D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn Part 4

Welcome to part 4 of “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn”. We’ve finally come to the end of the line with the Crash Bandicoot series at long last. The last two Crash games were actually reboots of a sort. One change both games brought about was new designs for some of the characters. For example, Crash himself now had arm tattoos and Crunch had a more advanced looking cybernetic arm, but other characters had much more noticeable redesigns that quite frankly were unnecessary. Aku Aku and Uka Uka previously resembled more traditional witch doctor masks, but now Aku Aku looked like a witch doctor mask modeled after an ape, while Uka Uka resembled an evil skull.

The biggest change by far though was Tiny Tiger. Originally he resembled a big, muscular Tasmanian tiger and could barely put two words together; now he looked like a striped Bengal tiger (still with muscles), dressed like Luigi from Super Mario, and spoke like an extra effeminate version of Mike Tyson. These changes were amusing in their own ways, but like I said, rather unnecessary. Fortunately the changes they made in the gameplay were pretty good (for the most part), which I will go over now. Let’s do this!

 

Crash of the Titans (PS2)

This Crash game was a surprise hit for me. It opens with Crash, Coco, Crunch, and Aku Aku hanging out at home. Dr. Cortex arrives in a big blimp and interrupts their family fun by kidnapping Coco and Aku Aku, then immobilizing Crunch with an ice beam before flying away. Crash manages to free Aku Aku before Cortex escapes with Coco, then Crash and Aku Aku team up in order to catch up to Cortex and stop whatever crazy plan he’s got cooking. From here you take control of Crash who can deal with enemies with some new punching combos and soon enough with an upgraded version of his classic spin attack. Eventually he’ll be able to use Aku Aku as a makeshift skateboard to slide through certain environments and even incorporate him into combos.

But the meat and potatoes of this game focused on Crash being able to “hijack” the larger titan enemies and make use of their special powers and abilities by first stunning them and then placing Aku Aku on their heads to control them. The number of different titan enemies was quite impressive. Here are some examples: The Spike was a mutant porcupine that could attack with its claws and by causing spikes to shoot up from the ground; the Snipe was a fox/bird creature that was fast and could throw energized feathers at enemies from a safe distance; the Shellephant was a mix of elephant and crab that was incredibly strong, yet slow, and could breathe fire; and the Scorporilla (my favorite) was a gorilla combined with a scorpion who could destroy enemies with its overwhelming strength and fiery scorpion tale.

Being able to control Crash and the twelve or so titan enemies in both combat and platforming areas gave this game lots of variety and made it just plain fun. I had a blast when fighting multiple titans at once since it normally involved making Crash stun weaker titans while avoiding other ones, then using the weaker titans to wear down the larger ones so he could hijack them and decimate any other remaining titans and enemies. Doing this to hijack special boss titans with their own unique powers was also lots of fun. There were a number of collectibles in the form of voodoo dolls, but they mostly unlocked artwork or skins, so I found little incentive to collect them all. The game was also rather short and linear, and some levels were a bit repetitive. So while Crash of the Titans wasn’t what I would call perfect, it was still lots of fun, definitely one of the better Crash Bandicoot games in the entire series. Crash of the Titans gets a score of 80%.

 

Crash: Mind over Mutant (PS2)

This was the very last Crash Bandicoot game and unfortunately it was a bit of a dud. Even though the gameplay pretty much aped what was in Crash of the Titans, there were a couple of changes added in that actually brought the quality of the game down and made it considerably inferior to its predecessor. The story behind this game revolves around Dr. Cortex sending these goggle-like devices to all the residents of Crash’s hometown of Wumpa Island, and of course these devices serve the diabolical purpose of controlling the minds of those who put them on, which included Crash’s sister Coco and his friend Crunch. Therefore, Crash and Aku Aku team up again to defeat Cortex and stop his latest evil plan.

One thing I did like about this game was its sense of humor with its mixture of witty jokes and parodies on pop culture. The new style of cutscenes was also entertaining. The cutscenes in the previous game were done using in-game character models in real time, but in Crash: Mind over Mutant, each cutscene had its own separate animation style so that they resembled different popular cartoons. One cutscene portrayed Crash and other characters as animated puppets, another cutscene portrayed them as muscle-bound martial artists with spiky hair like out of an episode of Dragon Ball Z, and yet another cutscene had them resembling characters from South Park. The core gameplay itself, as I mentioned before, was basically the same as it was in Crash of the Titans and focused mainly on Crash hijacking different titan characters, along with a bunch of platforming.

So what exactly did this game do wrong to make it a pain in the ass to play compared to the game that came before it? They added backtracking. Lots and lots of backtracking. I don’t mind a certain amount of backtracking in games, but this game took backtracking to an unnecessarily extreme level. Crash of the Titans had multiple levels that you could replay if you wanted to in order to acquire collectibles and such, but Crash: Mind over Mutant had a semi-open world structure where Crash’s house served as the main hub. From there, Crash could go to other areas and revisit them as he progresses through the story. Thing is, you won’t have a choice when it comes to revisiting previous areas, you will be required to revisit them…multiple times. Basically, the game world is structured like a straight line with point A in the beginning and point Z in the end, and Crash’s house is somewhere in the middle at point L. In order to advance through the game, Crash will meet other characters like Dr. N. Gin, Nina Cortex, and more in order to complete missions for them that will take him to all parts of the map.

Pretty much all these missions are structured like so: An NPC will have you go from point P back to point G, then you’ll have to return to point P to give the NPC whatever they needed. Other times you’ll have to go from point T all the way to point C, then up to point F, back to point C, then finally to point T again. All this backtracking required you to face the same enemies and go through the same platforming areas over and over again with little to no shortcuts available, making this game a huge, repetitive chore. Also, even though two new titan enemies were added in to replace two older ones, the opportunity to play as the more fun titans like the Scorporilla and others was seriously lacking, with the game pretty much forcing you to use the same titans in the same areas all the time. In the end, this game had the same basically fun gameplay as its predecessor, but the smaller number of opportunities to play as specific titans and the overwhelming focus on constant backtracking really brought this game’s fun factor way down. Crash: Mind over Mutant gets a score of 59%.

That is the end of the Crash Bandicoot series. It’s unfortunate that the series ended with a less than stellar title, but I still enjoyed my time with the orange marsupial over the years. I have a lot of fond memories of my time with Crash Bandicoot and I’m forever grateful to Naughty Dog (and to a lesser degree the other developers who continued the series afterwards) for providing me with my earliest video game series. Join me next week for Part 5 of “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn” where I will discuss the next video game series to make an impact on me very early in my video gaming life: the Tenchu series. In the meantime, check out some more of our site’s literature below:

Raul’s been playing Civilization: Beyond Earth and is learning that the burden of ruling over a colony is heavier than expected. Will he be a leader that gives his subjects the freedom to rule their own lives, or will he slowly but surely go the way of the Borg Collective? Find out here in his latest “Well, That Just Happened”.

Dan Choppen lives out his life-long dream of being a fantasy creature exterminator by “Choppen” up some Skavens in Warhammer: The End Times- Vermintide. You can find his review on the game here.

If you’re interested in seeing what other games the Gaming Respawn staff are playing, check here for this week’s “Gaming Respawn Plays”. Maybe one of us is playing a game you’d consider trying out.

 

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