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Xbox Review - 'Crusty Demons'

by Gordy Wheeler on Oct. 30, 2006 @ 1:17 a.m. PST

Crusty Demons combines the freeform tricking, high-octane stunt mayhem and bone breaking crashes in this free roaming world. It breaks new ground by rewarding players to engineer spectacular crashes and inflict massive injuries and pain to their rider.

Genre: Racing/Motocross
Publisher: Evolved Games
Developer: Climax
Release Date: June 27, 2006

Okay, let's get this out of the way first: What the flying flashing beep is a Crusty Demon? Is this some hardcore Doom-esqe first-person shooter? Is this a poorly translated RPG, pushing the comedy line as you battle against cranky old guys from Hades? Perhaps Crusty Demons is, in fact, the stirring love story of a grizzled World War II flying ace, fighting his own inner demons as he drinks away his problems and the memories of the hail of bullets in which his squadmates lost their lives. No, actually, none of those is the case. What we have here is a licensed title. So basically, you can all go home now.

No, okay, wait. Actually it's a game about the Crusty Demons of Dirt, a motorcycle team which is made up – as so many extreme sports teams are – of a small and fiercely loyal group of complete psychotics. As the framing story for the game goes, the five official members of the Crusty Demons riding team were trying to pull a giant simultaneous quintuple backflip off a ramp. Mid-flip, time stops for them, and Satan appears with a TV and a remote. He shows the five that they're all about to fail in a horrible and hilariously fatal way in their stunt attempt, and then offers to take their souls in exchange for making them immortal. Faced with the non-choice between certain death and eternal life, the souls get signed over.

Now the team wants to win them back, which will involve doing Satan's dark bidding as they race around major cities and made-up landmarks. Luckily, Satan's dark bidding involves a lot of doing random tricks on motorcycles and crashing into stuff. So go ahead and pick one of the five real people or several more fictional ones, and go to town.

What we have here is essentially the Tony Hawk's Underground 2 of the motocross world. It doesn't take itself seriously, it gives you points for doing really alarmingly dumb things, and it involves an awful lot of abandoning its chosen vehicle in favor of another. That's right, in this motorcycle game, you'll end up cruising around doing tricks in everything from a golf cart to an ice cream truck. Unfortunately, the other vehicles control pretty much like two of the motorcycles stuck together with chewing gum, and the motorcycles themselves aren't exactly a joy to ride. For a game based largely around doing tricks on demand, Crusty Demons has incredibly loose controls. The game will tell you that doing a wheelie is accomplished by pulling back on the left analog stick. When I can take my hand off the left side of the controller and spontaneous wheelies will just develop out of thin air like gifts from the Magical Trick Fairy, something might be a bit suspect.

Oops, my apologies. Let's not go tearing into Crusty Demons quite yet. There's still a bit of praising with faint damns I have to do before we cut it open to expose the meat of the matter. Crusty Demons features a great big load of major cities, from Japan to New York and most stops in between. In each city, you'll do questionable things. Be it running drugs for shady mobsters, transporting underaged Japanese schoolgirls to wild parties, or just plain disturbing the peace and endangering life and limb, you'll be plowing through everything available and earning points in the process. You'll also get the chance to take advantage of one of the really fun parts of the title.

Remember that whole bit in the framing story about how the Crusties can't actually die anymore? This works to your advantage. Their mortal souls having been replaced with a ragdoll physics engine, meaning you can at any time tap a button and send your chosen character catapulting violently into traffic or toward the nearest giant brick wall. You'll also be ranked on things like height, distance, and longest blood smear. I will be frank and say that this feature alone can hold the interest of an otherwise disinterested gamer for entire hours. Laughing like a loon as some British dork soars through the air on a collision course with wackiness, gargling out "God save the Queen!" in that ultra-deep voice a slow-motion replay gives to people just before crunching into a poorly placed lamppost and limply flopping into the path of a taxicab ... that's just a priceless gaming moment right there. This title even goes to the trouble of showing you with large pop-ups which bones you broke and where, and scores you more for whacking into amusing objects during your flight. Crusty Demons, in its better moments, is your best source for bike-related ultra-violence ever.

I think now is a good time to point out that my personal viewpoint does not always match that held by the WorthPlaying Editorial Staff.

It's kind of unfortunate that Crusty Demons insists on trying to involve serious tricking and racing in what could've been a game based around hurling motorcycle-riding goons into head-on danger. I say this in part because the controls aren't up to it. I've already mentioned how they can feel loose and floaty, but they also have a tendency to simply not react to player desires. One of the early tricks you learn is pushing forward and hitting both triggers at the same time to "transfer" over a jump. Try this in practice, and unless your timing is dead on and the whims of fate are right, you'll end up whacking your front wheel on the jump and flopping off your bike in slow motion over and over and over again. It's hilarious when you carefully set it up. When it's happening because the game just isn't doing what you tell it to, it's absolutely insufferable.

Speaking of insufferable, let's talk about the graphics. This is one of the few titles I own where I had no trouble believing that the camera angles were awkward on purpose. Perhaps the camera was angled strangely and tended to stick to walls because some lunatic covered it in petroleum jelly. If that isn't the case, there's little excuse for the blurry and unfocused textures and fuzzy draw distance issues. At times, it got bad enough to send me hunting for my glasses in the optimistic hope that maybe it was just me. Additionally, the riders tend to have one major feature or detail that stands out, like a mohawk or cowboy hat or bright shirt. This is largely because if it weren't for that major detail, it really wouldn't matter whom you'd picked. They all look pretty much identical and flop around identically, too.

Let me lay this out straight: Crusty Demons is fun not because it's a good game, but because you get to use ragdoll physics to beat annoyingly stereotypical characters bloody by flinging them through the air at 130 MPH. When it is fun, it's fun in spite of the intentions of the mission designers, never because of them. If you're a hardcore fan of the Demons, you can unlock video footage by completing missions, but smacking into stuff, on purpose or by accident, just can't stay entertaining for that long.

Score: 4.0/10

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