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Crash of the Titans, developer Radical tells us, "is not a kid's game." We might have to disagree. After all, Crash has always been a kiddie-friendly, non-edgy platform hero, and within two seconds of our latest viewing of the game Crash blew off a fart, seemingly for his own amusement. All right, so maybe we sniggered just a bit. But it's hardly award-winning comedy gold, is it?
What we think Radical really means is that Crash of the Titans "isn't just another brainless platforming game." And we'd agree with that. CotT still depends on traditional jump-avoid-bash gameplay, but Crash's new "jack" skill gives the game something different to grab our attention. Now we can use an enemy's weapons against our other enemies. In fact, there's three decidedly bright ideas at the heart of Crash's new outing, giving it the potential to be more than just another kid's game.
Hire cartoon actors, not movie stars
This makes so much sense we can't believe it doesn't happen more often. Hollywood actors are regularly trotted out to put their voice to this game or that, when there's a legion of skilled voice-talent practiced in the art of using their tones to act out similarly unseen action - the cartoon voice guys and gals.
You probably won't recognize their names. But their ability to evoke real personality with just their voice brings much-needed character and atmosphere to Crash's enemies. Your early foes, for instance, totter around mumbling mirthsome nothings, reminding us of Professor Frink from The Simpsons. If this entertaining effect stretches to enough other characters, Crash of the Titans will stand out on voice support alone.
Remove the leading man's brains
Or leading animal, in this case. Previous Crash games have starred a forgettable "street smart" (whatever that really means) hero. Not here - Crash of the Titans features a Crash who's amused by his own flatulence, wears a cheerfully bemused grin and wouldn't score double figures on a grade school IQ test. But this is actually a wise decision.
The "cool," witty, one-liner-hurling, answer-for-everything videogame hero has been done to death. And with stalwart examples like Ratchet or Sonic to live up to, Crash hasn't got a chance of carving out his own wise-cracking personality. By making him thick as two short planks, Radical avoids this problem. And Crash also begins to resemble old favorite cartoon character, Tasmanian Devil. Only with a less violent appetite.
Make us think, not just bash
Too many games, especially platform/action ones, are content to line up the enemies and have us bowl through them without breaking a brain-sweat. But the jacking in Crash of the Titans ought to help avoid this. As we explained in our first hands-on, Crash can "jack" enemies and so use their attacks against his foes. But what's admirable is that this isn't just a gimmick - if you ignore his jacking ability, Crash will soon be toast.
There's still effectively a queue of enemies to defeat. But jacking is essential, sometimes to progress through barriers, but always to make sure you aren't being blatted to death. You'll encounter big enemies that are all but invulnerable to your attacks. Stun and jack an enemy with the power to take 'em on, though, and you'll be laughing - before jacking your newly defeated enemy, and using them to take on even bigger foes.
It's not rocket science, but it does encourage planning - and also gives you a real incentive for using Crash's jack abilities, beyond simple barrier-breaking "puzzle" solving. Add to this an arsenal of satisfying enemy attacks (which, on Wii, require some well-crafted gestures to pull off) and a grand sense of scale in some of the bigger beasties, and Crash of the Titans looks like a solid, entertaining title. Breaking wind for giggles still screams "Kids' Game," though.
July 26, 2007