Crash Bandicoot made a career-debuting splash alongside the release of Sony’s seminal PlayStation console in 1996. His vertical scrolling escapades contained just the right blend of humour and platforming action – needless to say, Crash became a household name in no time, proving that even a spunky orange bandicoot could hang with the big boys (Mario and Sonic). Somewhere along the line, Naughty Dog, the makers of Crash, left him and the franchise it created to less resourceful developers. Later instalments past the original PSX trilogy just didn’t have the same creative flair.
It’s about time that they tried something new and Crash of the Titans takes the franchise in a fresh new direction. Crash can possess enemy creatures, level up various skills and attributes, fight it out with anthropomorphic kung-fu, and instead of looking like the smooth customer he’s always been, he’s now a taciturn, heavily tattooed mongrel? “What has the world come to!?” was my first impression, but fear not – Crash of the Titans is still your typical Crash Bandicoot underneath all the extraneous fur.
Titans is made up of several linear, and largely vertical scrolling platforming levels, with a couple of boss fights and mini games strung in for good measure – not unlike your typical platformer. Crash has always been known for his spinning antics, but this time around he has ditched his staple technique (for the most part) in favour of a combination of punches and kicks. It’s a little strange if you’re a long-time Bandicoot fan, but the multiple-hit based fighting leads onto Titans’ interesting new gameplay mechanic.
Once you’ve hit an enemy minion enough to make their head spin with dizzy stars, Crash can hop onto itsback and jack in – it’s a lot like stealing a car in the Grand Theft Auto games, only instead of a Porsche you’re riding something a little more... ridiculous, like a voodoo bunny or a monkey with an inflatable head.
By jacking into the myriad of creatures strewn throughout each world, Crash can use their abilities to help him out in combat or navigate otherwise deadly areas. For example, bandicoots can’t swim (apparently), but if you jack into an aquatic enemy you can do what Jesus did. Likewise with the hard-hitting bosses — these battles require you to beat up and jack into an increasing hierarchy of enemies until you can take the big guy down with an equally big car. I mean creature.
Hijacking is a lot of fun — even more so with the Wii Remote waggling. Shake up some noxious bile, crank out a stream of fire, beat your chest and slam your hands down to perform a ground pound — sure, you may look a tad crazy doing so, but the motions are all very natural and make the game that much more involving than your average platformer.
Titans is a great game for starved Wii owners who want something more than just another collection of mini games. The levels are long, perhaps too long, and there’s plenty of replay value, too: multiple difficulty levels (which doesn’t just turn every enemy into a more resistant punching bag), unlockable skins, upgradeable skills, hidden voodoo dolls, stage rankings, and even a proper co-op mode (unlike Super Mario Galaxy).
I could complain about the fixed camera which you can’t manually adjust, the lengthy levels which can make progression tedious at times, or the utterly derivative nature of the platforming action, but these are the things that make 3D platformers what they are. It’s sad to see no apple bazookas or Arabian landscapes – some of the more “out there” Crash Bandicoot elements – but jacking enemies is interesting enough as it is.
Titans may not be “titanic”, and if it wasn’t for the timing of its release being coincident with a desperate lack of quality platformers, it probably would have gone unnoticed. So you’ve gotten all 242 stars in Super Mario Galaxy eh? Need something new? Jack into Crash of the Titans.