Crash Twinsanity Review
It may sound wacky to younger gamers, but there was a time when Crash Bandicoot was one of the hottest series for the original Playstation. Old school platforming gameplay, funny commercials and even tie-ins with Pizza Hut made ol' Crash look like the next Mario. Developer Naughty Dog, who felt they had done all they could do with Crash, then sold the license to Universal, meaning one of the characters most symbolic with Sony was now free to appear on all platforms. While it initially looked as if this would be a big blow for Sony, a series of sub-par games left the license more like Gex than Mario. The last game in the series to this point was Wrath of Cortex, which featured the same tired gameplay of the old titles, but added horrendous (some of the worst ever) load times to the mix.
Needless to say, Crash needed a facelift, and that's what VU has attempted to do with Crash Twinsanity. While there are plenty of new gameplay modes, there's really nothing here that hasn't been done before in other series, and the game's sloppy controls and poor camera make it yet another dissapointing game in the once proud franchise's history.
The story in Crash Bandicoot games, like most platformers has never been one of its strong suits. The game begins with Crash's nemesis, Dr. Cortex, surprise surprise, hatching a sinister plan to get Crash once and for all. Cortex, in a not-so-clever disguise lures Crash through the woods into an ambush. The first few minutes of the game teaches you basic moves, but while some things are explained, others are not. If you didn't know that some crates were explosive, you'd die in the first 20 seconds. Didn't know that the column would drop down if you stood on it too long? Too bad, go back to the beginning and try again. Despite the fact that the game tells you the secret to beating the first boss, it still doesn't prepare you for the cheap attacks, made more difficult by the game's loose controls. Yes, Crash's gameplay is tired and played out, so it's not like veterans have to learn the moves, but since the series hasn't been good in 5 or more years, there are a lot of people out there that haven't played a Crash title yet.
Once you make it past the first level, you'll find Crash and Cortex intertwined, rolling downhill through a dark cave. After dying at least once because it's not apparent that you can't hit the three crates stacked on top of each other (at least not until you get blown up) the two make it into a large room where you'll have to maneuver the two upwards through a series of hazards. The unoriginal traps include fire that shoots out in a timed pattern to block your path and even trap doors that open if you stay on them too long! How clever! Long story short, twins from the 10th dimension want to do harm to both Crash and Cortex, as well as taking over their homeland. Crash and Cortex are forced to team up to save their skins, though they certainly don't have to like it.
If you can make it through the game's first two levels, the game becomes better, with new gameplay elements and some humor replacing the tired run and spin gameplay you're used to. You have to wonder why, if VU was trying to remake Crash's image, they would start the game in such underwhelming fashion - it's anybody's guess. Veterans of Jak and Daxter, Ico, Ratchet and Clank, or other games where you must use two characters with unique abilities at the same time will immediately recognize the game design in Twinsanity. Crash finds a variety of ways to use Cortex, including throwing him over obstacles where he can hit a switch, using him as a blunt object to pound enemies, and even riding him as a snowboard. There's even a third character in the mix, Nina Cortex, who's defining feature is her mechanical arms, that allow her to attack from a distance.
Twinsanity is a better game than Wrath of Cortex, but it still has a bevy of problems that keep it from becoming enjoyable. The most basic issue is the game's lousy camera and unresponsive controls. Like many 3D games, the right analog stick controls the camera and the R1 button sets the camera to a position behind the main character. Unfortunately, the camera moves slowly and is often tough to put in a good position for platform jumping. The controls, are too loose and often require multiple inputs to pull off a move - leaving you banging your head in frustration. The game does have multiple checkpoints, but they can't stop the dozens upon dozens of cheap deaths in this game from becoming unbearable. Yes, on the NES it was accepted that you would have to do the same level over and over to make it through, but game's have progressed just a little bit since then, so there's no excuse for this anymore. For a Crash Bandicoot game, there are a lot of different styles of gameplay, but most everything here has been done before, and some things, like Crash riding Cortex as a snowboard are just attempts to distract you from the fact that you're just going downhill on a snowboard in a linear level.
Like the gameplay, the visuals in the series, which consist of bright colors and standard outdoor levels, have been slow to evolve. The levels are fairly large, but there is significant pop-up and the framerate often chokes, despite the fact that their isn't a ton of detail in each area. There are lots of new animations, and many where the two characters interact with each other are creative and amusing. If this game out three years ago, some of these problems could be forgiven, but the issues seem to stem from a lack of polish, and not because the game is so complex that the problems couldn't have been solved.
Twinsanity's sound is its strongest point, but how much you enjoy it really depends on your sense of humor. I personally found the dialog unfunny and rather tiring, but there are plenty of people that will laugh out loud and enjoy the cutscenes. The soundtrack is actually quite interesting with creative instrumentation and clever music combining into some enjoyable background music. It's great that the game's audio is above average, but when it's the game's strongest suit, it's not such a good thing.
While seasoned gamers will be turned off by the game's countless cheap deaths, bad controls, inept camera and uninspired gameplay, Crash rookies might find something to like. The load times, which were such a problem in the last game have been fixed, and if you haven't played a Crash game before and don't get frustrated by dying, the gameplay might be fun. Either way, the game's not worth anything more than a rental, and even then only worth it if you're really jonesing for a platformer.
10/20/2004 Aaron Thomas