If Twinsanity could be considered a bold move for the series, Crash of the Titans is borderline risque, betting it all on a very different style and marking a complete departure from the previous main chapters in the series. Platforming takes a back seat as hand-to-hand combat is introduced for the first time.
Forget everything you've learned about Crash so far. The story and (most of) the characters haven't been rebooted, but the visual style and almost everything else has, including the gameplay. Attacking enemies is no longer a simple matter of spinning them away. Crash must make use of various melee attacks and execute combos, kicking and punching his way through the levels. As you collect more and more Mojo (a kind of substitute for Wumpa fruits), you'll progressively gain new moves and upgrade old ones, such as Crash's trademark spin attack. Both Crash and the enemies are a lot stronger than before, which is some of them, along with Crash, have health bars now. This new combat system may seem a little daunting to fans of the old mechanics, but rest assured that it's very easy to use, if not a little repetitive.
The game has 3 difficulty settings, so you can choose the one that suits you better: Easy is recommended for beginners in general, Normal is recommended for the majority of players and Hard is only recommended if you're a real expert (it is a very tough cookie if you're new to the game). Depending on the setting you choose, the enemies' aggressiveness and intelligence differs, as well as the number of hits you can take.
You will often be restricted from moving ahead without beating up all the enemies who are nearby. Enemies are abundant and varied, and also much meaner than before. Some are still Crash's size and can't take a lot of hits, but others are monstrosities in comparison - these are called Titans. There are 12 Titan species throughout the game (plus 3 bosses), each with its own set of moves, size and strength.
This is where the best part comes: after you've beaten a Titan to an unconscious pulp, you can take control over its mind. Crash slams Aku Aku onto the Titan's face and jumps onto its back, and from there on, you're in control. This is called Jacking, and you'll be doing it a lot in this game (not just because it's cool, but also because you're required to). Since you can play as Crash and Jack any mutant you want - including bosses -, the game essentially has 16 different playable characters. On the other hand, none of the Titans have any purpose other than smashing stuff, so there's little difference between them.
By Jacking, you can use all the attacks your enemies were using against you, including special moves. Although the game is essentially the same for all the consoles, the Wii version makes good use of motion controls for the special moves - you get to perform them by doing the same gestures as the Titans, such as pounding your chest when using the Scorporilla. When controlling a Titan, it's much easier to beat up other Titans, and the smaller enemies practically become harmless prey for fodder purposes. It's also the only way you'll get to control the biggest Titans. Think of it as a sort of food-chain: you beat up a medium-sized Titan, Jack it, use it to beat up a bigger one, Jack that one, and so forth. With this, you can (and must) take control of the bosses. You can unjack a Titan at any time (or you'll jump off if it runs out of health), but it's also possible to jump from one to another, provided the second one's unconscious. If a Titan is unconscious for too long, it disappears.
There are some problems with the combat gameplay: the first is that it's too predominant. Since all characters except Crash were designed for fighting, things tend to get repetitive. Though each Titan has unique attacks and skills, you only use them for smashing purposes. It feels like there is much unused potential behind these creatures. For one thing, they can't even jump, which means you can never carry a Titan with you for long. There is also the fact that each Titan has very few moves (no more than a regular combo, a heavy attack and a special move)
Though in much shorter doses, the platforming parts are still present. Crash still has to go through jumping puzzles sometimes and he also gains a neat air slide move early on: you can use Aku Aku as a slide-board any time you like, and in some segments, you'll automatically do this to travel across long valleys and tunnels. Think of it as Twinsanity's Humilliskating, but faster and with a lot more freedom in control. Some rails require grinding to get across, but Crash does that automatically.
Collectibles are still around, too. Crates are no longer abundant and serve only to give you Mojo or Wumpa fruit, which restores your health (pick up a golden one for an extra life). Like in Crash Tag Team Racing, Crates have lost their bouncy properties.
Mojo is scattered everywhere, replacing Wumpa fruits as the predominant collectible. As mentioned, collecting a lot of Mojo spheres upgrades Crash's moves and health bar. You can pick them up like any regular collectible, but the Wii version has the added feature of letting you point at these spheres with the Remote to suck them in instantly.
Voodoo Dolls can be unlocked by doing certain tasks or finding them in the levels. With these, you can unlock concept art, enemy profiles and skins (costumes). Wearing an enemy skin allows you to defeat anyone from that species in a single hit, so use them if you're having trouble in certain levels (for example, wearing a Magmadon skin is useful for areas full of Magmadons, etc.). Skins are unlocked by Jacking a number of Titans or defeating a lot of fodder enemies. An easy way to Jack a tough Titan is to find yourself a Freejack mask, which allows you to move faster and defeat any enemy with a single blow for a short time.
You can get one of four possible rankings in each level, represented by different idols - Completed, Bronze, Silver or Gold. For 100% completion, you will need to get all Gold Idols, which require you to defeat a preset number of fodder enemies, perform a certain amount of combos and get all 3 toilet-like Spybots in each level (do these 3 tasks in the same run for each level, or you will not get Gold). In addition, the Xbox 360 version has, like every other game for the system, Achievements, which are optional tasks you can do to improve your Gamerscore.
Present in each level is an optional bonus arena called a Mojo Room. To get through these, just perform the task you're given (collect Mojo or masks, defeat all the enemies, etc.). In other words, they're just random mini-games that you can play, or simply ignore if you want.
Unlike Twinsanity and Crash Tag Team Racing, this game does not let you explore the environments. Crash of the Titans only lets you go where you're supposed to, so expect nothing but straightforward paths and plenty of invisible walls.
Players have once again been stripped from the ability to control the camera. To prevent Crash from going out of sight, you will always see his silhouette when he's behind an object, regardless of that object's thickness. The game's automatic camera runs as perfectly as always, but without manual control, your journey becomes as linear as in the original games. Perhaps even moreso, because there aren't any road forks or alternate paths this time.
The characters and the universe have been given a facelift, which is less like the next natural step down the road and more like a whole new direction. Some characters are recognizable, others look completely different, but most act more-or-less how they used to in recent games, with a few added traits. The humour is still funny, but it too is of a whole other breed. Previous games were much more focused on slapstick cartoony antics and character-derived jokes, whereas Crash of the Titans is tongue-in-cheek, with a lot of satires, parodies and self-referential humour.
Although the framerate isn't as high as in The Wrath of Cortex or Twinsanity, the environments are still really nice, with oil paintings as backgrounds and lots of detail wherever you go. The levels seem like living works of art (fireflies passing by, geckos climbing up rocks, birds in the background and more). The best-looking version is, of course, the one for the Xbox 360, even though that gloss on the characters does look kind of weird and unnecessary.
Cutscenes are all done in real time with in-game graphics, but they still manage to be some of the best in the series, with fluid character animations and excellent dialogue. It's too bad there are so few of them. Despite this, they present a considerably annoying problem, since like in Twinsanity, you can't skip them whatsoever (and most of them are pretty long too). In contrast, the intro to the game is an equally neat 2D animation produced by Atomic Cartoons.
Marc Baril returns from Tag Team Racing to compose the new soundtrack, creating at the same time his own unique style like other composers before him. The music differs with the situation or area you're in, always suiting every moment and putting a stop to the 'one-tune-per-level' habit.
Lastly, there is pure, fun drop-in/drop-out multiplayer co-op. This long string of words means that a second player can join in and out at any time during the game, with absolutely no extra loadings or restarts. Just connect a second controller, push the button and you're set! Just how every game should be.
Co-op is one of the best aspects of the game, and therein lies much of the game's fun. Carbon Crash (a white-coloured Crash copy) pops up, and the second player controls him just like the normal Crash. The screen will not be divided in two, so you'll be able to see your surroundings normally (a surprising advantage from having a fixed camera). But this also means both players need to be on-screen in order to go through the level, so even though each player can get a bit far away from the other, you can't just leave your partner behind.
In co-op, both Crashes gain a backpack with which to carry the other one around. This is a really cool aspect, because if things get too rough for either player, that player can just pop into the other one's backpack and get carried inside. When it's safe, just jump back out. You can change the backpack options from Leapfrog to Piggyback. Leapfrog is set by default. In this setting, the player in control is switched with the other one every time they land from a jump, so this is the best choice for cooperating in jumping puzzles. With Piggyback, you can just carry or be carried all the way, which is best used for when one of you can't jump for beans.
When one of the Crashes dies, his player will have to wait 5 seconds before re-joining (it only counts as a lost life if both Crashes die). And if you're feeling jerky, you can always attack your partner's Crash for the heck of it, which can lead to fun, mindless brawls (and since it only counts as a lost life if both Crashes die, don't be afraid to pummel when you're both in a safe area). If you have the game, a second controller and someone to play with, you really have no excuse not to play this game in co-op. In this type of games, it's a rare example where it makes everything better.
Crash of the Titans is radically different from the rest of the series up to this point, and it offers both interesting and repetitive additions. It's enjoyable and the multiplayer mode makes it even better. The return to linearity and the limited combat are a shame, but the ability to control your enemies is a nice little gimmick that makes the game more unique. The drastic change in style may upset some of the older fans, but likely attract new ones.