Even though Crash Bandicoot has seen his fair share of portable titles already, Crash of the Titans actually marks his first entry on the PSP. Furthermore, it also makes this his first fully three-dimensional handheld game. Crash Bandicoot has been a long running franchise, originating as an exclusive series for only the PlayStation. Crash briefly became Sony's mascot, up until his retirement after Crash Team Racing – Naughty Dog's final Crash game. After being handed back to Universal, Crash's rightful owner, the series went multiplatform. Crash Bandicoot's first game outside of Sony was done by Traveller's Tales, and the results weren't bad – although the load times were atrocious and nothing new was added. But things got worse, as Crash Twinsanity became the weak spot of the series, and all of the side-scrolling handheld games didn't help, either.
In all honesty, I didn't think I'd ever see a good Crash Bandicoot game ever again, but Crash of the Titans managed to surprise me, especially for the PSP. I'm really glad that the PSP version is practically a carbon copy of the PlayStation 2 version. It really goes to show the testament of what the PSP can do.
As Bowser is to Mario, and Robotnik to Sonic, Neo Cortex continues to pine for Crash's demise. So the game opens up with a cutscene where Cortex kidnaps Crash's sister Coco, and attempts to kidnap Aku Aku. Crash only manages to prevent Aku Aku from getting kidnapped, and so the story begins. Aku Aku is pivotal to the success of Crash, and not because he grants invulnerability. You see, Cortex mutated the animals and creatures in Crash's environment into beasts. Remember the second Ninja Turtles movie? Yeah, something like that.
Aku Aku is your key at taming these beasts. When you fight the beasts, eventually you'll get to a point where you stun them. Once they're dazed, you can press the Circle button and mount them – or you can finish them off for some mojo. Mounting a beast allows you to use its attacks and powers to help you throughout your journey – a lot of times you'll need them to progress. There's a whole number of different beast types you can control, all with their unique strengths, weaknesses, and purposes.
As far as how Crash of the Titans is designed, the results are actually positive. The gameplay returns to the more linear stage progression of the past Crash Bandicoot games, which instantly makes the experience that much more welcoming. The simplicity struck a chord with me and I found myself enjoying the game, and remembering how great the first three games were. I can't say that the stage design is as superb as what Naughty Dog put together, but there's certainly a good amount of clever platforming setups to be found.
Crash's primary attack is no longer his spin-attack, but instead punches and kicks – which really irks me. They've now made the spin-attack a special move, and have added a limitation to it. If Crash spins for too long, he'll leave himself dizzy, and open for attacks. You can perform a double jump, and if you continue tapping X repeatedly, Crash will slowly spin mid-air for a glide. My gripe is that Radical shouldn't have changed Crash's basics – seeing as how the spin-attack is his signature move, and he's never really been much of a fighter.
Furthermore, punching and kicking combos are a little slow, and also leave Crash briefly vulnerable to attacks when he's finished a move. Where as in the past you'd be able to smash through crates and such without ever stopping, the flow of this game is interrupted, making it feel sloppy at times. But, as you progress throughout the game, and you earn more mojo, Crash's abilities will be enhanced, which is always a nice touch.
While the PS2 version features local co-op, the PSP version features four player party-style gameplay, but only via ad-hoc. The co-op version should've remained in the PSP version, or better yet, four player co-op would've been awesome. At the end of each stage will be a status screen which will tell you of your performance and rank you with a Bronze, Silver, or Gold reward. The better you do the more rewards you'll get. Rewards will consist of Concept Art, and so on.
Now the engine powering the PlayStation 2 version is the very same engine that's running the PSP game. And where as PSP ports generally look noticeably toned down, Crash of the Titans actually looks extremely close to its big-brother counterparts. The game's stages are identical to that of the PS2 game, and only resolution differences and slightly blurrier textures seperate both games. There's no doubt about it that Crash of the Titans is a pleasant looking game. It's also especially pretty to play with the PSP Slim via an HDTV. There's a lot of vibrancy all over the screen, with lush greens and sparking blues. I've always loved the color palette of Crash Bandicoot games, because they capture the mood and atmosphere of the games very well.
Character detail on Crash is very nice, but I'm not super happy with the direction of artistic choices they've made for him. The tribal tatoos aim at the 'edgy' approach and try to snaz up Crash's appearance, but to me it just seems a little pretentious – Crash is better off without them. The mohawk patch he's sporting is far more defined than it ever has been, again, making Crash seem as if he's trying too hard to be cool.
Furthermore, because Crash is now a puncher, his still-stance has him putting his dukes up like a boxer – it's just so out of character for the marsupual. So my word of advice to Sierra is to tone it down. Crash Bandicoot is a highly recognizeable character who doesn't need a makeover of any kind – just look at Mario, Link and Sonic. That said, Crash of the Titans is still a pretty looking game, with a solid framerate.
The game features a large amount of voice acting, some of it decent, some of it downright awful. The decent parts are usually when Aku Aku is talking, and that's about it. As soon as other characters open their mouths, it gets pretty hard to listen to. Crash especially sounds awful, largely because he doesn't actually speak – he just blabs annoying gibberish, which makes him sound like he's an infant. So, yeah, the voice acting wears thin awfully quick. Thankfully, the soundtrack stays true to the Crash Bandicoot formula, and that's a plus.
All in all, Crash of the Titans is not a bad game. I'd certainly say it's just above average, as its gameplay features a good dose of fun with clever platforming setups. The combat is a bit on the slow side and throws off the game's pace, but it gets better with time. The stage design isn't bad, and is back to being linear (albeit with various paths), and the visuals certainly make them pop. Despite a few poor choices in aesthetics and annoying voice acting, Crash of the Titans may mark the first step in return to norm for the franchise. Let's just hope we get a proper next-gen game coming our way, seeing as how the Xbox 360 version is practically the same game, running on the same engine, with prettier visuals. Overall, I'd recommend Crash of the Titans to fans and newcomers both.