We haven’t seen Crash Bandicoot for a while; he’s back in Crash of the Titans with a new gimmick – hijacking various bad guys and using them to beat up other bad guys. Unfortunately, the whole thing feels uninspired.
The story doesn’t matter. Cortex is up to something bad, and Crash has to stop him by running, jumping, and using his new mask buddy to skateboard down half-pipes and take control of bigger and stronger bad guys than your run-of-mill cannon fodder. Crash of the Titans‘ gimmick is a good one. It’s fun to change up gameplay mechanics, and it’s entertaining to beat up on a big elephant thing only to jump up on his back and surf your way to victory while the possessed beast does all the work without risking your precious health. Some jackable creatures are ranged, some are slow but strong (like the aforementioned elephant thing), and a few are just like upgraded Crashes that can’t jump.
With this new emphasis on hijacking enemies Crash of the Titans is less platformer and more brawler. Every level in the game follows this basic pattern: run forward, beat up small minions, find jackable bad guy, jack said bad guy, beat up other jackable bad guys in an arena, run forward, lather, rinse, repeat. This wouldn’t be a bad thing if the game was built around an interesting combat system. This isn’t the case. You’ll find yourself pressing X repeatedly and nothing else save for B when a new enemy is jackable. Along with being uninteresting combat is also cheap. In order to jack a creature (which is necessary to winning extended combat sequences) you need to deplete a creature’s star meter and make it dizzy. In order to deplete a creature’s meter you need to beat on it constantly. While beating on one creature constantly and being locked in a combo animation another creature will appear behind you – literally from a puff of smoke – and sucker punch you (or sucker spike you, whatever) in the back of the head multiple times and kill you. This will happen a lot – so much in fact that you’ll earn an achievement for sucking so badly that you’ve used 9 lives on one level. And there’s no other strategy to draw upon. Crash is just screwed until you get lucky.
Crash of the Titans does have one redeeming feature that all games aimed at a younger audience need: competent cooperative play. While being played in coop mode player 1 controls Crash while player 2 controls a gray Crash clone. Both play on the same screen which screws up the camera if you get too far apart, but it makes the combat much easier and much less cheap. In many areas it almost feels like the game was designed for coop. It’s much easier to get through a combat section when one player can beat up a jackable baddie while the other runs interference, and as a favor to parents everywhere each Crash is jackable by the other. This means that when little Billy is having difficulty on a jump, Dad can drop in to coop, Billy can jump in Crash clone’s backpack, Dad can complete the jumping sequence, Billy can jump off Crash clone’s back, Dad can drop out of coop, and Billy can continue playing. Just make sure to turn off leapfrog mode; it’s annoying and makes the game extremely difficult because each time Crash jumps control switches to the other player.
Crash of the Titans should be a much better game than it is, but as it stands it’s really only appropriate for kids or folks out there really hurting for a coop platformer (pro-tip: wait for LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga). Jacking creatures is fun, but the rest of the game is short, repetitive, and uninspired. If nothing else, the achievement points are easy to get.