One of the Best DS Platformers.
Forget Super Mario 64 or Rayman 2: The Great Escape. Crash of the Titans offers something a little different. The game actually seems to be a return to the Crash roots, and the original PS1 Crash game was probably some of the more relevant competition for Mario's first 3D outing. To me, the Crash of the Titans formula offers a wonderful contrast to Mario, and should make an excellent addition to any DS-owning, platform lover.
Upon starting the game, you'll run through a tutorial level, which instructs you on the game basics: Crash's moves, mojo orbs (the game's currency), and other "stuff." You are then taken to a hub area (on the game's first of four islands), which houses two platforming levels, along with a couple of vendor stands. One of the vendors is Coco, who allows you to use collected mojo orbs to purchase upgrades for Crash – attack upgrades, defense, health, etc. Then there's the pinball / slot machine, which allows you to do a little gambling. It cost 100 mojo orbs a pop, and you get five balls to fling. You can win various prizes, including treats, which replenish health; hacks you can use to make things easier during a given platforming level; and concept art, as well as other trinkets.
The levels, themselves, are made up of running, jumping, a bit of button-mashing combat, collecting, and wall scaling. Through upgrades at Coco's shop, Crash will learn new attack combos. They don't add a whole lot, since most of the combos aren't really necessary, but they're a nice addition, all the same. One of the most unique gameplay aspects, however, is "jacking." When you stun a monster, you can then use your talking-voodoo-mask buddy to take possession of the enemy's soul. This allows you to piggyback on the creature, and use it to attack. It also allows you to conserve your own health, since damage taken to jacked monsters doesn't affect Crash directly. Additionally, you'll need the aid of larger, jacked monsters to open bigger boxes, which contain various things you'll want to collect throughout a given level.
Each level is quite sizable and features a nice variety of gameplay elements. The pacing and level design are really well-thought out, and replaying levels is a ton of fun. After you complete the first two levels, you then get to play as Neo Cortex's (the main villain of the game) niece, Nina. The Nina levels offer a neat little change of pace, and you'll basically be running through a level, using your Cortex-made ray gun to mutate the wildlife into a legion of evil monsters. The levels are pretty simple and kind of short, but a lot of fun.
In addition to the regular platforming gameplay, each level has an alternate option, which allows you to do a quick, sort of run-and-collect-everything-you-can kind of thing. The alternate levels are an inspired addition and allow you to collect a few extra orbs to spend at the vendors. There are also masks and achievements throughout each level, and you'll gain gems for meeting various goals.
Crash of the Titans consists of four island areas, with two levels and a Nina level per area, plus a final boss level. It might not sound like a lot, but the overall package is quite impressive.
On the production front, Crash of the Titans is one of the most polished games I've yet seen on the DS. The system can't perform texture filtering, to the best of my knowledge, but Amaze – the game's developer – does an "amazing" job of mimicking that technique through various other techniques. I think the bottom line is, the game just uses a lot of polygons. There is none of the blockiness inherent in games like Rayman DS or a host of other 3D DS games. Plus, the framerate runs fast and smooth throughout. The cutscenes are all real-time and very cinematic. Every main character has its own voice-over work, and the ambient sounds are very tastefully done, as is the music. Overall, it's one of the nicest-looking and sounding games I've played on this system.
Crash of the Titans isn't a terribly long game, however, but it's fun from start to finish. Going back and redoing levels is no chore whatsoever. I think I've done each level about five or six times, and they're still entertaining. Titans is one of those games I'll play until I'm sick of it, and I only do that with games I truly adore. The trinkets you win from the slot machines make going back to earn orbs well worth it, and playing the game is time and money well spent, in my opinion.