Remember when Crash Bandicoot used to be a major player in the games industry? As the mascot of the PlayStation brand, millions of gamers looked to him for gaming's latest. Of course, that changed over the years, and he's become much less relevant. His newest game, Crash of the Titans, shows lessened aspirations in a game that's incredibly by-the-numbers.
The platformer genre has been of a dying breed, and it's not hard to see why: there haven't been very compelling entries to the genre in quite some time. Crash isn't going to change anything, relying heavily upon standard genre conventions. In the light of a different PSP platformer, Daxter (or even Ratchet and Clank), Crash of the Titans simply doesn't provide enough.
For example, a voiceless Crash heads off an adventure to fight his series-long arch-nemesis. In light of the animated nature of Daxter and Ratchet, Crash's silence comes as rather unsettling. He's no longer a cool, suave character. Rather, he looks rather demented and is seemingly a rather unintelligent character. The poor dialogue and over-reliance on generic voice acting certainly hurts the game's overall presentation. Remember when we thought the Bandicoot was cool?
Other technical matters of the presentation hurt the game seriously, as well. Firstly, load times are much too long. Loading the game, loading a save file and then loading a level can take over a minute. Even saving is a serious hassle. Additionally, although the game is generally eye-pleasing, it has a very weak framerate that's easily disrupted by having two or more enemies on screen. Considering Crash seems to fight at least half a dozen enemies at all times, this can get quite painful at times.
Ironically, Crash stays true to its namesake and seems to simply crash once in a while. If a level takes too long to load, the game will freeze and the system will automatically turn off. Custom firmware couldn't even boot the game (so we weren't able to take direct-feed screenshots).
In spite of the technical flaws and questionable presentation, it's undeniable that the core gameplay of Crash of the Titans, is (at the very least) competent, even fun. Crash himself controls quite well, with spot-on jumping and fighting controls. (One note: Crash doesn't cast a shadow, which makes landing a few of the more difficult jumps that much more difficult.) As you collect orbs, you're able to unlock additional moves and combos, and Crash is quite able when fighting his foes. Although the combat system is far from complex, the developers have added a combo counter on the screen, encouraging healthy amounts of button mashing.
The real gimmick behind Titans is the ability to "jack" animals. When a large enemy is low on health, the player can press O and take control over the beast. Each one has a very different feel, which adds a significant amount of depth to the gameplay. Here, players become overpowered as they're free to jump from one beast to another, with Crash avoiding all damage. It's a lot of fun thanks to the destructible nature of the environment. However, we noticed that switching from one animal to another is problematic at times. Once in a while, Crash will simply disembark from his tamed beast, instead of jumping to another one. This is particularly bad in the lava levels, where failing to transition will end up in death.
Each level is linear and doesn't add much to gameplay variety. While there are a few boarding sequences, they do little to break up the monotony of the game. The developers have done a great job at providing additional objectives to encourage replay, but we doubt that anyone other than children will pursue the myriad of unlockables the game has hidden.
Crash of the Titans certainly offers a very solid, robust adventure. It lacks originality and depth, but manages to get the core necessities down right. There may be far better options on the handheld, such as Daxter, but those that are itching for a new platform game won't go too wrong with Crash of the Titans.
PSP Fanboy score: 6.5
Wii Fanboy review (7.5)
DS Fanboy review (7.5)