Bland. Banal. Poorly-executed. Sloppy.
These are never words that you want to hear when your game is reviewed. I may be giving a little too much away here, but these are words that very clearly describe Crash: Mind Over Mutant.
I have always held that Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped is one of the finest games I’ve ever played. It was fun, it looked great, and had fantastic level design, the cornerstone of any platforming game. In the years since, Crash Bandicoot has found himself slowly crumbling, falling apart at the hands of lazy developers and bad design decisions.
So what makes Crash: Mind Over Mutant so stultifyingly boring? The answers lie within.
Blandness covers the graphics in Mind Over Mutant. The colors are washed-out. The 3-D characters are boring, with the only exception being Crash himself. Everything screams “lack of effort.” The occasional slowdown still hits, even when there’s no reason for it. I mean, we’re talking about a game that uses just a little bit of 3-D and a lot of 2-D! How can we have slowdown? The mutants, which are supposed to look cool, look like generic monsters.
The DS is no graphics powerhouse, for sure. We can all agree on this by now. Still, games like New Super Mario Bros. and others have shown that you can make a good-looking platforming game with a little creativity and care. None of this is found here.
Part of the fun of a platforming game is bopping along to the music. I can count on one finger a track that I remember from Mind Over Mutant, and even that track bores me to tears. Even in the opening levels, there should be some fun and bouncy music, and there’s none here. On top of that, the sound is strangely sparse, and yet still manages to be annoying all the same. The various squeaks and grunts of enemies grate on the nerves, and the annoying crying sound that Crash makes when he dies makes me want to reach through the screen and throttle him.
The controls fare slightly better. It’s hard to mess up platforming controls, and for the most part Mind Over Mutant does well. You walk and jump, as well as throw punches. There’s a light attack and a heavy attack. If you time your button presses, you’ll chain a couple of attacks together. You can also jump in the air and belly-flop on enemies below, as well as execute a spin move that slows your descent during a jump.
Still, the controls feel a little murky. For instance, Crash can chain attacks together by throwing a couple of punches in a row. If you just throw a punch, there’s a slight pause until you can re-attack. If you throw three punches in a row, the animations move into each other, meaning that your attacks flow much quicker, and can result in more damage to your opponent. Naturally, the controls decide to be far too exacting at the most inopportune moments, leaving you standing in front of an opponent as he unleases his big destructive attack in your face.
The big idea in Mind over Mutant is the ability to defeat certain larger enemies and then be able to control them. You can level up these enemies and make their attacks more devastating. It’s a cool idea in theory, but they’ve destroyed a great idea with sloppiness, especially on the level design front.
Consider this my application for a level designer on the new Crash Bandicoot game for the DS. Here’s a level I’ve been working on:
_____ _____ _____
____________ ____ _____ _______->
Do you like it? If you do, then Mind Over Mutant is your game. Every single level feels like it follows almost the exact same template. They might throw in a different enemy here or there, or try and throw in a different wrinkle, but it doesn’t matter. You never feel like there’s something exciting around the corner. Part of the problem stems from having levels that are too long. I mean, if you’re short on ideas, that’s okay. Everyone is from time to time, but stretching out your game only exacerbates the problem. It puts your lack of ideas in full view of the world, and that’s what happened here.
On top of that, each world has far too many levels. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that differentiates one from another. Some may have you jumping higher platforms. Some may have you jumping down platforms. They all blend into one long, boring series of platforms without flow or imagination.
The big drawing point of the game is supposed to be the mutants. There are regular enemies scattered throughout the game, but the larger mutants can be defeated and then controlled. When playing as the mutants, you have access to different and stronger powers. When you need to play as Crash, you can put away your mutant, and then bring it out later if you have a need. This should be really cool, but when playing as a mutant you don’t feel like you’re really any more powerful. For instance, your attacks may do more damage, but the enemies fall over just like any other attack you do.
On top of that, the mutants don’t jump as well as Crash does, so every time you come to a jumping section, you want to put away your mutant. There’s a little animation when you do that. Then you want to take him out to fight, so you do that. There’s a longer animation for that. Then another platforming section, and so on. Once again, there’s no flow. There’s no sections where I can just run roughshod as a super-powerful mutant. I have to keep taking him out and putting him away.
Even the bosses aren’t very fun to play against. Most platforming games require that you learn a pattern and then use a certain attack at the right time. Mind Over Mutant doesn’t. You just wait until you can hit the boss and then wail on it. You have to anticipate when the boss will attack, because your mutant is too slow to get out of the way. In other words, you die over and over at the same stupid boss because you have to keep switching back and forth.
Have I gotten to the enemies that zap you with lightning, stopping you in your tracks and sending you plummeting to your death? Or what about the spiders shoot webbing at you for the same effect? Or what about all the generic enemies that come after you that are easily wiped out so as not to provide a challenge? There is very little redeeming value here.
All throughout this game, I can hear the developers saying, “Who cares?” Someone asked whether or not they should spend more time on making the graphics sharper, and someone said, “Why?” Another person talked about spicing up the music, and heard, “So?” Someone else said that the control was spongy and slippery, and heard, “…And?”
So if it’s obvious throught the game that no one cared, why should you care about this game, especially during this time of plenty that we have been blessed with in gaming?
I understand that Crash: Mind Over Mutant is good on the consoles. Not great, but good. It seems that a little more time and effort could have gone into the DS version, and it makes me sad. I mean, I was psyched to play a new Crash game. I was looking forward to it, but it seems the developers didn’t share my enthusiasm for the final product or they would have done a lot more to make it better.