Crash Twinsanity Impressions
We look at an early version of the next Crash Bandicoot game at GDC 2004. Details inside.
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Earlier today, Vivendi Universal Games announced the next Crash Bandicoot game, Crash Twinsanity. This upcoming game is being developed by Traveller's Tales, the creator of The Wrath of Cortex. Interestingly enough, the new game features the return of the evil, cranially endowed Dr. Cortex, Crash's archnemesis and new partner. According to the series' story, Cortex was frozen in ice at the end of the previous game but has escaped three years later and is discovered by Crash at the beginning of the new game. They begin their usual fighting but soon learn that their beloved islands are under attack by a set of evil twins, so the two must put aside their differences long enough to defeat this new threat together. You'll also have a chance to play as Dr. Cortex's niece, Nina Cortex.
The game opens with a tutorial sequence in which Crash is lured onto a training course by Cortex, who, by donning an oversized blond wig, apparently looks enough like Crash's sister to fool even the wily bandicoot. This tutorial sequence includes several examples of Crash's new gameplay elements. The first and foremost of these is the game's free-range 3D environments; in previous Crash games, everyone's favorite bandicoot had been constrained to running on rails, while in the new game, he's free to explore the 3D areas, which will stream continuously through your PlayStation 2, eliminating the need for load screens. We were assured that although the version we saw on display (and possibly the version on display at E3) possesses a central hub area with load times to jump to different levels, this hub will be eliminated in the final game in favor of a continuous gameplay experience. This new system should also help add context to Crash's adventures--a change that the developer hopes will be an improvement on the sometimes-jarring level transitions of the previous games, in which Crash would be exploring a level on foot and then would suddenly be riding on a motorcycle or in a plane.
New gameplay elements include using environmental objects, like cannons, to blast out moorings and blocks to reveal hidden items; rolling giant seeds into holes in the ground to plant fruit trees (and collect the fruit); and herding wandering chickens into a set of exploding nitro boxes surrounding extra crystals to set off the boxes harmlessly (harmless to Crash, anyway). Crash retains his now-standard arsenal of spinning around, double-jumping, sliding, hanging onto ledges, and "body slamming" (flapping his entire body down onto an enemy). However, he also has several new moves, including a long jump (which lets him traverse extremely long pitfalls), a flying scissors kick attack, and a new spin that ends with a punch.
We saw several examples of the odd couple in action--Traveller's Tales wants to emphasize the impact of controlling two characters instead of one, so you'll see several different types of gameplay. For instance, in one level, Crash and Dr. Cortex walked through a level together, defeating any nearby enemies by having Crash lift up the good doctor and slam him onto the enemies headfirst, like a mallet. In this mode, Crash can also hurl Cortex through the air, which is a handy trick for getting to hard-to-reach switches and crystals. Another level took place on a hazard course strewn with pitfalls and other traps that Cortex blunders into after being attacked by a swarm of bees. In this level, which seemed reminiscent of the classic game Lemmings (but with direct control of Crash), Crash must run ahead of Cortex and make sure the way is safe for him by setting off any traps in the way and by extending platforms over pits. This is done by solving simple puzzles, though the puzzles will probably be more challenging considering that you're under split-second time constraints and pressure to make sure that Cortex makes it through in one piece.
Finally, we saw a third team mode in action: rollerbrawl. In this mode, Cortex and Crash, unable to resolve their differences, come to blows and turn into a Saturday-morning cartoon-style mass of arms, legs, and dust that rolls along a tunnel, picking up any nearby items and, if steered correctly, falling into any hidden pockets that lead to secret areas. You'll manually control the two tussling characters with your controller, and can bring them to a stop; when this happens, you'll see Crash and Cortex comically grappling with each other. Crash might be twisting Cortex's ankle, or Cortex might be spanking Crash over his knee. These and other gags are being provided courtesy of one of the lead comedy writers from the TV cartoon Ren and Stimpy. In fact, Traveller's Tales is attempting to make Crash Twinsanity "the funniest platformer video game ever." We'll see if the developer can make good on this goal when the game ships later this year for the PS2 and the Xbox.