Arguably the success of Crash Bandicoot can be pinned on the marsupial turning up in the right place at the right time. The PSone had just had a price drop and started to appeal to younger gamers, and with Super Mario 64 still proving popular Sony wanted their own platformer to flaunt. Let’s be fair – although the original was a good test of reflexes it was hardly a match for Miyamoto’s masterpiece.
Even before the character was handed over to Sierra (formally Vivendi) Crash was forced to start in tat such as Crash Bash and, some mildly entertaining 2D Game Boy Advance adventures aside, hasn’t recovered since. So, this is meant to be a massive revival of sorts. There’s more freedom in the environments for a start, while Crash himself now sports spiky hair and funky tribal tattoos. Rather than attack enemies with a trademark spin attack it’s now a case of pummelling them with punches, which is a pretty drastic change – imagine Sonic kicking foes instead of curling into a big blue ball of spikes.
The ‘big new thing™’ though is the ability to jump on the back of various mutated beasts and use their skills for either combat or puzzle solving (read: smashing down walls or shooting targets). The idea is to work your way up the food chain – it’s easy to weaken the smaller beasts, but the bigger titans will need more than a few of Crash’s punches before they become giddy. The monsters are easy to come across – on one of the earlier levels you’re set a target to jack 80 beasts to get a gold idol – but you’re limited to a handful of different sorts per level. When jacking a beast there’s a spot of slow-mo for added effect which is stylish at first but quickly becomes bothersome.
Developers Radical have clearly been playing a lot of Lego Star Wars – a second player can jump in and out of the game at any time and just by hitting the smallest of objects dozens of glowing orbs spew out ready to be collected. By the end of a level it’s not uncommon to have amassed thousands of the things, which are then used to unlock new combos and the like. Oddly, the first combo includes a roundhouse kick finisher, known as The Norris. There are few other internet fad jokes to look out for too. Oh noes!
Despite notable polish – the cut scenes are often amusing, Crash is well animated and there are some nifty motion blur effects – things quickly become tedious. The combat especially – there’s too much dull beast brawling in small arenas which goes on and on until a large titan finally appears, and sometimes you’re forced to weaken stronger titans using only punches which is tricky if there’s more than one to deal with.
Throw in a few fiddly jumping bits where only Crash’s shadow is there to guide you and you’re left with a less than stellar comeback. Still, if you’re after a platformer for the Xbox 360 then this is certainly one of the better ones, and the fact that the achievements are unlocked frequently makes it curiously addictive.