Crash Bandicoot: Mind Over Mutant
Developer: Radical Entertainment
Release Date: 10/07/08
If you look at a library of the whole genre of 3D platforming adventure games you’ll notice that there are a lot of bad games. While there were a handful of standout titles on both the N64 and PS1, generally the 3D platforming genre sort of reeked like a pile of dead skunks. There were a few standouts of that era, most notably Mario 64, but there was also a character that ended up becoming the mascot for the Playstation, Crash Bandicoot. The first couple of Crash Bandicoot games where developed by Naughty Dog, who eventually moved onto a different series, which was Jak and Daxter. Along with Ratchet and Clank and Sly Cooper those games pretty much dominated the last generation of console platform games.
Fast-forward to today and there isn’t really any stand out platform game titles with the exception of Mario Galaxy and Wario: Shake It!. What happened? A few years ago and it was 3D platform adventure heaven, and now the whole platform genre is on life support. Especially on the Wii where the quality of 3D platform games is highly suspect. Sure, it has one of the best 3D platform games in awhile with Mario Galaxy, but other than that what is there? Ninjabread Man? Anibus II? (Yes, it’s spelled that way). One of the second best platform titles on the whole system is the PSP port of Death Jr: Root of All Evil, and even that one was just decent.
Radical Entertainment seeks to change that. Radical Entertainment also developed Crash of the Titans, which in my opinion was fun but overall just an average platform game. The developers return to the series more determined than ever to try and breathe life into the Crash Bandicoot series. Are they able to revive this dying franchise or is this just another Ninjabread Man? Read on.
The game opens with a cut scene that pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the game’s story. Every cut scene in the game is told using different animation styles, for example the intro is done using stick puppets in silhouette, and the next one uses an odd animation using hand puppets. Nearly every cut scene represents a different art style, from the cut and paste South Park style, to anime, to old style black and white cartoons. As a story telling device, this is just awesome and personally made me interested in getting to the next cut scene just to see what style they would use next.
It also helps that the game is actually pretty funny as well. In the last game Doctor Neo Cortex mutated and enslaved creatures that game referred to as Titans. Now free from the control of Cortex the Titans have settled on the Wumpa Islands and everything seems to be going okay. That is until Cortex joins forces with Doctor Nitrous Brio and sends to all of the inhabitants of the Wumpa Islands a free device referred to as the NV. The NV promises to let you download movies, check your email and let you send 1,000 emails in the space of a second. Plus it also turns you into a monster under Doctor Cortex’s control, though that’s only mentioned in the fine prints and who reads that anyway? After Crash’s friends accidentally turn into monsters, it’s up to him to save them and all of the other inhabitants of the Wumpa Islands from Cortex.
The story is surprisingly well told and just about every single cut scene is entertaining. The game mocks reliance on modern technology and also spends some time mocking itself. Good stuff.
Graphically, as I mentioned before all of the cut scenes are top notch. During gameplay you’ll see a lot of vibrant colors and a pretty decent amount of detail along with some great backgrounds. Unlike the 360 version you can’t see the fur on Crash and the character textures are a little flat, but otherwise it’s a good looking game for a Wii title. Yes, I said “for a Wii title”Â deal with it; while some games look like severely downgraded ports of current generation games, Crash instead looks like a game where the Wii version was given equal time to make it look as good as possible.
The major issue with the visual presentation comes from the inability to control the camera, and honestly this is an issue where I’m not sure if the developers had a better option than what they went with for Mind Over Mutant. The Wii lacks a second joystick that most games use to control the direction of the camera. Mario Galaxy used the D-Pad to adjust the camera but it still wasn’t the best solution to this issue for a 3D platform game. Crash: Mind Over Mutant tries to solve this issue by having several areas done in either a two-dimensional style view or occasionally from sort of a 2.5D viewing angle. In many areas not only does this work but also it is used to create some pretty great platforming areas that might not have worked from any other perspective. At the same time there were areas where I didn’t understand where to go next because the right path wasn’t obvious from the camera angle in the area I was in, and since you are unable to move the camera…well, it can be confusing at parts. Also some areas will have the camera behind Crash, which is great until you need to backtrack through, and you will have to backtrack, and Crash is instead running towards the camera. In areas like this the camera is just a little too close to Crash in order to make out what he’s about to run into.
Plus there are areas where this just doesn’t work. There are occasionally some jumping puzzles that will have the camera right at Crash’s back while he’s jumping straight forward at an platform that’s on the same level as the one he is on. Since the camera for these few areas is not angled either to the side or downward, it’s sort of a guess how much distance Crash is jumping. Any platform game where you have to use the words “guess”Â and “jump”Â means that the game is doing something wrong. To be fair there aren’t too many of these areas and for the most part they choose some good camera angles for the majority of the areas in the game.
As far as sound goes the game is fine. The voice acting for the cut scenes are well done, and the background music is pleasant enough. The annoyances come from the fact that you have to collect jewel like mojo scattered through the levels and it makes a little ding noise that I wish I could just mute altogether. The enemies will spout random lines, some of which are pretty funny, though these start to become grating after awhile.
Like Crash of the Titans, Crash: Mind Over Mutant everyone’s favorite Bandicoot has access to a light attack combo, a heavy attack, can block, jump, dodge and shacking the remote will cause Crash to use a spin attack. That’s a lot of moves for a Bandicoot. Crash can also take on larger enemies like the Titans of the last game and stun them. Once they’ve been stunned he can then jack them. Jacking them means Crash can control the mutant, which opens a wide variety of attacks and also different mechanics to use for platform puzzles. Can’t cross the water? A certain ice mutant can freeze the water making it solid enough to cross. Another can use telepathy, one can roll, etc. Not only can you jack a mutant you can store the mutant. Sort of like how you could store power ups in The New Super Mario Brothers for the DS. When you have a mutant stored it will show the stored mutant at the top of the screen. Any mutant is easily stored by pressing up on the Wii-remote D-Pad, and if you obtain another mutant you can easily switch between the two by also pressing the up button. In an interesting move there are areas that will require a specific mutant to advance, then there might be an area the mutant is too big to get past, at that point Crash can store the mutant, cross the area on his own and then whip out the mutant again and continue. It’s a great system and it’s more interesting than some past platform games which just give you a power up since each mutant controls in a unique way.
Aside from jacking and storing mutants Crash has an array of moves all on his own that’s pretty impressive. In Mind Over Mutant, Crash can do all of the usual platform tricks, back flip jumping, spin jumping, rope swinging, and so on, but he can also dig, climb certain walls, he’s a pretty talented guy.
All of this controls amazingly well with the remote and nunchuck. Unlike some other games of this type that I’ve played for the Wii at no point was I wishing for a different controller to use. They add some motion specific moves like using an on screen cursor to aim for using telekinesis and shaking to spin jump that add to the overall feel of the game since it’s an additional level of interaction, even if it’s just a small additional layer of interaction. A lot of this is probably due to the camera system in the game, and I would rather sacrifice a great camera system for a merely okay one than to lose a great control scheme for a poor one.
The only time the slight imperfections in control and camera really come to light during the more intricate platforming puzzles. There are areas that require specific timing and logic to figure out how to reach certain items or areas and these areas are fantastically designed from a platform design perspective. I’ve played a lot of platform games, and there are some new variations to themes and some really interesting uses of different mutants powers within the game that are just really well done. Some of the trickier areas though aren’t challenging in a fun way as it’s more frustrating in a couple areas with a 3D game on a 2D plane when you are trying to roll up and down walls and it’s not working well, or against a camera angle which makes it hard to see where you are trying to land.
Plus, the backtracking really sucks.
Crash: Mind Over Mutant takes place on one persistent world instead of separated into different levels, and while I appreciate the effort of creating this island I think I would’ve rather had the game separated into different levels than what was done here. I know a game divided into levels doesn’t work as well with the current generation of games, except all this has done make you backtrack through levels as if this was a Metroid game or something. There was a pretty interesting bridge to run across in the ice area of the island that was fun the first time. The 3rd time it wasn’t as cool anymore. There were a couple of times in the game where I’d run from one end of the island to get to a checkpoint that told me to run back to the other end of the island. There are some things done to ease this pain such as areas only accessible by different mutants and small shortcuts places here and there, but really if you took out the backtracking you would also remove a significant amount of time it takes to complete the game, and that’s just not cool.
There are multiple difficulty levels to play at, though even on the toughest one the enemies aren’t really difficult. Plus there’s very little penalty for dying, thank god since with the camera angles there’s trial and error involved in the some of jumps. There is also jump-in-jump-out co-op multiplayer where the second player takes over the role of CoCo, and there are different places that require the use of both players. Mostly Co-op is just an easy way to get more mojo, which is what is used to upgrade abilities.
Overall Crash: Mind Over Mutant has all the tools needed to be a great platform game, the game controls well, the humor is well written, the platform sections are intelligently designed, unfortunately the sheer amount of backtracking and some awkward camera angles slightly spoil the whole thing. Still if you are young or just enjoy this style of game like I do, then it’s one of the best 3D platforming games available on the Nintendo Wii, second only to Mario Galaxy.
Graphics: Very Good
Sound: Above Average
Originality: Above Average
Appeal: Above Average
Final Score: ENJOYABLE GAME
Short Attention Span Summary:
There is a lot to like about Crash: Mind Over Mutant, the variety of artwork in the cutscenes is incredible an the humor is well done. For a 3D platform adventure it uses the Wii-remote/nunchuck controls in a great way, the platform puzzles are creatively designed and the mutant jacking ability is put to good use. The backtracking and occasional camera issue hurt the game, but if you’re looking for a fun platform adventure for the Wii, than this is easily one of the better titles.