Mind over Mutant is the latest addition to the Crash Bandicoot franchise from Vancouver’s Radical Entertainment, and the general consensus among those of us at the Village Gamer HQ who played the 360 version over the holidays is that “Crash rocks!”
The plot line for Mind Over Mutant requires Crash to save his friends and everyone else from the evil clutches of the nasty Dr. Neo Cortex and the equally warped Dr. Nitrus Brio. The squabbling and delusional duo have released a new device called the “NV” on the Bandicoot world, a mind controlling unit which bears an odd resemblance to today’s real world mobile devices. The NV has not only affected Crash’s sister CoCo and his best-friend Crunch, but also each of the Titan “clans” which also populate Crash’s world.
Mind Over Mutant is full of player achievement objectives, ranging from health and skill upgrades for Crash and his small army of Mutant Titans to missions, side-missions and treasure hunts. Skills and health can also be upgraded by collecting mojo jewels, while main mission objectives are obtained from characters in the story. Completing percentages of the game results in achievement awards, and some objectives which can only be successful through co-op play.
While the co-op areas can be accomplished with one player using two controllers, we found it far more fun to actually play co-operatively. Other achievements throughout the game include unlockable skins (or costumes) for Crash and art collections. The art collection featuring fan art must have thrilled the many young artists whose work was included, and I feel this was a very special and thoughtful way to thank Crash Bandicoot fans.
The writing, artwork and level design is very well done. Crash’s world is full of bright colours and highly detailed environments, while the writing is humourous with an abundance of subtle pop culture references – including consumerism, gas prices, blogs and conspiracy theories. There are also cut scenes which emulate both DragonBall Z and South Park. My favourite “baddie” dying exclamation in the entire game is “I was on the grassy knoll!” While younger players will not understand some of the references, I frequently got a good chuckle while sending enemies into oblivion.
Inside Crash’s Wumpa Island home, players can rummage through his costume trunk (reminiscent of Mr. Dressup’s Tickle Trunk) to view and change Crash’s attire, flip through the art album, view information about the game’s characters or watch unlocked cinematics on the big screen TV. The ability to look at character information is especially important to those who are working towards full health and skill upgrades on all of the playable characters, as well as information about the enemies found throughout the game.
Puzzles, challenges and objectives throughout the game range in difficulty from very easy to quite challenging. I like the addition of these features, as it increases the amount of game play and thought the gamer must put into advancing further through the game. Some of the puzzles need to be solved to complete a mission, while timed challenges test the player’s ability to control Crash and collect items such as treasure chests before time runs out. The employ of these challenges makes the game more than just a “kill-through” to get to the end and forces the player to devise strategies. Participating in these challenges also affords more opportunity to catch glimpses of hidden areas of the game environment where such items as dolls and golden apples may be awaiting collection.
Following through from Crash of the Titans, our hero is able to defeat the Titan Mutants and “jack” them by jumping on their backs. Each of these Titans has a special power, and like Crash’s skills, they can be upgraded by collecting the mojo jewels. Some areas of the game require certain the skills of certain Titans to play through, and while the appropriate Titan is often waiting for Crash, there are times when the player will have to backtrack through the game and find the correct Titan, then return to that area and play through. These areas are not always pertinent to mission-related play, but always lead to something special – either a golden apple, a doll or bonus mojo jewels.
Crash does have the ability to stash two Titans, so this can make those special areas easier to beat, but sometimes the player will have to remember where those extra areas are because he or she does not have the right Titans in Crash’s pocket. Some people found this annoying – I found that it increased game play and required further thought and planning. While it would be nice to be able to stash more than two mutants, I wouldn’t want the ability to stash them all, because that would take away from the game play.
In fact, the only game play feature that I would have appreciated was a movable camera – but even then I wouldn’t want it to be entirely mobile, because that too would take away from the challenge of the game. Just having the ability to centre the camera behind Crash would be enough, especially in areas where backtracking was required. Additionally, I would’ve liked a longer over-all main mission objective, but again, playing all of the side objective and striving to win all of the achievements and upgrades in the game does extend the game’s play-through time. Crash Bandicoot: Mind Over Mutant is a game that I would definitely recommend to others as it meets many of my requirements for a good game – playability, strategy, good writing, excellent level design and likeable characters. Kudos to the team at Radical Entertainment for developing, in my opinion, a fun and enjoyable new chapter in the Crash Bandicoot series.
All game images remain the property of Radical Entertainment and Activision Publishing.