Crash Bandicoot: Mind over Mutant Review

I can remember when Crash Bandicoot was a guy in a suit pushing Sony's fledgling PlayStation console and trying to give the new videogame player a face as recognizable as that of Sonic or Mario. I'm not sure if it really worked all that well or not, but that was then and this is now, a time when Crash can go into hiding for years and reemerge on consoles other than Sony's latest PlayStation iteration. This time out he's in the hands of Activision and developer Radical Entertainment. If you haven't seen Crash in a while, you'll recognize the 'coot himself but not that much about the game built around him. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but in departing from the Crash legacy the game runs the risk of becoming just another platform game in a world filled with them. Let's see what's in store for the new Crash...

If the game's storyline of an evil scientist turning cute critters into fiendish mutants sounds familiar, it's because it's basically the plot of the first Sonic games. However, in most platforming games the plot merely serves the purpose of giving the hero an excuse for beating up on various critters and monsters, so let's leave the story there and move on to the gameplay. Mind over Mutant uses a hub-based world centered on the homes of Crash, his sister Coco, and their friend X. You can run around collecting crystals in the fields and streams around Crash's house or drop in on his house to view the various artwork and videos you've unlocked during your adventures. When you're ready you'll be able to activate the trigger that will push the story along and open up one of the bridges leading away from the hub and into the game world. Your objectives follow the standards for the genre - collect a certain number of special items or defeat a boss and his minions - and once you complete them you'll find yourself back in Crash's neighborhood.

Crash has the usual power at his disposal such as jumps, high jumps, and punches, but he does have a few unique tricks up his sleeves. Crash has his signature spin attack which will knock out nearby enemies while keeping Crash invulnerable to attack. It's easy to launch the attack by spinning the left stick, but it does have a downside in that it leaves Crash dizzy and unable to move for a few moments after he's done. You better make sure that you take care of all the nearby enemies while you're still spinning. The fighting system works well for a platform game, and some encounters with larger enemies will require the use of dodges, blocks, and counters to prevail. The game tracks consecutive hits and as you strike enemies without taking a hit yourself you'll earn bonus multipliers. These multipliers are applied to the crystals you collect during the game, so if you have a 15x multiplier each crystal that you collect will count as fifteen. These crystals are applied to an experience meter of sorts that when filled will upgrade one of Crash's abilities. You won't have the opportunity to select how Crash is upgraded, but it's a nice bonus to reward you for being smart in your battles rather than simply mashing the attack button until everything is dead. Returning from last year's Crash of the Titans is the ability to essentially 'hijack' some special mutants, which effectively gives you control over them while Crash rides on their backs. Controlling one of these mutants not only allows you to take and give out more damage, you also get to use any special attacks or powers that mutant may possess. For example, one mutant can unleash a blast of frozen breath that can be used to freeze water, allowing you to walk on ice or smash through frozen barriers. As you collect these mutants, you'll be able to switch between them as needed - I guess Crash carries them around in the pockets of his cut-off shorts.