Crash of the Titans Review
|Genre:||Platform / Action|
|Release Date:||October 12th, 2007 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Duncan Lawson (sinna01)|
Whenever the big character franchises in the gaming world get a mention, it's typically either the dungarees clad Italian or the blue spiky speed freak hedgehog. These days maybe Gordon Freeman or Spartan-117 might get a nod, but how little is Crash Bandicoot in our collective thoughts? For shame.
The Bandicoot franchise seems to have a dedicated following though, and has quietly secured its niche. It even got a name check on fantasy series Angel in season 5, where Wheedon the Great and Bankable had one of his characters observe of an early Crash instalment "I play this game. It's pointless and annoys me, yet I'm compelled to play on." It seems that the studios behind the franchise appreciated this wisdom when making Crash of The Titans - a cartoonish, vacuous game that would be easy to negatively criticise if I hadn't just recently found myself reading the end credit after only two sitting. If it wasn't any good, how come I played it right the way through?
Aside from the actual characters themselves, there is not a lot that can be said to actually distinguish a Crash title. Multiple instalments have tried their hand at nearly every genre from party game compilations to Kart racing, and the graphical style is not distinct enough to set it apart from the bulk of its platforming contemporaries. The essential game mechanics are in no way revolutionary, the scenery is acceptably pretty for the new-gen consoles, framerates are passable, ambient noise, draw distance, score - all perfectly acceptable if uninspiring. Crash throughout seems to be the perfect hard-working journeyman of a game that has obviously been put together with care and ability, if no actual inspiration. I flatly refuse to sound like a wine buff or car enthusiast and go anywhere near words like 'soul' or 'vision', but you get the idea.
The key concept and selling point of Crash of the Titans is the titular Crash Bandicoot's new ability to 'jack' the bigger monster of the game. I'll spare you the ludicrous plot, but it gives licence to you running around 5 or so distinct level types segregated into sub-section, each of those effectively comprised of a closed arenas that will progress you with requisite number of monster dead, buttons pushed, or barrels exploded. Small monsters will be dispatched with a good random thrashing of heavy and light attack buttons.
The developers of this instalment made loud and proud noises about their new combat focus, rather than puzzles or traditional platforms, but don't expect Crash to be the next secret character in Soul Calibre. The bigger goons are comedy mutant hybrids of two unlikely animals such as a scorpion and a gorilla (Skorporilla, as you might have guessed) which will be significantly larger and have dangerous special abilities. Successfully knock the stuffing out of these bruisers and you will stun them and get to hop aboard their shoulders, and with the air of a fairly camp looking carnival mask control their mind. Crash will sit astride their shoulders like Jabbas little mate and you will get to control the Titan, complete with special attacks and general crushing bigness. Usually this is just a way to more expediently annihilate the smaller goons, but can be required to actually damage even larger Titans or complete the necessary switch-puzzle to open the linear route to the next set-piece arena.
This high-jacking is certainly a long way from Tommy Vercetti hauling someone out of their car with a broken jaw for their troubles, but there is a certain amount of the same thrill involved. Misappropriating other peoples toys is always fun, be they a hot Mercedes or a hypnotized Yucktopus, especially when you get to go on a rampage with said ride and thoroughly ruin someone else's day. It's a simple mechanic that never really worries you with too much in the way of tactical choices. There's no agonising about what to ride out with, and the game will always provide the right tool for the job. There could have been some desperate moments, leapfrogging from Titan to Titan in a fraught battle to stay atop the tide of villains, eventually clawing to supremacy and announcing your ultimate victory from the bloodied heap of your fallen foe, the wailing of their womenfolk sweet music to you, but it's really not that intense a gaming experience. Aside from the odd reflex, Crash will lay out pretty much any task or required achievement in nice simple colours.
The cartoon nature of Crash in both its graphics and game play will either grab you immediately or turn you off fairly quickly. The aesthetic is strongly reminiscent of the new wave of CGI Saturday morning cartoons, and the humour is right there with it. The production team recorded a staggering 7,000 different little comedy catchphrases for the skittering minions to recite, with varying degrees of comedic success. Your mutely hero grins his way through it, performing the various comedy mime routines you saw Warner Brothers do better and cheaper half a century ago. The tone generally falls below a high-octane slapstick version of the Monkey Island ascetic, but for even the hardest Gears of War enthusiast there is just that one tiny corner that still finds the odd fart gag a tiny bit amusing, and the frying pan in the face punch-line causes the corner of the mouth to twitch in what was clearly not a sneer. It's not that big, and it's not that clever, but if we are going to be honest neither are we.
The character design doesn't have the lasting appeal that the Nintendo hive-minds have turned out, but it's still enough to keep you amused for the quick 6 or so hours this will take you to run through. I've found that Crash himself takes on a whole new dimension if you recognise him for the crystal meth addict he clearly is. He's hyperactive, stripped to the waist in torn jeans and 80's high top sneakers, has lost the power of speech and constantly grins a death rictus - looks like high grade amphetamine abuse to me. Other notables include Nina Cortex, a female villain that looks a great deal like a lead singer in post-ironic metal bands such as My Chemical Romance down to the preppy hair and eyeliner. A large evil cat called Tiny Tiger, loosely based on Mike Tyson, was observed by one online commentator to clearly be 'as gay as a pineapple.' They are hit and miss successes, along with the comedy, but like they game itself strangely compelling until the end.
For many gamers that have been away from the lighter end of the Nintendo style product, the novelty of having an actual number of lives that can be lost and added to via high-score can itself be fairly nostalgic. This game is very simplistic indeed compared to the sophisticated moral choices, RPG stat juggling, living world, tactical accuracy that a lot of gamers expect from the modern title. Crash of The Titans really is like a Saturday morning cartoon next to whatever the 360's equivalent of Blade Runner Redux is right now. But once upon a time you and I just about lived for Saturday morning cartoons, and a certain amount of that ludicrous vitality is in this game.
Co-op mode, for instance, is mode that enhances the playability significantly, and includes a fairly insane tag-team option. In this mode, one player may hop into the backpack of the other whilst the former makes jumps, slides down ropes, does rolls, etc. Every time an acrobatic manoeuvre is performed, the control switches from player one to player two. There is no reason on gods green earth you would want to do this, aside from the pleasure of shouting at each other incoherent words of instruction and encouragement whilst spilling the beer and chips. Why would anyone program this into a game? Because it's simple and silly and fun in short bursts.
Crash of the Titans is a silly game, solidly made. It's very short, definitely more appealing to junior gamers, and is unlikely to leave any lasting impression on the more adult player. It is also by no stretch of the definition a bad game. Looney Tunes cartoons did not enrich the soul nor teach anyone important lessons about life, but they were amusing then and still worth a chuckle over your morning coffee and cigarette now. Crash of the Titans works in exactly the same way - this is the height of disposable popcorn gaming, and although by modern standards its nothing more than adequate, it'd be a shame not to stop and smell the fart gags along the way.
- Bright, happy, shiny
- Cartoonishly gratifying
- Comfortably unchallenging
Not so good stuff
- Very short
- No escalation or development
- Repetitive set arenas