Frankly, you let me down. But it's okay. I can forgive you ... if only because Crash of the Titans is exactly the kind of thing you should have been doing all along. Developer Amaze Entertainment has taken the franchise back to its roots, despite throwing in a few things to change up the series. Even though Crash himself looks a little different, and you find yourself punching and kicking your way through the baddies, it still feels like an old school Crash game -- and that can only be a good thing.
Gallery: Sierra's Crash of the Titans
Crash of the Titans is not going to be the best game you'll ever play on the DS, but it is surprisingly solid and a lot of fun. As expected, the game kicks off with the evil antics of one Dr. Neo Cortex, and once again, Crash is charged with saving the day -- this time, it's a matter of dealing with a number of mutants created by Cortex in his effort to find all the mojo-enhancing Tiki masks. There's a problem, however: Crash can't manage everything on his own. He can't swim or deal with other obstacles. What's a bandicoot to do? Clearly, the only solution is to stun a creature and take a ride on its back, gaining all of its abilities in the process.
"Jacking" is the new gimmick in Crash of the Titans, and it can be pretty effective as well as fun. You can latch on to a variety of creatures that can then be exploited for travel or combat, and it keeps things fresh. If you don't like it, no problem; it's not really necessary if you're willing to forgo the occasional box and throw extra punches.
Keep your eyes peeled for secret routes; there's a lot more to Crash of the Titans than meets the eye, and the careful gamer will find a lot to enjoy here. Half of the game is in the discovery and challenge you set for yourself. Some may not like that sort of approach, but it allows players to determine whether they want a simple or more in-depth experience, and here it works well.
Of course, since this is the DS, there are a few minigames peppered throughout, but don't worry -- they're actually pretty fun. You even get to try your hand at a little pachinko, and who doesn't enjoy that?
Crash of the Titans is, overall, a solid experience. While it can't compare to some of the truly amazing offerings on the DS, if you're looking for a fun experience that makes good use of the system, this is a good bet. It's not overly challenging, but there's a lot to discover if you take your time, and as with most of the franchise, it's just plain fun. Occasionally there are some issues with the fixed camera (oh, hi2u, surprise pit that just killed me), and the combat can be a little less than exciting during some of the fights, but the game looks good and has plenty of truly enjoyable moments.
The basics (or, the review is in the details):
Controls: The controls you actually use are great. For old school Crash fans, the combat is surprising, but easy to get into. Those you don't -- largely, the touch screen controls -- are less-than-good. However, Amaze thoughtfully included a button alternative for things that usually require the touchscreen to accomplish. Need to flick a mask in order to jack an enemy? No problem ... just hit the 'B' button. If only all subpar touchscreen controls took the same approach, DS gaming would be a lot better overall.
Now, in those instances when you can rely on the touchscreen without trying to juggle the d-pad and the right-side buttons at the same time? Then the controls are just fine. Separately, each aspect is great; when you must use them together, it doesn't work so well ... which is why we laud that choose-your-own-controls feature.
Visuals: This latest Crash actually looks really good on the DS. The title may not feature all of the detail and extras you'll find on a larger system, but you will be hard-pressed to find too many DS games that look better. Graphically, Crash of the Titans is a very pleasant surprise.
Sound: Here the game suffers a little. Most of the voice work is unnecessary and repetitive, and the music is only so-so. However, you don't really need any of it, so feel free to turn that volume down.
Story: Has anyone ever played Crash Bandicoot for the story? For the puns or humor, perhaps, or the big dumb hero himself, but the story itself is never the strongest aspect, and this latest is no different. It's enough to carry players through the game, though like the title itself, it could feature a bit more length or depth.
Difficulty: Level-wise, there isn't a lot to this game, but a lot of the optional objectives offer a way to increase the difficulty. Each level comes complete with goals for you to undertake; you don't have to do any of it, but you certainly can, and collecting everything can be a real challenge.
Final score: 7.5/10 -- Crash of the Titans is a solid game on all fronts, but the fact that it's a little short and surrounded by so many other great titles makes it a little less than a standout. Platform and action aficionados may want to take a closer look, however ... and fans of Crash should, as well.