Review: Doritos Crash Course 2 isn't a great ad for chips, but it's a fun platformer
It’s a strange world we live in where there’s not one, nor two, but three enjoyable Doritos adver-games on Xbox Live Arcade. What started with the brief but endearing Dash of Destruction continued in 2010 with two free Doritos games, Crash Course and Harm’s Way. That latter game was the low point, trying to pull off a multiplayer experience that didn’t work thanks to an unsurprising lack of community. Crash Course, on the other hand, was a surprisingly fun platformer, and now it’s back for round two.
Doritos Crash Course 2 refines the platforming gameplay of the original while ditching the gameshow aesthetic for wackier themed platformer environments. Courses are split into four worlds -- Amazon Jungle, Antarctic, Egypt, and Pirate Island. They all have a surprising amount of style, especially the Egypt environment that features a rock concert with Anubis shredding a mean guitar solo in the background.
Each world features five courses, with two more that are coming soon, according to the game. Currently, that makes for only twenty courses, and while that may seem sparse, they’re closer in style to Yoshi’s Island than, say, Mario 3. You’ll earn stars by placing the best times on the course, but you’ll also have to unlock new paths and track down 16 stars cleverly hidden throughout the course.
Finding all the hidden stars and posting top times reveals a surprising amount of depth. You have a traditional jump, run, and wall-jump, and you can grab onto ledges, but each move has some subtlety to it. You can run, but only for so long in one stretch before you have to let off the button or suffer the consequences. Jumping can be boosted a bit by sliding first, and even that can boost the range of your wall-jumping abilities. It all comes together for an experience that's deeper than even some of XBLA’s paid platformers.
While the moveset is satisfying and the level design encourages full use of your repertoire, the game can feel unrefined at times. Controls when jumping on trampolines and leaping to and from moving platforms can be overly touchy. Sometimes your avatar simply doesn’t react to an obstacle the way you expect them to, and it’s that inconsistency that can lead to frustration in the tougher sections.
By far, the biggest issue holding back Doritos Crash Course 2 is the decision to include some free-to-play game concepts. Right from the start you’ll need to use stars to unlock further courses, and if you don’t have enough you can buy coins with real money instead. Players just getting their bearings can easily get confused, spend all their stars on aesthetic items and pointless power-ups, and run into a situation where spending money is the only way to unlock more courses. Even if you don’t do that, and commit every last star and free coin to unlocking all the courses, the game is pretty unforgiving to all but the most thorough completionists. By the time I’d unlocked the game’s last level I’d played and replayed most of the previous courses to 100% completion.
That said, even with a greedy pay-wall closing in on me, I was able to get more than a few hours of fun out of Doritos Crash Course 2. On top of the single-player experience, players can gather with four friends and race competitively. If you all agree to take your time, you can even track down stars together and earn credit just as you would in the single-player experience.
When you talk about free-to-play games, the discussion is never whether the game is worth your hard-earned money, but there’s still a value proposition. Is a Doritos game worth your time? I say yes, especially if you enjoy a good, no-nonsense platforming experience. A few pesky issues aside, Doritos Crash Course 2 is great way to waste an afternoon, and it’s even better with a few friends.
If you like to read the latest movie reviews, or random thoughts about whatever is going on in gaming lately, follow me @JoeDonuts!