Crash Bandicoot: Mind Over Mutant First Look

The world's most popular bandicoot seeks to reestablish his identity.

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Crash: Mind Over Mutant
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Ever since Crash Bandicoot and original developer Naughty Dog parted ways, the orange marsupial has been a mascot looking for a sense of direction. In addition to a variety of platformers, we've seen him bounce around between kart racers and minigame compilations. This year, it appears Crash may be finally settling into a groove with the release of Crash Bandicoot: Mind Over Mutant, which closely follows the formula established by last year's solid Crash of the Titans.

What a beautiful friendship.
What a beautiful friendship.

Dr. Neo Cortex returns as the game's villain and, as always, is bent on taking over the world. This year, though, that story is told in a more ambitious way. Radical Entertainment reps gave us a description of what to expect from the game's plot, and they were sure to point out their goal of using some social satire you wouldn't expect out of a platforming game. Essentially, Cortex has masterminded the creation of a trendy gizmo that everyone simply has to own (think of the iPod). We're told this theme of consumerism is a frequent source of humor in the game's plot, including jokes about SUVs and the skyrocketing price of gas.

The gameplay itself doesn't look as though it will deviate much from Crash of the Titans. The highlight of the game is still the ability to "jack" giant monsters (jumping on top of them and riding them as you would a horse). This element of the game will play a big role in your progression through each environment. There are certain parts of levels where you cannot pass without first jacking a particular enemy and using whichever superpower only that enemy possesses. The first level we were shown provided an example of this. There was a rather large river that needed to be crossed, but in order to do that Crash had to jack a beast named "Ratcicle" in order to use his power to freeze water. A few seconds later and Crash is on the other side of this newly formed walkway, able to make his way through the rest of the level. Radical Entertainment calls these types of enemies "key-bearers" to new levels. New to Mind Over Mutant is the ability to store one monster in your pocket while riding a completely different one.

The next level we saw showed off another use for jacking enemies. This one was laid out like a desert skate park: a dusty, barren landscape filled with suspiciously placed ramps and curved walls. Here Crash has to jack an enemy with a much different type of superpower from the last one, the ability to transform into a ball. Crash then uses this jacked enemy to cruise all over the level, adding a little twist to the usual sense of movement experienced in the game.

The third and final level we were shown was a dark, damp cave setting. Its creepy but cartoonlike appearance made it look like something straight from A Nightmare Before Christmas. This level focused on the enemy banter. Nearly every bad guy you encounter has some type of dialogue ready to throw your way, which Radical says will poke fun of as many topics as it can squeeze into the audio tracks. You'll also hear familiar voices, with talent appearing from Invader Zim, Futurama, SpongeBob SquarePants, and Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill.

The version we saw running was being played on the Wii. Graphically, it looked nice for a Wii game (with some of the better lighting effects we've seen on the console), and the controls didn't seem to require too many gestures. In fact, you've even got the option to do away with motion controls entirely. Other versions will arrive on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, PSP, and DS when the game is released this October.

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