I guess he's wearing jeans now.
Well, folks, like the mythical phoenix of olden times, Crash Bandicoot has risen from the ashes once again to take the form of "Crash of the Titans," a fully 3D adventure for the DS. I understand that a Wii version is also available. Having not played the console counterpart, however, I cannot comment on the accuracy of its translation to DS. The gist is that Crash of the Titans is a basic platformer with lots of tedious combat and an interesting gimmick. The plot is not entirely clear, but Crash’s old nemesis, Dr. Neo Cortex, has captured the mystical mask spirits of Wumpa Island, and he intends to use their energies to power his giant disco robot, the Cortexbot. Crash isn’t about to let that happen, no sir, and with some help from Coco Bandicoot and Aku Aku, a mask you save during the game’s opening sequence, Crash will bring Cortex down, using the very mutants he’s created to stop you.
I will say right off the bat that I don’t like the storyline, which is not told very well. What, exactly is Neo Cortex going to do with a giant disco robot? Why can’t he just use a couple of D batteries to power it up? Why is there a horrible laugh track during the cut-scenes? And why does that laugh occur in places where no joke has been told? Perhaps I’m simply unfamiliar with the franchise’s sense of humor (the only other Crash game I played was the PSOne Naughty Dog original), but I kept longing for a way to skip the entire cut-scene—not just the spoken dialogue. Yes, by the way, there’s spoken dialogue, and it’s fairly impressive, but it adds nothing to the story.
But it’s really the gameplay that saves "Crash of the Titans." Essentially it’s a collect-a-thon-platformer-brawler, and that’s a good thing. Crash can double-jump, punch, kick, and dodge (like in God of War!). Whenever Crash stuns an enemy through asskickery, he can "jack" them by slapping Aku Aku on the critter’s face. Crash now controls the enemy, who can do useful things like attack other enemies and, in the case of larger creatures, destroy large boxes and travel through water and/or lava. This gimmick works, thanks to the wide variety of creatures you can overtake. While it’s true that the enemy types boil down into half a dozen wireframes with different skins applied, and, honestly, the small enemies all have basically the same attack while the larger enemies have maybe three different attacks, possessing your attacker is always fun and useful. And while small critters can’t take the pummeling that big bruisers can, it’s always better to let a monster take the hits than Crash, who dies way too quickly from exposure to fists and feet. The same enemies also tend to get stronger later in the game, which feels kind of cheap and, at times, can be extremely frustrating.
Amaze Entertainment, the developers of this game, tried to incorporate the touch screen as much as possible, but because you use the D-pad for movement and the ABXY buttons for jumping, punching, and kicking, actual touch screen interaction is awkward and, happily, not required. Ideally, you would "flick" the Aku Aku icon in the middle of the touch screen toward a stunned enemy in order to jack it. Just press B instead. With many enemy attacks, you can either press a big button on the touch screen (labeled "attack") or just press B. The most compelling attacks, though, come in the form of blowing into the DS microphone, which is actually fun (or you can just press B). When traveling to a different island, you must draw Crash’s destination on the touch screen, sort of like in Phantom Hourglass but without the intuitiveness. The game doesn’t always register your drawn path, so it may take several tries to successfully start Crash on his boat ride.
While "Crash of the Titans" encourages exploration in order to find all doo-dads in every stage, the extremely linear level layouts inhibit that goal. Crash has several goals in each area, aside from merely getting to the end of the course. He must destroy all the crates in a stage, find a required amount of Mojo (wrought from defeated enemies and also found sitting around, like coins in Mario). Should Crash find the time, he can invest in bronze, silver, and gold masks, as well. And after beating a course, Crash can try a special event, which generally involves navigating a course by way of touch screen. Completing all the goals in a level nets you a gem. There are four gems in each level, and I can’t imagine what happens when you collect all the gems in the game. So you collect lots of things in order to collect other things. That’s deep.
At any rate, collecting Mojo doo-dads allows Crash to upgrade his move set, health, defense, etc. These are not skills you will need for the game. I shudder to think how utterly powerful Crash’s kick would be at the highest attack level, but it’s pointless to imagine such a scenario, as most of your fighting will done on the back of a gorilla-like creature, whose own moves cannot be upgraded. And really, you can beat all the levels and all the bosses with minimal effort. This is not a difficult game. In fact, I beat it in about three hours. Of course, I didn’t collect every little thing.
At the end of the day, Crash of the Titans is a mediocre game with some interesting ideas. Crash Bandicoot fans should enjoy it, but gamers looking for a decent platformer on their DS should look elsewhere.