits, slowing down the pace considerably.

0:13 You can string together attack for combos if you're quick. When did Crash become Devil May Cry?

0:16 Bouncing on some magic mushrooms now. Jumping is a real joy, which is key in a platformer.

0:17 I know it's the first level, but the world seems kind of sparse and ill-designed. You fight a few enemies, then run down a short corridor with some breakable mojo plants, then more enemies. It's all very repetitive and not very interesting. I remember the original Crash games being case studies in good level design. Sigh.

0:19 So I got some yellow thing that makes me super speedy. Crash is Sonic now?

0:20 I get my first achievement for collecting 1,000 mojo. Still not sure why this is important yet. Also, the fruit is actually around, but now it gives health instead of lives. What a gyp.

0:22 I come across the captured mojo mask. He's guarded by even more of these scientist guys that are everywhere. Easy stuff.

0:23 So now I can use the right trigger to block medium strength attacks. I have no idea yet why I'd ever need this, as just jamming the attack button has taken everyone out easily.

0:25 Boss time. But first a hint. "Stun an enemy and press B to jack." Er, what's this game rated again?

0:26 Oh, so it's not really a boss, more like a big hulking vehicle. A few simple attacks and then I can "jack" him and ride on his back. So this is Grand Theft Auto now?

0:28 So riding the big guy is fun and all but he can't jump and his more powerful attacks seem wasted on these piss-ant little scientist guys that are swarming all over me. I could have handled these on my own, thanks.

0:30 This is the saddest excuse for level design I've ever seen. You just wander from one big wide area with enemies to another along paths with occasional things to bust for "mojo." Add in the fact that I've seen just two distinct enemies in a half hour and you've got one incredibly dull game.

0:32 Level over. I'm a "minion master" for destroying all the enemies, and "combo king" for hitting the X button 15 times in rapid succession. The "mojo" earned me a "Norris Roundhouse," whatever that is. Got some collectibles and concept art too. Meh.

0:34 Taking a gander at my stats in between levels, I see I will be able to increase Crash's spin time and slide time. So this is Tony Hawk now?

0:35 So that yellow thing from earlier was a "free jack," that lets me stun an enemy with one blow. Because it wasn't easy enough before, I guess. I use to it mount some big red guy with fangs. He's pretty freaking slow. I guess the designers though running and jumping as Crash was too fun, so they should mix it up with less fun mounts.

0:37 So I'm finally taking some damage from other big red things... mindless jamming on the attack button no longer works flawlessly. One thing, though: Whenever I beat another, I can jack it and get full health. If a game's rated E10+ it shouldn't be easy enough for five-year-olds...

0:39 A cute little fox hops around in a cut scene. He gets captured by a bigger fox hiding in the plants. A boss? Nope, just another guy that goes down in six hits and can be jacked. At least he put up some cursory defense by shooting at me. I actually took damage! Shocking!

0:41 Speaking of shooting stuff, now that I jacked him I can attack far off targets in "sniper mode." So what, the game's Metal Gear Solid now? Seriously, what's with trying to be every game ever made? Being Crash wasn't good enough for you, Sierra?

0:45 I found a mini-game. I have to jack a snipe and destroy bombs before time runs out. I fail due to crappy aiming controls "Oh Noes!" says the game. I lolled.

0:47 Complete the second time around. My reward is something that gets me "mojo magic" achievement, whatever that means. Don't explain that or anything, game.

0:50 Some old school platforming action starts episode 3. A narrow platform and moving block that can push Crash off. One problem: Crash can squeeze between the blocks. Sigh. Such potential.

0:52 Despite all my grousing, I really do love the animation. Crash's goofy grin is winning, and the way he moves within the bright primary colored environments is just downright pleasing.

0:54 There are only so many times you can jack the same big monster and attack the same lame-o enemies before thinking, "Why the hell am I bothering?"

0:57 Floating down from platform to platform, collecting floating mojo, I almost feel something approaching the joy I felt in earlier Crash games. Almost.

1:00 Just for shits and giggles, I try out the co-op mode (and get 20 Achievements points for my trouble). The leapfrog mode, which changes characters every time you jump, seems annoying, but the piggyback mode lets both characters run around and beat things up together. This has some promise -- even bad game can be fun with a friend.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Believe it or not, I might.
Why? Despite being derivative, repetitive, scattered and slow, I'm desperate for a decent platformer to hold me over until Mario Galaxy comes next month. I just don't know if I'm this desperate.

This review based on a retail copy provided by Sierra.


Sam said...

I tried the demo on live which was pretty representative and I just couldn't play it. I think too much about how awesome the old Crash games with Naughty Dog were and the game just feels awful.

Anonymous said...

I also found it hard to collect everything, when theres no way to look around.. Come on it's a 3-d environment! I should be able to look around...