• The 360 is not over-endowed with cute platform games. This is undoubtedly down to the market. I am guessing that you, like me, did not buy your 360 for Sonic or Mario-style action. If one came along that grabbed the next-generation of gaming by the scruff of the neck, well that would be a bonus, but for now, give me Call of Duty 4, Assassins Creed and Mass Effect and I’ll be very happy thank you very much.

    And so what to make of Crash Bandicoot? The poor second cousin to the Tasmanian Devil, disowned by Sonic and Mario, never quite cool enough to eat at the top table of video games characters. Well he’s back, in the dubiously-titled Crash of the Titans, only this time, it’s pure platforming action he’s after. No mini-games, no driving, just pure platform ‘fun’. Shame really, but we’ll get on to that.

    The story revolves around ‘mojo’, a substance that seems to be in abundance on Crash’s island. However, perennial bad guy Dr “I can’t see any certificates on his wall” Neo Cortex decides he wants to steal all the mojo to create an army of mutants from the poor inhabitants of the Wumpa Islands. What he plans to do with these mutants afterwards is less clear, but world domination, or at least Wumpa-Island domination, cannot be far from his mind. So Crash must stop him. That means you.

    Crash of the Titans

    The main thrust of Crash of the Titans is our hero’s ability to ‘jack’ defeated baddies by stunning them and then assuming control of them before they die, thus using their powers to defeat even bigger bad guys. After a few swift blows, they become stunned and a quick tap of the B button prompts Crash to leap on their shoulders and control them. Which sounds fun, right? Controlling bid bad guys to beat up other big bad guys, gradually working your way up the food chain until you ready to take on anyone certainly sounds fun, but then you start playing.

    Your main form of attack is the ‘X’ button. This you will press approximately 645,000 times throughout the game as CotT quickly degenerates into an old-fashioned hack-and-slash game. Here’s how it works. You run around duffing up enemies by mashing ‘X’ until a bigger enemy arrives. He takes slightly longer to stun, but when you do, you shift your thumb over to ‘B’, only briefly mind, don’t want ‘X’ to feel left out, and hop Crash onto the shoulders of the stunned beast. Mashing ‘X’ duties then resume to complete the level. Repeat ad nauseum.

    This is a slightly simplified version of events. The completists among you will insists on walking around picking up every piece of available mojo and that is very commendable, if rather odd, and there are the very simplest of puzzles to solve, but they are very much out of the shoot-at-this-target-to-open-the-door camp of puzzles and as such not really puzzles at all, merely hindrances preventing you from being on your way. The ‘A’ button makes crash jump (press it mid-air and he will now do the compulsory ‘double-jump’) while ‘Y’ is the special power button. When beating up a larger enemy, you will often get half-way towards stunning him before he starts to block. Once he starts blocking, you can hit ‘X’ until England next win the World Cup and you will get nowhere. That’s where ‘Y’ comes in. Hold it down to charge up a power move and you can breach the bad guy’s blocks. The downside? Well, while you are charging up your power, you are defenceless. This is all well and good when there are only one or two of the buggers, but any more and using ‘Y’ becomes impossible, poor Crash takes a terrible beating, so you have to find a way of isolating them so that you can at least get one stunned. Once that’s done, hop on baby and smite the rest.

    However, the repetitive nature of the combat, the lack of puzzles and the extremely linear nature of the levels all add up to a rather tedious affair. It’s simply becomes a race to the finish in the hope that neither your brain nor your ‘X’ button is broken by the end of it, and I was doing that 15 years ago in the name of fun.

    Of course, the 360 is not shy of games with ropey gameplay. Most of them attempt to compensate with snazzy graphics. Unfortunately, Crash offers no such luxury. The graphics aren’t bad, they are clean, crisp and colourful. But they are bland. There is nothing to mark this down as next-generation and while I’m not a graphics-whore (I spend far too much of my time playing geometry wars) there is nothing here to mark it out from titles that were doing the rounds on the PS2 and Xbox 10 years ago. In fact, the motion-blur effect when Crash jumps into his flip somersault is downright horrible.

    So, what’s to recommend? Well, there is a multiplayer, where a second player can jump in and out of the game at almost any time to help out his mate and this can both add some fun and also help you defeat the baddies that little bit quicker, which only be a good thing. But in truth, it is the cut scenes that are the perhaps the most enjoyable part of the game, filled as they are with some sharp dialogue and genuine humour that is subtle enough to cater for adult sensibilities while keeping the kids happy. And perhaps here is where Crash rescues itself.

    Dear reader, you should know that I write this review with less than a week remaining before the birth of my first child. Everything is bought, all is ready, the mothers-in-law are on their starting blocks in the race to get to the hospital first. All we need is a baby to justify the ridiculous amount of paraphernalia that currently clutters the flat. Why should you care, apart from sharing my fear of jam-induced red ring of death? Well, although the little man is a few years away from being allowed to waste his life in front of a screen, it occurs to me that Crash of the Titans is perfect for young kids. Everything that I said was wrong with the game in the previous 800 words makes it ideal for kids. Simple gameplay, basic puzzles, bright, colourful graphics, cute characters who say funny things – it’s an interactive cartoon and it gives them a go on Daddy’s machine, so you earn some kudos into the bargain.

    The review feels harsh. Crash doesn’t necessarily do anything particularly wrong, it just doesn’t do anything particularly right either and after a weekend of being wowed by Call of Duty 4, it just doesn’t feel good enough. One for the kids.

    Score: 5/10

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