|System: PSP, DS, X360, PS2, Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Radical Entertainment / Virtuos||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision Blizzard||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 21, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jason Lauritzen
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Two console generations ago, Crash Bandicoot was the poster child for Sony's PlayStation. He achieved mascot status rather quickly, thanks to the talent of development house Naughty Dog. Like an E! True Hollywood Story, his rise to the top of the console heap occurred rather fast (the first three PlayStation games were very well received), but, like every rapid ascent, it was followed by an equally disgraceful fall.
Something got lost along the way. It partly had to do with Naughty Dog stepping aside and the series jumping from developer-to-developer (from Vicarious Visions to Traveller's Tales and now Radical Entertainment). With no solid home, Crash's focus got skewed. Instead of staying with his bread 'n butter action-platforming genre diversions became the norm. There were a spat of kart racing games and even a cross-over experiment featuring another once-Sony mascot Spyro the Dragon. Much like the continual return-to-excellence promise of Sonic, Crash has been poised for a comeback for a decade. With Mind Over Mutant the fifteenth in the series Crash gains no solid ground; it serves as a reminder that the wily Bandicoot's best times are behind him.
From the start, Mind Over Mutant doesn't put its best foot forward. The console versions of the game may have been handled by Radical Entertainment, but this portable version managed by Virtuos is a mess in terms of load times. Not only does it take a full minute for Mind Over Mutant to load the title screen, you'll sit through plenty of intermittent load screens throughout the course of play many of them taking at least a good twenty seconds to generate the next area.
Initial technical blemish aside, Mind Over Mutant does establish a strong front by presenting one of its best features from the get-go: its immaculately produced cutscenes. Normally, cinematic diversions are an instant minus as far as critiquing goes, but each one of Mind Over Mutant's cutscenes are delivered in a different style from straightforward black-and-white to a cut-out, play set approach. Aesthetics are only one part of the cutscene equation. What really helps sell these segments are their genuine humor reminding one of a Saturday morning Nickelodeon cartoon and excellent voice acting, lead by talents such as John DiMaggio and Mark Hamill.
The plot hook that wraps around the cutscenes is simple and manages to poke fun at pockets of our gadget-obsessed culture. Partnering with Doctor Nitrus Brio, Doctor Neo Cortex invents a device called the NV a glorified, Blackberry-like headset that serves as a PDA as well as a social networking tool. However, anyone who wears the device turns evil, a byproduct of the game's bad mojo. Obviously, Crash is unaffected and has to save the world, one friend at-a-time.
It's once you get into the actual game that the following question crops up: did the developers want to create an actual cartoon or a video game? That question arises because the level of care given to the cutscenes is nowhere to been seen in the gameplay. Most of Mind Over Muntant's execution either feels below average or barely adequate. For example, while the game boasts a free-roaming-esque world design in the form of Wumpa Island, this really is a false game box bullet point. Yes, all the levels do take place on an island, and yes, there is a central hub (Crash's House), but there really is no exploratory freedom. Upon leaving your house you either go straight, right, or left those are your only three options. From there you play out a mission, continually pushing in one direction. Once you're done with a mission, more often than not you have to backtrack, all the while dealing with a camera that's not suited for that purpose, resulting in falls off ledges and collisions with enemies.