Publisher: Activision Inc.
Developer: Radical Entertainment
N Amer - 10/07/2008
Crash Bandicoot: Mind over Mutant Review
Crash Bandicoot has a hard time making up his mind. First he was a linear, pseudo-3D action/adventure. Then he became a racing game, but only for a limited time. Before long he was attempting a full 3D, open-world adventure, along with a stellar 2D side-scroller for Game Boy Advance. All this hopping around is enough to make any animal dizzy, especially one that likes to spin while bonking enemy heads and busting open crates.
That may be why his latest adventure, Crash Bandicoot: Mind Over Mutant, is a little more grounded, a little more traditional, and not at all afraid to borrow from other action/adventures. Like a hungry man in a grocery store, Crash loaded his cart with boxes of MariO’s and Sonic Flakes. The resulting game is fortified with a Galaxy’s worth of gameplay mechanics.
Mind Over Mutant may look like a 3D adventure but don’t be fooled: the linear setup of the original Crash games has returned. From jungles and caves to deserts and ice worlds, Crash will get to each destination – and make his way through each level – by moving along one path. The camera moves solely on its own; you won’t be able to tilt or angle it to get a better view of the area. Players will often encounter areas that take on a near-2D perspective, allowing the player to side-scroll through that part of the stage. Though Crash has had a few handheld adventures that were entirely two-dimensional, its implementation here is like Super Mario Galaxy. This is one of many moments where the plumber’s last adventure will come to mind.
Crash’s attack system is more varied than ever. He can now combo attack (B button), perform a forward flip kick (Z), dodge attacks and counter (also the Z button), jump on enemies to stun them, slam on enemies to defeat them (tap B while in the air), and jump twice as high with the spin jump (tap A while spinning). The spin move, of course, is executed by – Bowser’s gonna laugh at this one – shaking the Wii remote. And yes, the developers also threw in a boss battle who throws spherical objects that must be thrown back at him by spinning.
There are times when Crash’s view is obstructed. In most games, the obstructing area would become transparent to show the character underneath. But in Mind Over Mutant, the area stays solid, instead showing a silhouette of Crash that allows you to keep controlling him through the level.
These ingredients (and several others in Mind Over Mutant) can be found within any box of MariO’s. The average player will probably laugh at most of them – not because the game is bad but because of how much it wants to be Super Mario Galaxy. There are just too many elements to call it a coincidence.
But kids aren’t likely to care, even if they’ve played through Galaxy. In fact, they may like this game more because of it since we’re not likely to play a new Mario for a long time. They’ll also appreciate the controls, which are smooth and responsive despite the slightly slippery feel (Crash slides a little when he runs as if his shoes have no grip). Kids will also get into the level objectives, which are common for the genre (go here, go there, retrieve this or that, etc.) but still entertaining. The goofy story has a few comedic moments, something that kids are likely to enjoy – and may skip if they don’t.
Mind Over Mutant’s title comes from one of the few elements that doesn’t feel like it came from a Mario game: mutant control. After pounding on certain enemies, Crash may take over their bodies. While controlling these beasts, Crash is stronger, faster, and able to overcome specific environmental obstacles. In one scenario, he must use an alien-type creature to pull blocks out of a wall, which can be climbed on to reach the top of the level. During another mission, Crash can use a mutant to freeze a lake, allowing him to cross the area while collecting items hovering over the water.
Those items could be power-ups (such as a temporary strength or speed augmenter) but are most likely EXP orbs that enable Crash and his mutants to level up. Orbs are normally calculated by themselves. But you’ll gain multipliers (2X, 6X, etc.) with each enemy you defeat, allowing Crash to level up much faster. Multipliers are reset the moment you’re attacked or fall off a cliff, but enemies are plentiful, as are EXP orbs, so it won’t take long to make up for any loss.
Like any Crash game, Mind Over Mutant is very repetitive. Given that the levels are linked to each other in one semi-persistent world, you will have to spend time backtracking. This is where the camera’s lack of mobility becomes an issue. It isn’t much of a problem when moving forward since the levels were designed to accept that kind of an angle. But when going backwards, the camera stays the same. It does not swing around to show you where you’re headed. For me, an issue like this is more of a nuisance than anything else. I’ve played enough action/adventures, good and bad, to figure out how to explore an area even when I can’t see where I’m going. But this might be the part of the game that really annoys – maybe even frustrates – the young demographic Crash currently targets.
Review Scoring Details for Crash Bandicoot: Mind Over Mutant
Crash Bandicoot: Mind Over Mutant was designed as a game that says, “Anything you can do I can do… not better but good enough.” It's far from flawless and won't cause any jaws to drop. But kids who enjoy the genre – and crave another Mario Galaxy, which we won't see anytime soon – will want to play through Mind Over Mutant.
The levels, villains and movie sequences are decent. But Crash’s character design has gone from cool to goofy and now to the dreaded place of being dorky. Only minute changes have been made over the years – his eyes seem to bulge a little differently, his nose might be larger, and his hair looks like he got the Mohawk Special from Fantastic Sam's. These changes, no matter how subtle, have really hurt Crash’s appearance as a leading game character. We live in a world where a plumber and a hedgehog are considered cool. There is no reason why a bandicoot shouldn’t be given artwork that is worthy of the same praise and respect.
Ultra-annoying, overly repetitive music and sound effects.
Mind over matter? Not necessary. You can beat this one just by moving your thumbs – no thinking required.
What’s that they say about imitation and how it’s the highest form of flattery? Crash Bandicoot: Mind Over Mutant really takes that saying to heart. It’s not afraid to flaunt ideas, mechanics and designs created by others.
Unlock Coco for co-op play.
Mind Over Mutant won’t win any awards or any significant critical acclaim. It’s not likely to make a top 10 list or be viewed as the year's best game in anyone's eyes. But come Christmas morning, eight-year-olds who find it tucked in their stockings will not be disappointed. They may be annoyed by the camera and/or repetitive objectives but will be entertained by what is the best Crash game developed in a long time – and one of the best Mario clones released for Nintendo Wii.
GameZone Review Detail
The best Crash game developed in a long time
Reviewer: Louis Bedigian
Review Date: 10/07/2008