Crash Bandicoot: Mind over Mutant Review

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far….no. In a land without Time…gah, no! Once upon a ti…grr, No! In a century passed and on a platform all but forgotten, the gaming world was introduced to a tiny marsupial known as the bandicoot. Yes, in 1996 on the original Playstation — when our homes were plumbed by a pudgy Italian stereotype and/or deafened by a hedgehog chasing coins — we were given a small taste of the Southern Pacific.

I remember the original Crash Bandicoot fondly. I was never one for the NES or SEGA systems. The Playstation was different. New, sleek, custom black CDs  — as opposed to those cartridges that harken to the venerable Atari systems — the PS1 got my world into the realm of console games. Crash brought depth and stunning visual feats compared the contemporary side-scrolling 16-bit color atrocities. Oh yes! The Crash series set out to make a statement.

So here we are. Twelve years and 15 editions later, we have a whole new level on what the console can do. Can you teach an old rat new tricks?

I’m sure that if my PS1 were alive today (actually, it probably does still work if I pulled it out from its slumber) and I popped in the disk for the original game I’d be shocked at what I used to consider graphical triumph. Thanks to the Moore’s Law bubble and the quest to outdo one’s competitor in the chase for the almighty dollar, electronics in the average wrist-watch are certainly more powerful than a good deal of gaming system back in the 80’s and 90’s. So it is with a small bit of disappointment that I watch this game pass before my eyes.

In-game graphics are nothing astounding. There isn’t a great deal of texture or shading tricks, there aren’t a slew of colors and it isn’t all that sharp. The main character, Crash, is rather small so details are kept to a minimum. However, Crash spends most of his time playing piggy-back so his presence is larger, but still without any considerable detail or artistic flare.

The background is dominated by whatever particular color happens to fit. There are jungle bits that are mostly green. There are watery bits that are mostly blue, snowy bits that are largely white, and so on and so forth. The first several levels are worth of ‘enemies’ are tiny ratling things without being much more than rectangles with ears.

The cut-scenes, however, are much more interesting. The characters are much more alive and fleshed out with textures. While bits are jagged in places, this seems to be as much of a purposeful style as it may be a tad of laziness or confinements of the Wii’s lack of hard drive. And there are a lot of cut-scenes to drink in. Most of what I felt lacked during game play was welcomed in the breaks by lengthy and amusing scenes in between.

First, the music. It’s standard. The game is played largely with the regular 20 second clip that repeats over and over and over. It doesn’t grate on you, but it’s far from inspiring. It’s flat, time consuming, and very simple. That’s not a bad thing, but it is hardly worth writing about so I am going to stop here.

The dialogue, on the other hand, is quite a feat. Now whether that is a feat of greatness or agony of defeat is in the ears of the beholder. I have to admit that I’ve been away from the series for a while. The voice acting is very good, but I’m not sure what angle to take. The one villain, Dr. Cortex, has something in common with another megalomaniac, The Brain. Maurice LaMarche brings his signature Orson Wells impersonation to this toon, but it’s almost too close. Plus, you spend your time wondering when Pinky enters the stage. The arch-villain’s counterpart is the Dr. Nitrus Brio. His voice is a nice approximation of Ren Höek, but it too is missing something without the stupid cat to go along with it.

The voices, the music, and the sound effects come together to make the game no less enjoyable. Plus, Mark Hamill is in it, as Znu, so that’s a big plus by itself — not to mention Rodger Bumpass whose voice is in EVERYTHING!

The Wii’s controls are seemingly being used in spite of themselves. With a couple versions of the Mutants you can take charge of, the controls work. We’ve seen these in other games where you pull the Wiimote in towards you to pull doors open, or push to close them, but other controls like shaking the nunchuk for special attacks seems like it was a pity move.

The controls work pretty well once you get used to the timing. You do not get to just whip off super punches as fast as you can shake your fists, and that will aggravate the youngsters a bit. Some of the camera angles are tricky and puzzles are harder than they need to be due to lack of fine-precision of the analog stick on the ‘chuk.

With some perseverance and practice the short comings are able to prove as minor nuisances.

The gameplay is quite a bit of fun. The storyline keeps the adults entertained with jabs are modern-society’s excesses and whores of consumerism. The antics and goofy sound effects keep the kids going for more and more. Or, at least until the puzzle of the moment turns into too much of a challenge to one’s patience.

Evil geniuses and wacky gadgets abound. Light touches upon memories of high school tickle the nostalgic funny bone. The option to “jack” a mutant and ride its back or tuck it into your inventory to be used later was brought in after popular demand from the last version of the game. You don’t get to be as nimble or athletic, but riding a tank has its benefits.

All along the way you gather mojo and these build up to increase your level. With each level you gain, you, or your jack, gain abilities. It might mean you can spin more before you become too dizzy to stand. You might get heavier fists, or add an elemental bonus to your jack’s attack. Plus there are little mini quests for gathering other objects like shoes. These all keep you plenty busy while following the story.

The story is cute, but linear. There are shortcuts to keep you from having to walk ALL the way back to where missions are to be turned in. Thank goodness for small favors.

The kids will giggle a lot, and you will find yourself smiling at the humor. The game has plenty to do so that is a nice increase of its value. There is a co-op option so if you have more than 1 child, or want to join him or her, then no one has to be left out for long. The voice talent is a bonus still so I have to say the game gets some high marks.

I did not see much in terms of minigames or playing anything besides the storyline presented. There are 3 difficulty levels to play through which offers some incentive for returning to the title even if you’ve beaten the game.

My patience was tested repeatedly, but with some encouragement, practice, and several hours I made it though half the game. I do plan on playing it more, and with my workload that’s saying something. It’s fun to watch the kids laugh at the goofy stuff, but does get a touch tedious that they run to me for help so often. I can’t help it. I’m a pushover for their baby-blue eyes.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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