The Crash Bandicoot series has had a rough transition ever since leaving developer Naughty Dog’s tight clutches. It seems that everyone’s favorite marsupial has been searching for an identity ever since. With the recent merger of Activision and Vivendi Crash finds himself once again with a different name plastered across his boxart. With Mind Over Mutant the developers have built upon what made Crash of the Titans unique, which was jacking mutants, and tweaks everything that was wrong with it. Radical Entertainment has done an admirable job of bringing this once beloved mascot close to his former glory.
For anyone who played last year’s Crash of the Titans this new installment will feel familiar, and this believe it or not, is a good thing. While the series has not been anywhere near the level it once was it continues to improve with each outing and Mind Over Mutant is no exception. Once again the team has given you an open world to explore complete with the entire cast of characters you have come to know and love.
The design works well for the most part and outside of the traditional backtracking the game actually entertains throughout. Unfortunately the backtracking quickly causes the game to feel tedious once the first few levels are over and you are forced to revisit areas you have already been through because you now have the ability to access new areas thanks to new powers and mutants.
While this sounds good in theory it actually bogs the game down at times. To remedy this developers have removed all challenge from the game by delivering nearly no punishment for dying. If you fall off a ledge or are killed by an enemy you respawn immediately and almost exactly where you died. Combine this with the fact that Crash never runs out of extra lives and you have a game that lacks any challenge whatsoever. Great for the younger audience and Achievement junkies, but disappointing for those of you hoping for a demanding platformer to keep you busy for a while.
The world of Mind Over Mutant is open and sprawling but GTA this is not. Everything here is triggered by other events so it isn’t a free-for-all where you can tackle any mission at any time. Instead you are still progressed down a linear path further enforcing the idea that this game was aimed at a younger demographic, and on that level it works. The missions are short and sweet, there is little to no penalty for dying and the combat is simple and satisfying. Crash returns with his repertoire of moves such as his spin attack and fisticuffs as well as the ability to jack mutants and use them as transportation. A nice new addition to this year’s game is the ability to store your mutants for instant access.
The mutants can also be upgraded much like Crash as you progress through the game. These updates will give them more strength, make them more susceptible to damage and even new abilities they can use. Each mutant also has a set of strengths and weaknesses for various types of levels, so for instance some are more adept in a fire world where another may feel more at home in the ice world. Crash can also be upgraded by collecting upgrades scattered throughout each area of the world. These are called mojo and the more you collect the faster you upgrade your abilities.
The combat system is surprisingly the most impressive aspect of the game. On the surface it is simple enough for anyone to dig in, but the more hits you land successively the more your combo meter increases thus earning you a multiplier that affects the amount of mojo you earn. Crash has a standard punch and kick as well as different combos that can be combined with power moves for some truly impressive action. He also has his traditional spin attack and a spin jump that can all be used in conjunction with his other moves to perform some impressive moves. Once you gain access to the mutants the combat again changes and adapts to their unique abilities making this one of the most user-friendly and surprisingly deep combat systems in the genre.
While the story isn’t going to win any awards the presentation shines thanks to clever design and some outstanding writing. During the game you will be presented with some cartoon-inspired cut scenes featuring various characters to progress the story. These scenes are often times laugh-out-loud hilarious and extremely well acted. The voice overs are even amazing featuring some of the talent behind fan-favorite shows such as Ren and Stimpy. The visuals are colorful and the frame rate solid enough, but the static camera is simply a hindrance more often than not. Having to backtrack can quickly become aggravating as you fight your way across the level running directly into the screen with no sense of where you are going.
The core game is substantial, but with a lack of challenge expect to complete it fairly quick. The upside is that once you get so far in single player you can opt to try out the two player co-op locally. Here you take control of Crash’s sister Coco via the second controller. The downside is once again the camera that becomes sporadic and impossible to navigate when trying to balance two players at the same time. This mode feels tacked on and heavily constrained, but it is a nice stepping stone for future titles to offer this feature online.
Crash Mind Over Mutant is the kind of game that does nothing inherently wrong, but also fails to do anything to set itself apart from the herd. There is a lot of fun to be had here, but if you are a seasoned veteran to the genre don’t expect much in the way of a challenge. If you are looking for a good game to play with a younger gamer this is a perfect starting point and definitely recommended. Crash used to be one of the faces of gaming and Radical Entertainment and Activision have delivered a nice first impression, and perhaps our favorite Bandicoot can return to his former glory in his new house.