Reviewed: October 19, 2004
Released: September 28, 2004
Crash Bandicoot is just as much a household name as Mario, Sonic, or Donkey Kong. This fuzzy little creature got his start back on the PS One just when 3D platform games were catching on and the rest is history. With more sequels than I care to count, Crash Twinsanity marks this loveable character’s second appearance on the Xbox, and probably the best installment in the franchise since the original.
Twinsanity actually continues the story from the previous game, The Wrath of Cortex, but you certainly aren’t required to have played that or any of the previous games to enjoy this marvelous title. We join our villain, Dr. Cortex, trapped in a block of ice and floating toward a distant tropical island where Crash and Coco (Crash’s significant other) have setup home. Oh the irony!
Things start to happen fast. Cortex thaws, shoots Coco with a stun ray, then disguises himself as Coca (don’t ask me where he got the wig), and taunts Crash into following him into the first level of the game by calling out in a girly voice and prancing about like a six year old girl. It’s hysterical for the first half-dozen times you see it.
Crash is a hardcore platform title that features all the basics and a few things you might not expect. Naturally, you have your collectibles, which include countless fruit that are arranged in paths that lead you about the levels. Every 100 pieces of fruit gets you an extra life, so actually losing the game is nigh impossible unless you really suck, and even then you can restart from your last save.
There are also plenty of gems of various colors to collect. These represent some truly challenging puzzles that require jumping, shooting, object relocation, and other platform staples. And we can’t forget those crates. Normal crates, TNT crates, nitro crates, metal crates, lots of crates. Some you can smash, some you can bounce on, and some you can do both. There are even some devious jumping puzzles that require you to bounce across a scattered path of boxes, one to the next, and each disappears after a single bounce.
Of course the biggest new element is that now Crash has a partner. Yes, Crash is joining the ranks of Ratchet and Clank, Jak and Daxter, Banjo and Kazooie, Starsky and…err…never mind. Buddy-platform games are the wave of the future and Crash is keeping up with the times and even expanding upon the concept by teaming up with his nemesis, Cortex.
Crash and Cortex have a love-hate relationship where they are forced to work together by circumstance to solve various puzzles. Much like Spanx and Redmond (Whiplash) this odd couple is tethered together for portions of the game. Crash can fling Cortex long distances to flip levers, or simply use him as a ball and chain to smash walls and boxes. Other times the two will be rolling down long caverns or wooden ramps in a half-human, half-bandicoot sphere of flailing arms and legs. You’ll get to control their speed and direction as you steer around bad crates and into good crates. It’s a cool variation of Marble Madness.
Of course the game gets even more fun (and challenging) when Crash and the good doctor are forced to separate. These portions revert to a side-scrolling design where Cortex takes one path and Crash takes another, usually foreground and background, and Crash must make sure Cortex has a safe path of travel.
The first instance of this occurs when Cortex is being chased by bees and running madly about. Crash must knock down trees to create bridges, raise blocks, solidify bridges, kill man-eating plants, stomp spiked wheels into the ground, and clear away TNT crates in his path. Often the doctor will step on pads to help Crash advance on his particular path. It’s a very clever cooperative game design, especially for a single-player game.
Then you have a wild assortment of boss battles. These aren’t terribly challenging when you figure out what to do and the game basically hints to the point of telling you how to win. Even so, it could take you a few tries to master the patterns required and there lies my only complaint with this entire game.
By it’s very nature you are going to try, die, and try again. The game has a very frequent checkpoint system, virtually unlimited lives if you take the time to collect some fruit, and very fast load times. But what makes my orange fur stand up on the back of my neck is that each checkpoint precedes a cutscene – an “un-skippable” cutscene. So if it takes you 8 tries to get past that bee chase segment I mentioned earlier you are going to get to watch the movie leading up to that chase 8 times as well.
Come on designers, this genre is over ten years old now. Either put the checkpoints after the movies or let me skip the movies. Sure, your movies are nice to look at and hysterically funny, but only once, maybe twice. Ok, that concludes my rant. Other than this annoyance – Twinsanity is an outstanding game in everyway possible.
Crash has some wonderful graphics but I can’t help but feel this is a non-enhanced PS2 port. I’m not seeing anything here that the PS2 couldn’t handle. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The game has a great “cartoon” quality that I wouldn’t want tarnished with high-end CG.
The levels are fantastic, large and diverse so there is something fresh with each new level yet the designs blend together so you aren't being yanked around from one jarring landscape to another. You’ll be exploring an island then entering a cave for a few underground levels then emerging for some more island adventures. Then it’s off to explore something equally as new and fun.
The character design is just as charming as ever. Crash has some awesome animation and his exaggerated facial expressions of surprise, annoyance, and suspicion during the cutscenes will have you laughing aloud. Crash is joined by some other playable characters in addition to Cortex. These are just as clever and well designed as our hero. I guarantee you will fall in love with Nina.
The game is marred with a few camera problems, but what Crash game isn’t? You are given free control over the camera, which you will quickly learn to use to steer crash while moving forward. You can adjust the height (zoom) but there are times, either in cramped quarters, or on high ledges, where the camera simply freaks out and gives you some goofy view that ultimately ends in you using one of your extra lives.
Twinsanity supports HDTV progressive scan for crystal clear graphics, that sport vibrant colors and clean, albeit somewhat flat textures. The draw distance is pretty good with only minimal fogging and pop-up on the horizon. The fast portions of the game flow smoothly.
There might be a great soundtrack lurking in Twinsantity but I can’t remember it. I’ve been hopelessly hypnotized into the opening music that was playing during my initial few hours with the game – a bouncy little island tune that reminded me of Bobby Mcferin’s Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Go to the Twinsanity website to hear this tune and I dare you not to be humming it an hour later.
Actually, there is a lot more music than this one number and it is all really good and fits the action on the screen including some tense boss music and thumping beats for those marble-style games where you are tumbling down endless passages. Since the gameplay requires a lot of replaying you will hear a lot of the music over and over. Most of it doesn’t wear on you but the snowy levels did start to get annoying about the time I finished them.
Of course the voice work steals the show with some of the best and funniest dialogue to grace a Bandicoot game yet. Cortex has a whole new personality thanks to the wonderful performance of Lex Lang. The awesome writing is mirrored with an equally excellent performance by everyone involved.
Casual gamers can jump, smash, and tumble their way through Twinsanity in about 8-12 hours, while perfectionists will spend upwards of 20 hours collecting every last gem. Some of the puzzles required for this outstanding achievement rival anything you have ever done in a platform game.
By design, you play and replay portions of the game over and over, but amazingly enough, you never really get tired or annoyed with the gameplay; movies yes, but not the gameplay. The variance in difficulty makes the game fun and challenging for all ages but at times it can be too easy for older gamers and too hard for the younger ones. This is one of those “get the family around the Xbox” games.
Crash Bandicoot has been getting a bad rap lately with some uninspired sequels. I had no real problems with The Wrath of Cortex other than it’s cookie cutter design, and Crash Twinsanity certainly smashes through any stereotypes you might be expecting. The gameplay is totally original, totally challenging, and totally fun. A definite addition for anyone who enjoys platform games.