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Game Profile
PlayStation 2
Vivendi Games
Travellers Tales
GENRE: Platformer
September 28, 2004
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy

Crash: Mind over Mutant

Crash: Mind over Mutant

Crash: Mind over Mutant

Crash: Mind over Mutant

More in this Series
 Written by Chris Reiter  on October 25, 2004

Full Review: Abuse, use, and reuse -- the cycle of doing bad and being so good at it.

One of video game history's most surprising partnerships was when Bowser sided with Mario in Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. You always know the iconic villain as evil. The thought sticks in your mind like gum in your hair. It's impossible to ever conceive that a bad guy you always face would ever have to face someone more villainous than he or she will ever be. But it happens...and we the gamers love when the unexpected does occur. In this frame of mind, Vivendi has pulled the old ball and chain out of the bag. Having had ownership of the Crash Bandicoot series over the last few years, their last attempt with the spinning marsupial was met with disappointment. That's what happens when you change certain things though, like for example developers. But back on their heels and pushing forward, Vivendi is attempting to give the franchise another turn with a new idea for who was once known as Sony's unofficial mascot. Remove one Dr. Neo Cortex away from his usual arch nemesis chair and pair him up with the vigorous hero Crash Bandicoot, and you'll get a two of a kind matchup for Vivendi's latest, Crash: Twinsanity.

Evil has a new name in Crash's neck of the woods. They came from another world. They come hovering with spacesuits and superior technology than any Crash has ever witnessed before. There's two of them, and they're here for a reason. Aliens have invaded Crash Bandicoot's planet, and are intent on destroying it -- in addition to toying with its other aspiring evil entities like one such Dr. Neo Cortex. What's one mastermind built for villainous purposes to do? Even if he doesn't like it, Cortex has no choice now but to team up with our fuzzy hero of chaos. Together at last, Crash and Cortex must combine forces if they're to put a halt to the plans of the new twin aliens that are taking over their turf.

The Crash Bandicoot franchise started out as a linear 3D platform game. By this I mean in a guided track sense. Crash was the spinning orange rodent placed on a path he could proceed on upward or downward, or from side to side. Spinning through boxes (both useful and harmful) to obtain wumpa fruit pieces and such helped Crash to survive past foes of different shapes and sizes. Traveller's Tales, the new series developer, has finally changed this procedure, in some forms at least. No longer is Crash restricted to a single line. Crash is now free to roam particular sections in a true 3D fashion. Up, down, left, or right, Crash can go collect items at one stop, or head over in an opposite direction to gather something else. Naturally, Crash is still inhibited to his former methods of constrained passage, but with the addition of his helper Neo Cortex to back him up at times, the game becomes assuredly more creative and entertaining than it would without pushing the game in that type of direction.

When push comes to shove, you get two bickering enemies who once seemed so opposite of one another, but in terms of that work so eloquently playing off the other's advantages. Crash, as gamers have to come to know him, is the spinning bandicoot. He's the usual whirling fur ball of mayhem, who can jump, slide, and belly pounce foes if he wants. Cortex is the evil genius who'll always and forever be out to destroy his creation in Crash. Cortex by his lonesome is only armed with a phaser gun and teleportation abilities. It's a power crystal that binds these two together though, as you are only in control of Crash throughout most of the game (and for a short time Dr. Cortex's niece, Nina). When side by side, Crash can spin onto Cortex to "collect" him as it were. In unison, Crash and Cortex can spin as one. Crash can bash Cortex into objects. Crash can whirl Cortex into distant locations, in which case Cortex will activate objects from afar such as switches for Crash to further access. Crash and Cortex will even find themselves in some antic moments rolling down a cavernous hill or having Cortex used as a body board as the two speed to the bottom of a snowy slope. The scope in which Crash and Cortex combine forces is always an interesting doubling to watch and experience in its freshness and fun-loving values.

Some things never change, though. Things like camera lock-ups and two hit kills. The Crash franchise began with Crash collecting 100 wumpa fruits to attain one extra life, hitting checkpoint boxes, and retaining Uka masks to shield himself from a single touch of the enemy if the occasion ever came up. Each of these traditional series tools have remained throughout the series. And today when 3D platforms have expanded with characters embodying entire life meters, Crash still can only take just a few hits before he's gone. Crash Twinsanity gets to be a very frustrating game at times for such small consistencies in the game. An overpowering camera only worsens matters with its jerkiness having a mind of its own. The problem is that since Twinsanity somewhat remains on a guided track at times, hidden pivots in an otherwise open 3D realm forces the view to switch positions at unwanted moments. Unpleasant elements like such detract from the fun of the game. While Twinsanity does maintain to inspire with its unique platforming chemistry, it also sucks players into a world where they'd rather be untangled from its sticky web of flawed and outdated gameplay mechanics that they'll no doubt get caught up in.

Kooky but smart is what Twinsanity is. Combatants of all shapes and sizes contribute to its zaniness. Some new and some old foes step in to keep Crash and company on their feet. Defeating most enemies is easy stuff (like always, most enemies die with one spin), but again it all depends on how you approach a situation. Deciding to "crash" a party of three roaming tribesmen may seem like pie at first. However, this ultimately isn't always the best idea from the outset. Crash isn't run by dradle power -- and just jumping into a whole pile of enemies can mean death if Crash isn't repeatedly spinning circles. Even when he is, it's always better to try and lure one enemy away first and then attempt to knock out the rest when there's less a chance of receiving that unavoidable "touch of death" status. Boss encounters happen every so often as they usually do, where now Crash (and Cortex) will sometimes face off against such nasties as a giant ice man of sorts while coinciding with each other's skills. Tossing Cortex outside the center arena to activate a large button in the middle platform for Crash to initiate a circle of flaming heaters is one example of how thinking drives the teamwork of these two oddities. Other times Crash will have to fend off bosses himself as he usually does, such as one brutal moment where a flamethrower-spitting aardvark's firepower grows more difficult to avoid the further Crash cools and collects on chances to kick some overgrown animal ass. Past the usual box smashing and explosive boxed hazards as well, Crash Twinsanity isn't the hardest or easiest game per se. It's easy when it needs to be, and difficult at times where it shouldn't be. Overall though, Crash Twinsanity sits somewhere in between for a challenging and an inevitably irksome time.

Flavorful, colorful, and cool, Crash Twinsanity is a surprising refreshment in the way it looks back at you as you'll be looking at the game too. The only thing holding this baby back is its evident simplicity. Charging through several interconnected terrain from a snowy fortress, to jungle lands, and through the inner dwellings of a gargantuan boat, the levels in general don't manage to drill more in hopes of penetrating a wealthier foundation of descriptive features. Texture designs, for instance, are more subtle when smothered by smooth sandy, snowy, and other surfaces. Bolder textures do stick out in places, but through the most part Crash Twinsanity has a basic if effective cartoon structuring to it. The nice thing about some levels in the game gives way in the snow-based part. When Crash approaches an icicle, his face will mirror through the chilly glassed surface. Some of the other interesting things to add to this cartoony feel is the game's use of particle effects. Light sources are an abundance in Crash. They're put in bulbs on the walls, in lamp posts, and even on the very floating panels you'll walk across. Crash Twinsanity is a lighty light world.

Still, not in the greatest sense does even lighting affect its character models. Crash's character can move around a level all you want it to, and its depth of realism just doesn't catch onto the glowing green and yellow hues of stray rockets flickering, flames wavering, and giant bulbs glowing. Crash does show off some shadow characteristics nicely, but his body could use some shag to it. Yeah baby, yeah! Crash's and Cortex's characters are just too simple themselves. So simple that they're really one dimensional paint. Crash is orange and blue, Cortex is yellow and white, and together they're not much for being altered by any neater effects. Not that it matters much, since they already look good in their own world. Spinning, hopping, tossing, sliding, Crash and Cortex together have many amusing animations, especially when paired up. Take for instance a factory setting in which Crash has to place Cortex into a machine that squeezes his entire body into a round cylinder object. From here on out Crash must continue his way along the level, rolling Cortex "the human pellet" through a pipe network that ultimately drains him from one side to another in for Crash to have further access to later parts of the area. Even more so in the many in-game movies you'll watch, the calamity is taken to funny levels of smack talk between the twin aliens and the twin um...a bad guy and good guy. Having played the earlier Crash games for the PlayStation, it's easy to see that Crash Twinsanity is generally the best looking Crash game on the market (or sharper looking anyway). That doesn't say much though, since with Twinsanity's simplicity in mind, the differences in terms of generation quality aren't greatly staggering.

Okay, I'm going to do this one last time. I'm going to refer back to that snow level because I liked it. One of the reasons it's worth noting is because of the music in that particular area. Picture a snazzy, jazzy melody that melds into the "coolness" of the level, and you're reading my mind. Other catchy themes (both fun and darker toned ones) persist throughout the rest of the game too. That's one of the things that's great about Twinsanity: its original synthesized music fits like a fresh pair of underwear no matter what substance you're wading through. This wouldn't officially be a Crash game either without its trip back to the basics of familiar audio parts. Jumping on top of boxes and smashing them open still has that bounce and crate shattering noise. Spinning Crash in circles still injects a quick twirliness into the mix. And of course, all of those uka mask sayings that sound like "Monty Betrayal" when hit or "Uka-uka" when stumbling upon a new mask, is key to the system that makes all Crash noises, and other pounding, sliding, slamming, laser beam blasting effects sound true to the Crash man's legacy.

Just like all previous Crash games as well, Crash Bandicoot doesn't speak a word. Not a single blip, beep, or boop. But there is someone who always has...Dr. Cortex. Returning as the voice of the good, I mean evil Dr. is Clancy Brown (who might be recognizable to some as the voice of Lex Luthor in the animated Superman TV series). His talent is quite unparalleled for the voice of the character who can easily be vile, and yet embarrassed at the same time. And in Crash Twinsanity you'll see a lot of that happening. He'll get smashed through solid ice, he'll be tossed across wide open gaps and scream, and he'll even lose his brain for a bit. Replacing the head honcho this time is the twin aliens whose sly, squeaky, and mischievous New Yorker voices top the cake with a cherry, as they too are enjoyable to listen to. Albeit, I wouldn't say their highlights are as major or memorable as Cortex's deeply exaggerated wickedness (but humorous) moments are.

Bottom Line
At last it's come to this -- Crash and Cortex working together for the first time ever. Whoever got the idea that being good was bad and that being bad was good wasn't as smart as the person who thought being good and bad at the same time was where it's at. Crash Twinsanity surprisingly does both jobs well, as you can be both the hero and still use evil to do good deeds, even if it's by turning that evil into your own little toolbox for whatever problem needs fixing. Despite much praise for the game, there does lie problems in the fact that with relic gameplay standards and an awkward camera setup in tow, there's much frustration in using old play mechanics again and again versus the more up-to-date ones of today. Issues like these just can't be ignored, and Crash Twinsanity is unfortunately taken back a few pegs for this kind of reasoning.

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