Reviewed: October 23, 2004
Released: September 28, 2004
Every console has a go-to man. Nintendo has Super Mario, Sega had Sonic the Hedgehog, and Sony has Crash Bandicoot. It’s these platforming heroes that are expected to bring in solid sales for their respective company. But how long can these personalities last? At what point will their charisma prove insufficient in a constantly evolving market? Well, with a brand new PS2 (and Xbox) game from developer Traveller’s Tales, we put our lovable Crash Bandicoot to the test.
Like most Crash games of the past, Crash Twinsanity is definitely a platformer at its core. However, some changes have been made to the series since the last title to give it much-needed flare. The most notable, of course, is Crash’s new partner in crime, Dr. Neo Cortex (pause for Skywalker-esque screams of disbelief). That’s right, Crash’s arch nemesis is forced to team up with the bandicoot in this hilarious new game that puts these two enemies against a new mutual foe, the “Evil Twins.”
Using the all new Crash/Cortex paired game mechanics, Crash can use and abuse the mad doctor in a handful of ways in Twinsanity, and watching the scientist get what’s coming to him is the most fun you’ll have with Crash yet. Group that together with the comedy styling of cartoon-genius Jordan Reichek (Ren & Stimpy and the Simpsons) and you’ve also got a game packed with personality and while this may not be enough to make fans of newcomers, it’s definitely a breathe of fresh air for Crash fanatics.
As the game starts, Dr. Cortex is frozen in a huge block of ice and conveniently floating towards Crash’s island home. Naturally, the moment Cortex thaws out, he hatches a scheme to put an end to our Bandicoot once and for all by posing as Coco, the foxy, young, blonde bandicoot. Disguised with only a wig and a high-pitched voice, Dr. Cortex lures Crash into a trap that essentially starts the adventure.
The first improvement you’ll notice is the new free-roaming environment. Finally, Crash can move anywhere on the map, unlike previous games when Crash was confined to a predetermined path. Next, during the short pursuit of Cortex, you’ll see that Crash has the same moves we’ve all seen before. He spins, he jumps, he pounces, well, at least when he’s alone. Suddenly, after a brief boss battle, Crash and the Mad Doctor fall below the earth to get locked in to a dusty ball of fists that maneuvers like the old classic Marble Madness.
This first new gameplay mechanic is not only fun, but also hysterical since the animation of stars and flying dirt resemble that of an old Loony Toons episode. Unfortunately, these new “Rollerbrawl” levels can get difficult since explosive nitro boxes litter your path and result in the use of many continues. Then again, true Crash fans will probably feel right at home.
Luckily, Traveller’s Tales decided not to stop there. They obviously wanted to keep the series exciting and for the most part, they did. New gameplay also includes the appropriately named “Humiliskate”, where Cortex lies face down while Crash uses him as a human snowboard. Once again this makes for not only face paced gameplay, but a very funny and irate Dr. Cortex.
Finally, the last true new mode of play is the new “Doc Amok” which has Cortex losing it and running heading straight into obstacles that Crash must remove to keep the Doctor safe. These modes are just as much fun as the first, overall giving this series some much needed diversity, which happens to be the very quality that can turn a falling title around. In fact, without these new modes, I would have spent the majority of this review griping about the faulty camera or the control system that can feel sluggish at times.
But the bottom line here is Crash fans have been happy with less in the past, so the addition of the new free-roaming environments and new gameplay modes should keep them happy. But those who haven’t played as the Bandicoot before won’t recognize these improvements and will probably feel the shelves have something better to offer.
Twinsanity is the finest looking Crash yet, with bright, clean graphics from start to finish. While the graphics aren’t anything revolutionary in today’s games, it has definitely added enough to the Crash series to be commended. Traveller’s Tales did some nice work with extra subtleties like adding more intense lighting effects, bringing additional life to the level’s environment. They also added some pretty skylines even though you’ll spend most of your time in a dark closed off room or tunnel.
If it weren’t for levels being so big, I might have demanded more from this aspect. But since the levels consistently remain big and vibrant and don’t require load screens at any awkward moments, I think Bandicoot-ers will be pleased with what they get. In fact, if the design team had spent all of their time creating a Team Ninja version of Crash, they would have missed out on what the series is all about. Crash Bandicoot is about personality and fun gameplay, and the developer new what they should and shouldn’t try to improve with the graphics engine and in this case, it’s the familiar cartoon look and feel of Crash that makes this a good sequel.
One of the best components of this game is the incredible sense of humor for John Reichek. Like I said before, this guy has worked on some of the best cartoon shows of all time. Run & Stimpy and even The Simpsons, one of television’s longest running series, both owe him some thanks for his writing contribution and now Crash fans do as well.
From the very start of Twinsanity you’ll notice the personality soar through the roof as the game’s funniest character, Dr. Cortex, lures Crash into his first trap. The lines are great and the voice talent only helps bring the cartoon element out of this interactive media. If not for John’s talent, this game could have easily suffered the same fate of most drawn out sequels.
The music, however, tends to get repetitive and at times, nerve-racking. While the music may resemble previous Crash titles, I think it’s time for a change in this department. Not nearly as catchy as the Super Mario Bros. tune, the cheery boppy-ness of the tracks seems to sink into your head, almost like the theme song for Barney or the Teletubbies. I’m not saying Crash Bandicoot deserves an epic Metal Gear Solid tracklist, but I think they could have used more modern sounds for the music instead of the midi-file beats they chose throughout the game. So once again, we’re faced with another aspect that may please series fans, but not the new crowd.
I think Crash Twinsanity is a good platformer that’ll provide an exciting adventure for the right gamers, however, in terms of replay value, there is a little extra to justify starting over. There are colored gems hidden in each level that will unlock a variety of bonus material like FMV extras, level storyboards, and even concept art, but I don’t know if the Crash series calls for this kind of bonus footage.
Of course, finding something beyond a simple action/adventure game is appreciated, but I don’t know if the pain of continuing over and over again is worth it to every audience. Still, ten hours does seem to be the perfect amount of time to invest in this kind of game.
Overall, Crash Twinsanity is a step in the right direction for our orange Bandicoot. Crash’s current developer Traveller’s Tales does the series great justice by adding new elements like free-roaming environment and three very noticeable new gameplay mechanics, but all in all, it’s the evolved sense of humor that really offers Crash a new hope. Unfortunately, I think Twinsanity only reaches must-buy status for those who’ve played and enjoyed previous Bandicoot titles. Everyone else should probably rent or pass.