Crash Of The Titans It's never pleasant to see your childhood heroes fizzle out. Some actors don't seem to know when to stop taking roles better suited for people half their years, sports personalities often soldier on with their careers despite what their ageing bodies are telling them and many musicians continue to ply their trade regardless of the fact that any shred of credibility they once had has long since departed them.
The mascots of the 16- and 32-bit console arena can also be lumped in with these unfortunate and ultimately misguided souls. As console technology speeds ever faster towards the promised land of 'hyper realism', the need for cuddly and colourful characters fades.
Over the past few years we've seen the once dominant Sonic The Hedgehog brand stumble and falter thanks to some decidedly dodgy starring roles, and even the likes of Mario and Mega Man don't seem to have the same razor-sharp edge they once possessed.
Crash Bandicoot ??“ once mooted as the mascot of Sony's all-conquering PlayStation console ??“ has also fallen on hard times. Crash of the Titans, the series' latest instalment, has been released to a largely lukewarm reception on several different formats and this mobile interpretation is loosely based on the template set down by its underwhelming console brethren. It's a pretty straightforward scrolling brawler ??“ one that isn't particularly involving and which becomes an unassailable hindrance after prolonged play.
But before we charge headfirst into the list of negative points, let's try and concentrate on the positive. The graphics are generally stunning. Crash himself is packed with personality and showcases oodles of animation, while enemy sprites also share a similar level of visual quality. Some of the larger foes ??“ such as the dungarees-wearing elephant and a rather nasty looking saber-toothed mammoth ??“ practically fill the entire screen.
Similarly excellent is level design, with some nice graphical flourishes such as the realistic-looking waves that gently lap the beaches of certain stages. Combine this with the visuals and you certainly can't fault Crash of the Titans when it comes to presentation.
Sadly, that's where the good stuff ends.
The combat system, for instance, is unforgivably poor. You only have access to one attack, although when this connects with an enemy, repeated presses activate a combo that becomes progressively stronger the more punches you manage to land. Aside from that, your only other offensive option is to 'jack' a stunned opponent, which basically involves jumping on his back and controlling his movements.
Much is made of this 'jacking' system, and you get the impression that the developer has tried to market it as some kind of unique hook. But, unfortunately, it is nothing of the sort. Once you've successfully jacked an enemy, you can control where they move but they attack automatically, frantically lashing out at anything in their way. The bigger the opponent, the more damage they inflict upon their surroundings.
You're only granted a certain amount of time before Crash is thrown off the back of said enemy, so it's wise to leap off before this limit is reached, which flings the hapless foe across the screen.
Sounds impressive, yet the system is ultimately undone by the fact that Crash is able to move faster and is capable of doing more damage when not in 'jacking' mode, rendering the entire thing a little redundant.
And yet, it's necessary because certain obstacles bar your progression through each level and these can only be destroyed by attacking whilst on the back of a particular enemy. And with this, level design issues become glaringly apparent. For instance, if you kill the enemy required to pass a certain obstacle before you reach it, you have no way of progressing and must restart the level from the beginning. It's a badly thought-out mechanic that is unlikely to endear the game to many players.
The final straw is the repetitive nature of the gameplay. Although the range of baddies you encounter is wide and varied, the core play doesn't really change that much. Some levels are set against the clock, others require you to collect an item or survive until a predetermined time limit expires, but ultimately you're just bashing a single button over and over.
It's a shame that Crash of the Titans isn't up to much. The visuals are undeniably impressive and it's clear that a lot of effort has been expended on making sure the game moves and looks as polished as possible. Sadly, the same amount of time hasn't been spent on ensuring it actually plays acceptably, and all the graphical finery in the world isn't going to make you ignore that shortfall
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