You can’t get there from here.
Atilla the Hun met his end not on the battlefield, but in bed, with a bloody nose he got
as a result of while consummating his marriage. The space shuttle Columbia disaster was not the result of faulty equipment but of bad Powerpoint slides. The entire citizenship of the great empire of Rome got lead poisoning and all the neurological disorders that come along with it. Sometimes the downfall of something great comes because of something small. Sometimes all it take is a tiny thorn to bring down the mighty lion. Well, there’s a thorn in this game. I’d show you where it was, but you can’t get there from here.
[image1]Not so far from the expected, Crash Bandicoot: Mind Over Mutant is a mission-based platformer. Dr. Cortex and N. Brio are back, and they’ve created an irresistible gadget that turns its user into a ferocious mutant bent on Crash’s destruction. Crash must solve the mystery of the gadget’s origins in hopes of saving his friend Crunch and everyone else who has fallen prey to Cortex’s dastardly plans. It’s reminiscent of other Crash releases – both the original and last year’s Crash of the Titans come to mind immediately .
This is not just another copy, however, as it has some very nice attributes not seen previously. The cut-scenes – look for some surprises in the voice-work – are trippy and executed in several different cartoon styles. Listen closely to the meaningless chatter of Dr. Cortex’s mutant rats and you may find yourself chuckling at the absurdity of what they say. They have some stock insults, but once in a while, you’ll hear a true eyebrow-raising gem. Other mutants have their own unique affectations that keep things light and fun – one sounds like the Hamburglar, another does the Thriller dance.
The storyline is fitting for what you would expect from Crash Bandicoot: a classic rescue plot with lots of secondary characters. While the game rates fairly high on plot, it’s no Great Gatsby. As such, we – as game players – should not be required to carry around CliffsNotes versions of the game’s plot for the test that’s coming up in later missions. But that’s effectively what Mind Over Mutant asks, because they have neglected to include three tools that would tremendously boost the game’s enjoyability factor (but we’ll get to that later).
What do you really play a game like Crash Bandicoot for? The mindless destruction, right? As in Crash of the Titans, Crash can ‘jack’ the larger mutants, all of whom have their definite strengths and weaknesses, which keeps you in search of your favorites. But even without the ‘jacking’, it’s great fun to have the freedom to hit, stomp, and beat everything in sight, without discretion or remorse. Almost everything from snowmen to cacti can be attacked in a most satisfying way. Destroying objects releases mojo that will upgrade Crash or the mutant he happens to be jacking. So please indiscriminately hit anything that crosses your path.
[image2]As much as anti-gaming psychologists would have you believe, it’s a great stress reliever. It would be such a freeing experience to just skip down the street on your way to work and sucker punch any asshole who passed you by. Imagine getting to work and stomping on your boss until he bowed to your whims for a change. (That will never happen… at least not on any kind of frequent basis. Hey, you might be able to get away with a roundhouse or two, maybe a hammer strike but eventually the police are going to get involved.) [Recommendation: Just beat yourself up. ~Ed.]
Likewise, co-op mode is a treat. The second player does not have as much control, but can be invaluable in some of the balancing side missions. The player also gets to shoot chickens at things, which more than makes up for the lack of autonomy. The side missions are fun and plentiful, including timed mojo hunts and "last man standing" bouts.
Much of what you come across will be enjoyable and entertaining. Much, but not all. Something interferes with all this joyous mayhem. Mind Over Mutant asks the player to remember clues that are embedded in what seem like passing conversations. It asks that the player keep a running tab on where they’ve been and how they got there. Finally, it asks that the player simply excuse the fact that there is only one fixed camera angle that cannot be controlled.
Break it all down and three things that keep this game from being a really great title: lack of a good map, incomplete mission objectives, and bad camera angles. See? Three little things. But sometimes that’s all it takes. All three shortcomings coalesce and turn the game that is supposed to be an outlet for fun aggression into a cause for frustrating aggression. I was ready to throw the controller at the TV more than once.
[image3]For example, there is a point in the game where you have traveled a great distance and are asked to go back the way you came. Sounds easy enough, but I wasn’t really paying attention. I was too busy having fun beating everything up. Checking the map proved useless; all it shows is where you are and where you need to be. It does not show the many routes scattered along any given path.
Panning the camera was not an option, so I found myself looping through the same icy landscape for far too long. Not fun. Worse, the camera angles have you spend too much of your time running toward the camera, instead of having it at your back. That just doesn’t make any sense. So once again, I got lost in the desert. Now I know how Moses felt.
That may be an extreme example, but even taken separately, the three shortcomings ruin the game. The camera has gotten me killed more than once, the map has made me curse my own mother, and the ambiguous missions made me laugh, just to stave off the tears.
It may not be the end of an era for Crash, but it is certainly a disappointment. Crash Bandicoot: Mind Over Mutant could have been an entertaining game, but it has been rendered the video game equivalent of a nosebleed.