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CRASH of the Titans - NDS - Review

Crash was once fearless. He stood outside the Nintendo building to tell the world that he was coming (in a TV ad). At that time he was a Naughty Dog property and creation with ties to Sony and Universal. But as we all know, three’s a crowd. Three developers and/or publishers can’t possibly share a game. Thus, after his third adventure (and a PSone racer), Sony and Naughty Dog left the bandicoot behind. And with that, his fearlessness faded into the abyss.

No longer a frontrunner in plumber bros. competition, Crash has had free reign to explore new territories. He found excitement and high replay value in a couple Game Boy Advance games (the 2D side-scrollers, not the mini-game collections). There were also a couple of decent Crash games on PS2, Xbox, and GameCube. It was weird to see him go multi-platform, but like Sonic the Hedgehog, we got used to the transition.

Crash has fared better than Sonic in home gaming. On Nintendo DS, however, Sonic has been one of the action/adventure leaders. Both of the Sonic Rush games are two-dimensional, retro-style adventures. This could give Crash of the Titans, the bandicoot’s first 3D outing on handheld, an advantage for those who prefer modern-day gaming. But as we’ve learned in the past, the gameplay dimension has very little to do with the gameplay quality.

 

PSone All Over Again

Crash of the Titans goes back to the drawing board, scribbles over Naughty Dog’s notes, and makes some additions. The controls and level setup (but not their designs) are ripped right from the PSone games. There are two kinds of levels: standard exploration/destruction and mini-game events (racing, rolling, etc.). The former is every bit the Crash game you’d expect plus hiccups, camera confusion, and repetition. Funnily enough, if you go back and play the old Crash games, you’ll see that those issues have been there all along – we just didn’t notice them until the technology started to improve.

There is also the addition of increased combat and a new feature that allows you to control your enemies. This is not a new concept for video games, but it isn’t exactly common for the genre, and is certainly new to Crash. Using your talking face thing (called an Aku Aku), Crash may take control of enemies and use their fists and special abilities (mainly ranged attacks) against other enemies.

Battles aren’t the only reason to command an enemy – you’ll also need them to get through certain situations, such as water. It seems that Crash is allergic to H2O. I tried to administer an antihistamine, but couldn’t figure out how to get the pill inside my DS. It was, however, possible to climb on the shoulders of a monster and walk across the waterway without taking damage.

 

Crash comes with a handful of punch and kick combos, some of which you’ll have to unlock with Mojo, the game’s currency. His base spin move is strangely absent, but you will be able to use it as a finisher for one combo. His double-jump returns, and you’ll encounter several crates to bash and jump on, including the explosive green ones, and the spring boxes (the ones with an arrow pointing up) that can be jumped on repeatedly unless hit from the side. The animation, frame rate and game movement aren’t that far from the PSone original – an accomplishment for the series. But again, other games have beat ‘em to the punch. Mario 64 was ported to the DS at launch in 2004. The controls were lacking without a thumbstick, but the gameplay, graphics, camera, etc., were nearly identical to the original.

Crash of the Tenaciousness

These features are good in concept but don’t always pan out. Crash of the Titans feels like it uses the touch screen just so that it can note that fact on the box. Mini-games aside, the touch controls work in conjunction with the other mechanics, forcing players to take their hands off the face buttons to use the touch screen. It’s neither quick nor seamless nor intuitive. That’s a problem you see in a lot of games. But those issues could have been completely removed by applying the touch screen functions to one of the face buttons, since all you’re doing is tapping or “flicking” (as the game instructs) the screen. Buttons would suffice.

And though it may sound great having more enemies to battle, the increase wasn’t necessary – or wise. I like pounding on thugs just as much as the next guy, but that’s not what action/adventures are about. Think back: how many enemy encounters do the Mario and Sonic games have? Or the old Crash games, or any other great game in this style? There should be an even mixture of gameplay elements.

 

Crash of the Titans has just one pattern: run through a linear level, bash an overabundance of enemies, jump through and around various obstacles, and repeat. The time spent fighting enemies outweighs the rest, turning Crash into a button-masher. Which is somewhat laughable, considering how mind-numbingly stupid the enemies are. You could die by default for a running assault – the enemy could block and retaliate without any way for you to retreat. But if you sit back and let the enemy approach, you can safely attack and win nearly every time.

On a less severe note, Crash of the Titans is one of the more childish games in the series. The voice acting sounds like it came from a Saturday morning cartoon (the ones geared at six-year-olds). You could write that off as being “appropriate for children.” But Crash is a long-running series that started off by building a strong relationship with kids, teens, and adults. Does anyone really believe that making Crash more childish will somehow improve kids’ perception of the character? That implies that he wasn’t appealing strongly enough to kids in his previous form. If that’s the case, he may be one doomed bandicoot, because he has now killed any chance he had of appealing to the teen and adult market. Contrary to popular belief, games don’t have to alienate older players to be family-friendly.

 

Partially Redeemed

Crash of the Titans isn’t a total failure. What does work works fairly well, at least from the standpoint of trying to copy what Naughty Dog achieved 11 years ago. But as you are now aware, not everything in the game is on par with the bandicoot’s previous adventures. Add this one to your rental list and save your money for better, more polished games.

Review Scoring Details for Crash of the Titans

Gameplay: 6.9
PSone Crash gameplay, now on your Nintendo DS. Unfortunately, Naughty Dog’s ideas have been butchered in some areas. Enemy encounters are more frequent than ever before, making Crash of the Titans the most repetitive sequel.

Graphics: 7.0
Looks nearly as good as the PSone iterations.

Sound: 5.0
Crash’s sounds have yet to reach the level of Mario and Sonic. With lousy voice work and Crash’s attempt to copy Mario’s infamous “wahoo,” this may never change.

Difficulty: Easy
Open mouth and swallow. Now tell me: does this cakewalk taste good?

Concept: 7.0
Crash takes a stab at mini-games and button-mashing. The results aren’t spectacular.

Overall: 6.9
Close to achieving Naughty Dog greatness in level design but far away from that success in other areas, Crash of the Titans isn’t on par with its 2D, Game Boy Advance predecessors. There are 2D elements within the 3D worlds – those are cool and are a growing trend for the genre. But overall the game lacks polish. The touch screen doesn’t work well, and frankly, doesn’t need to be there. Some Crash fanatics may find amusement and long-term value in its PSone-mimicked gameplay. But as a fan of the series from day one, I can definitely say that this is not a sequel for every Crash enthusiast.

Above Average

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