Review by Speedy Boris
This Is Not the Crash I Know and Love
Ditch Radical Entertainment. They haven't improved the Crash series at all, and this game is proof. Their previous entry, Crash Tag Team Racing, was average compared to Crash Team Racing, but it had serviceable (if unremarkable) racing and theme park exploration. But Crash of the Titans is a big step backward for the series, showcasing all sorts of new gameplay gimmicks that don't feel like Crash in the slightest.
1) Graphics: (Keep in mind I'm reviewing the PS2 version) This is probably the best aspect of the game. The backgrounds and environments are pretty and detailed. One only needs to look at the first level in the game to see this: A lush jungle with a very far draw distance (complete with distant monuments ever so slowly getting closer, which gives a good feeling of scope)- it's gorgeous. Downsides to the graphics: 30 frames per second as opposed to 60 in Twinsanity (for XBox, anyway). Also, I don't know about the other consoles, but Crash of the Titans suffers quite a bit of slowdown and/or choppy framerates whenever too many objects are on-screen. There are literally certain areas when it feels like the game is moving at half the speed it normally should. Other than that annoyance, the graphics are pretty good and provide solid eye candy, providing the right combo of realism and cartooniness. There are many types of environments, and while they take on typical platforming cliches (jungle levels, ice levels, volcano levels), they give the game some variety.
Although while I'm discussing the graphics, I should mention arguably my biggest pet peeve with this game: The different character designs. Crash now looks really shaggy and sports tribal tattoos, and various other characters (most notably Aku Aku and Uka Uka) look drastically different. Why was this necessary? I thought the characters looked fine in all the other games. I don't mind change, but only when they make the characters look more appealing. I'd hate for this to become the new "look" of Crash in future games.
2) Sound: In contrast to Spiralmouth, who was used in the last two games, Radical ditched them and hired Marc Baril to provide in-game music. While there are a few decent tunes in here (most notably, the sliding portions, the title screen, and the first level), I can't say the music stuck with me. I get the feeling he was trying to mimic the style of music from Crash 1, but it didn't really work. Perhaps a better avenue would've been to mimic Crash 2 or 3, which had upbeat, memorable ditties and which seemed appropriate for their environments.
I have no complaints with the sounds, which do their job. My real complaint is the voices, which are totally unnecessary. When did game developers start thinking that adding unfunny voice bytes would enhance the experience? We didn't have the enemies spouting one-liners in the first few Crash platform games, and those games didn't suck for their absence, did they? To top things off, Crash still retains his muttering fool persona from Crash Tag Team Racing, babbling incoherently when killed and at other times. I liked it better when he was silent except for his characteristic "Whoa!"
3) Controls: Perhaps the biggest change in controls for Crash of the Titans is that you have to unlock the trademark spin attack. You only start out with punches and a useless jump kick as your attacks. Thankfully you can unlock the spin fairly early on (I think it was the second level), but even when you get it, you won't be using it very much: If you spin for too long (like, longer than four seconds), Crash gets dizzy and takes a couple seconds to recover. I understand they were trying to make the game more realistic and perhaps add some strategy to mixing the spin with punches, but it's just annoying. Again, the previous Crash games didn't make Crash dizzy, so I don't see what this adds to the game other than to frustrate players.
Speaking of the spin, it's now activated differently. You have to spin the left joystick 360 degrees and then tap Square. I imagine this is due to the game also being on the Wii, where they have unorthodox methods of executing moves, and Radical wanted PS2 owners to get in on the fun. In retrospect I actually kind of like developers taking advantage of the controller, although there were random times when the spin move didn't seem to work, even though I'm fairly positive I pulled it off correctly. The game could've used a little more leeway in that move's execution.
R1 gives you a shield which protects you from enemies. I don't know how necessary that inclusion was either; you can simply backpedal or jump over them. I can't say the shield proved very useful for me.
Other than the spin attack stuff, the controls are fine and responsive. Crash has a new hover/helicopter descend move which is kind of cool and lets you be more precise with your platform jumping. The game doesn't really let you control the camera very much (it only allows a tiny pan in all directions; it doesn't let you see behind you like in Twinsanity), but it's not a huge problem since the game follows one path and thus there are no instances where adjusting the camera is entirely necessary, like when scenery hampers your view or walking in a different direction and the camera doesn't correct itself for the best possible view.
4) Gameplay: Crash of the Titans is not much fun. This is especially disappointing, since Crash games can usually be relied on to deliver an entertaining experience, and indeed that's what I was thinking when I asked for it for Christmas. One thing really brings the game down, and that's the combat. For some reason, Radical though it'd be a great idea to bring side-scrolling beat-em-up gameplay (such as Final Fight and the like) into the Crash universe, where it just feels tacked on and forced. Being a Crash fan for some time now, I think I have an idea of what most Crash fans want: They want fast-moving linear gameplay with enemies that can be killed in one hit.
By contrast, Crash of the Titans is slow as molasses whenever a bunch of enemies appear on the screen. For one thing, often you'll need to defeat them all before the game lets you progress (and in some cases, that can mean killing upwards of 20 in one room!), but also, many enemies, especially the Titans, take tons of hits to kill, and all at once or they regain their health. It's even more annoying when these Titans block all your attacks; a certain type of enemy introduced in the frozen factory level blocks pretty much anything you throw at him, whether it be jump kicks, punches, or spins, and the few times he leaves himself open, you better be a combo MASTER, or he'll break your attacks and block again. It's pointlessly frustrating; the A.I. in the game can be incredibly cheap.
Anyway, once you finally defeat one of these Titans, you can hop on their backs and ride them (the game calls this "Jacking"), utilizing their attacks, including powerful moves that require a full charge bar to activate. There are a variety of Titans available to Jack, but once you get past the cosmetic differences, a lot of them tend to play the same. There's the "fast projectile shooters", the "lumbering giants which produce massive damage", and others inbetween the two. Speaking of lumbering giants, have fun with those bigger beasts: Any time you hop on their backs, gameplay slows to a crawl because they can't move very fast.
For the most part I didn't have an issue with the way the Titans controlled, but the fireball shooters proved irritating at times: Once in a while, the game requires you to shoot distant targets to advance. Sometimes, I swear, you'll be facing a target, and the Titan will shoot to the Right or Left of it. Other times you'll want to shoot something but the game overrides that and shoots a nearby enemy instead. A movable crosshair would've been nice; or better yet, an automatic positioning feature, allowing you to easily switch between pre-programmed targets, much like Tomb Raider Legend/Anniversary.
The goal of the game is to get to the end of each level, obviously, but there are also voodoo dolls to collect along the way by accomplishing various tasks like winning bland and annoying mini-games (which are essentially like the main game- i.e. Jack so many Titans in 30 seconds, collect so many Mojo, etc.), or by killing a certain amount of enemies, or finding hidden items. Collected voodoo dolls unlock various things like concept art and more power to your moves, among other things. That's all very well and good, as previous Crash games had things to unlock as well, but why did Radical change what Crash collected? In this game you collect mojo (which looks like little bubbles); enough earns you an extra life. What happened to Wumpa fruit? Well, it's still here but sparse, and instead of going to extra lives, it provides health. Again, the "Wumpa as life-earners" in most every other game was fine; don't fix what wasn't broke. There -are- crates to smash like in former Crash games, but they feel like afterthoughts and most of the time they are off to the side. And unlike Crash 2 & 3, there's no gem if you happen to break them all, so why bother?
Finally, unlike many previous Crash games, there's no map screen or central hub with which to access levels. Instead there's a generic "pick level" menu, which shows you what you've unlocked for each level and what remains to be unlocked. There's even an option to replay bonus games, though I'm not sure who would want to, and it's pointless anyway since that only gets unlocked AFTER you win the mini-game. So much for creativity in selecting levels. I suppose Radical did this to allow faster access than running down a hallway or traversing land, but it doesn't immerse the player in the game as well. Another nitpick: To replay a level, your cursor must be moved to the second option, which feels counterintuitive. Why not have it be the first option? There were many times when I instinctively pressed "X" only to get game completion info or something.
When you put all this together, Crash of the Titans doesn't feel like a Crash game. It feels like a generic 3D beat-em-up which just happens to have some platform jumping at times. Sadly, most of the game seems to consist of fighting and not platform hopping, which sucks the fun out of what could've been an otherwise solid entry into the Crash series.
5) Overall: If you're a big Crash fan like me and feel the need to own every Crash game, do yourself a favor and skip this one. Seriously. The Jacking gimmick gets old fairly quickly, the A.I. can be cheap, and it honestly doesn't have the feel of a Crash game. If you want an example of a Crash game done right, with familiar gameplay but new twists as well, pick up Crash Twinsanity if you haven't already. Not only did the creators understand what made the series fun and brought the game into the 21st century, but it's funnier and the designs are more appealing. If any new Crash games are anything like Crash of the Titans (which I fear they will be), I'm done with the series.
Rating: 2.0 - Poor
Product Release: Crash of the Titans (US, 10/04/07)
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