Developer: Radical Entertainment
Release Date: October 2007
Crash of the Titans is proving to be a confusing title of sorts, in large part because of the fading star of its protagonist. The original Crash Bandicoot games developed by Naughty Dog for the PSone were massive hits, and the wily orange beast was pegged as an early candidate as a mascot that could rival Mario and Sonic. Instead, Naughty Dog left the series to focus on Jak & Daxter, and Crash was passed around like a basketball between developers, spawning inconsistent multi-platform sequels. Someone's still buying these games, but the critical acclaim has long since passed, and Crash just isn't a big deal anymore.
So it comes as little surprise that longtime gamers and even members of the press who I've talked to do not immediately make the connection between the film-biting title and the well-known marsupial. Developers at Radical Entertainment, who handled 2005's Crash Tag Team Racing, recognize that Crash's presence has diminished in the minds of modern gamers, and hope that Titans will be a return to form for the once-beloved platform hero.
"We wanted to really refresh Crash, give him back a whole bunch of platforming moves, and go back to some classic platforming," said Kristen Forbes, producer on Crash of the Titans. "But mostly we wanted to give him this new hook, which is Crash finally being able to fight back. The hook is that Crash can take over and control the enemies in the game, so that he can use the enemies' powers against the other enemies."
This new ability is referred to as "jacking," as Crash is hijacking the abilities of whichever beast he jumps on. Crash of the Titans features 15 jackable enemies, each with its own distinct abilities and special attack. Crash has his own basic attacks in the game, and when he comes across such an enemy, he can execute some light attacks to stun them. At that point, he will be prompted to jack the enemy by jumping on its back and covering its face with a mask. From that point on, players will take control of the hijacked beast, as Crash hangs on for dear life on its back.
Radical had the Wii version of Crash of the Titans on display at the Sierra Spring Event earlier this month in San Francisco, and though the game is still some six months away from release, the levels I played were fairly polished and complete, and the motion controls really seemed to enhance the gameplay. The Wii release has been designed as the core Titans experience, and the PlayStation 2, PSP, and Xbox 360 versions of the game will then be modified to take advantage of each system's respective strengths.
Though basic movements are mapped to the analog stick and various buttons, the Wiimote and Nunchuk handle at least a couple of key responsibilities, including the aiming of projectiles and the execution of special attacks. Each jacked enemy has a special attack that has players mimicking its animation with the Wiimote/Nunchuk duo. A bat-like enemy can flap its wings to generate miniature tornadoes, which requires the player to flap his/her Wiimote and Nunchuk in unison. Another jackable enemy — a large beast by the name of Spike — allows players to summon digital spikes (shocker!) from the ground by raising their hands upwards.
From what I played, much of the gameplay revolves around knowing which jacked enemy is needed to get through a portion of each stage. For example, you may need to jack one of the bat enemies to fire projectiles at far-away targets (with the Wiimote) to open up a door. As such, the game does seem to have a lot of similarities to Rare's Kameo: Elements of Power, the Xbox 360 launch title that starred a girl that could transform into a handful of other creatures. The ability to jack external enemies replaces the transformation concept, but the end result delivers a similar gameplay experience.
Jacking may be an important gameplay enhancement, but Crash of the Titans does not completely eschew the series' platform roots. Crash still runs and jumps like in the good old days, and I actually found myself stuck during a challenging section that featured extensive rotating platforms suspended over nothingness. Forbes hopes that Titans will draw a wide audience of Crash fans, both past and present, and will feature three difficulty levels to accommodate all skill levels. Also planned is full co-op multiplayer, where a second player can jump in at any point for single-screen play. In an amusing turn of events, one player can actually jack the other one to get through complex platforming segments.
"Neo Cortex has discovered this substance in the world called mojo," said Forbes, explaining the back-story of Crash of the Titans. "He has figured out how to mutate all these creatures into these giant monsters using mojo, and Crash, on the other hand, has figured out how to use the mojo to take over the creatures once Cortex has mutated them. So Cortex is building a giant robot of destruction to destroy the Wumpa Islands, of course, and Crash goes through the game fighting all the enemies to save his friends and his home."
Of course — why wouldn't Cortex be building a giant robot of destruction? It's silly and fairly standard for the genre, but that's to be expected from a game based primarily on action and platform segments. Forbes seemed enamored with the possibilities held within the character of Crash, and had a lot to say about his positive qualities: "He's just a super, fun-loving guy," she said. "He's confident and he throws himself into everything he does." The aforementioned mojo is the collectible item in the game, and at the end of each stage, players can trade in collected mojo to upgrade Crash's stats or buy him skins that allow him the ability to jack a particular enemy without stunning it first.
As noted earlier, the Wii version of Crash of the Titans is Radical's main focus, though it will be ported to several additional platforms for a simultaneous release. The PlayStation 2 version will drop the motion controls, and the PSP iteration is expected to be most similar to the PS2 release. On the Xbox 360, Radical has put a strong focus on developing a well-rounded set of unlockable Achievements. While some will be tied to standard progression, others will be skill-based or attached to non-essential objectives. The Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance versions have yet to be shown, but Forbes mentioned that the DS game will make full use of the touch-screen, and that the GBA release was already "basically in the can."
Crash of the Titans will span 20 stages, broken up into "episodes" of sorts. Gamers who simply wish to blaze through the game should be able to do so in just over 10 hours, but side-rooms and additional content should make it a longer experience for those who want it. Titans is currently scheduled for an October release on all six systems, though a PlayStation 3 iteration is conspicuously missing. When asked about it, Forbes confirmed that while no PS3 release is planned for Titans, one could likely be expected from Radical's next Crash game.
"We'll move onto another game right away. Crash is definitely home at Radical," she affirmed. "Crash got bounced around since Naughty Dog times — he's gone to Traveler's Tales and Krome [Studios], and a bunch of different developers. So we finally stood up and said, 'Enough of this. We're going to save this character.'"
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