Crash: Mind Over Mutant Review

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Crash: Mind Over Mutant Publisher: Activision
Developer: Radical Entertainment

Platforms: Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 2, PSP and DS
Reviewed on Xbox 360

After Naughty Dog, the original developer of Crash Bandicoot, left the series for the pastures of Jak and Daxter, the orange marsupial has been passed around like a lukewarm beer at a junior-high party. Radical has, perhaps, made the best incarnations of this one-time top mascot, but still can't live up to the work of the original developer. Before this sounds too negative, understand that there's a lot to like about Crash: Mind Over Mutant, including the writing, the voice acting, the music, and some creative new mutants. Unfortunately, the game never overcomes certain major problems, and while there's fun to be had, it's occasional rather than a continuously satisfying experience.

Kevin Rice

The Road to Nowhere

When Crash was introduced to the world in 1996, it became something of the unofficial mascot of Sony's then new PlayStation. Sega had Sonic, Nintendo has Mario (and many others), and the unlikely Bandicoot filled that slot for then-newcomer Sony. The Bandicoot was carried by Naughty Dog until the launch of the PlayStation 2, at which point the developer began working on Jak and Daxter. Since then, the franchise has bounced around inside of Vivendi's clan of developers, and it's come out rather more shaken than smoothed out.

Crash: Mind Over MutantAdmittedly, Radical's attempts at reviving the game have been admirable. Last year's Crash of the Titans introduced "monster jacking", whereby you can hop on a large mutant after dizzying it. Mind Over Mutant continues the trend with new mutants boasting interesting skills. The telekinesis mutant is great, and many mutants have unique and useful special attacks.

After certain goals are reached, you're treated to a star-filled cast – voice actors from Ren & Stimpy and Reno 911 deliver some of the best and wittiest dialogue so far this year in a game. The cut-scenes are done in wildly differing styles, and each offers at least a few laugh-out-loud funny moments. It's so well done that you'll look forward to the game's future cut-scenes.

Toxic Waste

Crash: Mind Over MutantWhile a lot of effort went into making the cut-scenes and writing the actor's lines, less went into the game proper. A lot of the things that platform game aficionados expect from a game are missing, the most glaring of which is the complete lack of camera control. While it's not a complete game breaker, it forces you to wander around far more than you normally would, at least if you want all the collectibles. As expected, it also makes some jumps and battles more difficult than they should be because you can't see what's going on or what's coming up.

As mentioned, it's not a showstopper, but it becomes increasingly annoying as you progress through the game. The main reason for this is that, for whatever reason, the developers have decided to make backtracking roughly 30-40% of the game. Sometimes there are multiple paths, but many are partially concealed due to the immovable camera. Not only that, but if you wander off down the wrong path, the game does nothing to stop you from accidentally repeating a level you've already completed.

Crash: Mind Over MutantAnother strangely absent feature is the ability to check your progress on a per-level basis, and while some complain about the collect-a-thon nature of certain platformers, there's nothing here to tell you if you've perfected a level. One feature from the original series was the need to collect all 100 boxes. Later, completing levels in a certain time could earn medals, among other gems.

In Mind Over Mutant, there is Mojo everywhere, sometimes just lying around, and always as a result of destroying an enemy. Collecting enough of it levels you up, or, if you happen to be riding a jacked enemy, it'll level him up. There's the occasional Wumpa fruit that replenishes health or some specialized fruits for your monsters, but there's no goal beyond leveling.

Sunset Vistas

Crash: Mind Over MutantA few of the new things to do are interesting, it's hard not to wonder why some design choices have been made. Crash's signature spin move is not a button press; instead, it's performed by rotating the left stick. Why? Crash can now dig in certain areas, but going underground usually only results in a few extra mojo gems. Sometimes, you need to use it to get to a wayward area, but more often than not, it's just a delay before getting to the end of a level. After a fairly early battle, you can play co-op as Crash and Coco, but the camera makes this frustrating at best unless the minds of both players are incredibly in sync. Crash can store an extra mutant in a pocket, which is nice, but the game's very forgiving and rarely will you need the abilities of more than one mutant.

Radical has thankfully tried many things to revive the series. Unfortunately, some of the compromises made to bring these to the forefront have transformed the once beloved pseudo-mascot into something of a whipping boy for purists. They haven't helped themselves with the major letdowns (camera and backtracking), but it's not too late. Apparently, Sony does not want to let Crash go into that good night. However, instead of adding newer and even more different "features" to the next iteration, drop the monster jacking. Drop the backtracking. Drop everything but the core of the game. Thirty levels that could be confused as a next-gen version of the original would do a lot to revive this series. It's what the fans want.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on October 22, 2008 9:52 PM.

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