Those of you who have been waiting patiently to play another traditional 3D adventure starring Crash Bandicoot will want to check out Crash of the Titans for the Nintendo DS. It contains 23 levels' worth of platform-jumping, enemy thrashing, and box breaking. Basically, everything that Crash fans crave is in here. However, there's also a nifty new twist: Crash can control his enemies.
Once again, Neo Cortex has come up with a plan to conquer the world. And, once again, the process of undoing Cortex's scheme involves guiding Crash through different levels and collecting the required allotment of mojo orbs, tiki masks, and purple crystals.
Some of those levels involve short obstacle courses in which Crash is riding his skateboard or some hapless creature down a mountain. Using the touch screen and buttons, you have to nudge Crash left and right in order to avoid hazards and grab whatever orbs and masks you can reach. These brief slaloms have multiple paths, which means it isn't possible to collect every single mask in one go. They last only about a minute, though, so playing through them multiple times doesn't feel tedious.
The overwhelming majority of levels involve the usual sort of exploration and combat typically found in a Crash Bandicoot game. Each lengthy level consists of multiple interconnected areas in which you have to jump between platforms, break boxes to grab goodies, and beat up mutants using Crash's punch-and-kick combos. There are plenty of different enemies, Crash has a good assortment of attacks, and you'll find yourself constantly uncovering secret areas and shortcuts. Often, you'll grab a ledge and move hand-over-hand sideways only to have the camera reveal a previously unseen patch of solid ground.
In recent Crash Bandicoot games, beating on enemies turned tiresome rather quickly. Unleashing the same combinations just isn't fun when you've seen them play out hundreds of times. For this game, the developer made an effort to inject some energy into the combat by giving players the ability to take control of Crash's enemies. Instead of delivering the finishing blow when an enemy is dizzy, you can drag your finger across the touch screen, which causes Crash to climb onto the stunned enemy's shoulders and place his mind-controlling Aku Aku mask over the enemy's face. You'll then be able to control that enemy, use its attacks, and risk its health while Crash sits safely out of harm's way. Some monsters have useful traits. Large creatures, for example, can smash the big crates that Crash normally couldn't bust open. Others can walk across lava without taking damage. Many monsters can unleash projectile attacks that are particularly useful against the super monsters and bosses that occasionally appear at the end of a level.
All throughout, the presentation is slick and upbeat. Each of the different 3D environments is colorful, detailed, and pulls off a specific theme (forest, caves, factory, and so on). Crash and his enemies look comical and have a good assortment of movements. The camera is worth mentioning, not because of the traditional third-person viewpoint, but because it always seems to adjust exactly when you need it to provide the best angle for jumps or to reveal secret paths hidden in the scenery. Overall, the 3D visuals are impressive, despite a few instances of texture warping and the occasional glitched character model. As for the audio, it consists of tropical music, whimsical sound effects, and a healthy collection of creature noises. Crash frequently mutters gibberish and passes gas while you're going through a level. The cinematic scenes also feature loads of recorded voice acting.
You'll feel as though you're constantly doing something different while playing Crash of the Titans--whether replaying the slalom and normal levels to find more masks, searching for new enemies to subjugate, or just collecting more orbs to bulk up Crash's attacks and health. Unfortunately, though, the game as a whole doesn't take very long to beat. Most people will reach the final showdown in about four or five hours. Beyond that, you can keep collecting masks to unlock cheats, gallery images, and a slightly longer ending. However, doing so will add only another two or three hours to your overall playtime.
Short, but sweet. That's the Nintendo DS rendition of Crash of the Titans in a nutshell. Exploring 3D worlds and pummeling monsters as Crash is fun, especially when you get to take control of those monsters. It's just a shame that there are only enough levels to allow the fun to last for one or two sittings.