A direct sequel to Crash of the Titans, Mind Over Mutant was Radical Entertainment's final Crash Bandicoot game. It shares the same style and gameplay with its predecessor, but with a greater balance between combat and platforming. Did Radical Entertainment go out with a bang, or was Mind Over Mutant a disappointment?
Graphically, Mind Over Mutant isn't too different from the previous game. The gloss on the characters from the Xbox 360 version is gone, and most of the cutscenes are animated in 2D - each in a completely different style, ranging from classic monochromatic cartoons to anime. While there's no real reason behind this decision, the animation is great and it's fun to watch Crash go through so many different styles just for the heck of it. The music is once again composed by Marc Baril, and it's generally more upbeat and less tense than the previous soundtrack. The sound effects department isn't quite as enjoyable. Enemies in groups have a tendency to talk at the same time, and besides the Rhinoroller, Titans never stop grunting or laughing.
Jacking is back, so you can once again expect to frequently control Titans you beat up. Titans are more interesting this time around because their usefulness isn't limited to combat. For starters, they can actually jump now (a feature that was sorely missed in the previous game), and many of them have abilities that can help you reach new areas. For example, the Ratcicle can freeze or surf on bodies of water, the TK can move blocks with his mind and the Rhinoroller can roll across loops and bowls. As such, you'll often need to use a Titan's specific powers to open up new areas that you couldn't enter before, including hidden paths and optional tasks.
There are many more opportunities for running, jumping and exploring than in Crash of the Titans, and the game is generally less linear as well. Wumpa Island isn't exactly an open world, though, because most areas only have one or two access points at most. This is okay during your first expedition to some place, but it implies extensive backtracking when you want to revisit certain places, and the story events will force you to do this a lot. There's really no reason for this besides making the game last longer, as Wumpa Island isn't all that big. Backtracking is made worse by the absence of a player-controlled camera; going against the screen can be tricky sometimes because you can't see too far ahead. While the game does throw 3 teleporters at you late in your adventure, that's a very short number and there will still be many areas you can't reach swiftly (plus the teleporters themselves can only be accessed from specific points anyway). This whole problem would have been fixed if they'd just let you warp between save points, which are much more frequent and conveniently placed.
Despite its relative shortness and extensive backtracking, Mind Over Mutant boasts more variety than Crash of the Titans. Besides the new Titan abilities, platforming segments are more abundant and original, and Crash has gained a few new abilities to complement them. For instance, Crash can stick his furry paws in wall dents to climb in any direction, and he has suddenly remembered how to burrow after over a decade of neglecting that - shall we say - talent. This can be done whenever you find a hole on the ground, and it's useful for finding hidden goodies and getting under fences or hazardous terrain. While burrowing, the camera switches to a bird's-eye-view and you have limited perception of Crash's surroundings. While travelling around the island, the gameplay sometimes switches to a side-scrolling perspective much like the classic games did.
Since not all the Titans can reach the same places Crash can (and vice-versa), you'll have to switch between characters when the situation demands it. For this effect, you can now store and summon any Titan you've taken control of. It's not as nice as it sounds though, because you can only take up to 2 titans with you, and unless you have one of those slots empty, you can't switch back to Crash. This absurd logic means you'll have to dispose of your Titan buddies all the time.
Crash's other abilities are more or less the same as in the previous game, though there are a few bothersome differences. First is the replacement of the hover spin with a downward thrust. This means you can no longer glide to reach farther places or land more precisely. The new thrust is a bit weak as an attack and its only use is to bounce higher from springy platforms. Also gone is the ability to use Aku Aku to slide, which is even more upsetting because of the long distances you'll often have to traverse. Well, at least they fixed the backflip move, so you won't be doing it by accident all the time anymore.
Combat has changed a bit too. Crash's Gyro Jackhammer attack is gone for some reason, and the manual dodge move has been replaced by a semi-automatic counterattack that simply requires you to press the guard button at the right time. This can instantly incapacitate most Titans if done correctly, and it simplifies battles just a tad too much. A welcome change is that Titans don't gang up on you as much as they did before: when you're surrounded, you'll usually get attacked by a couple of them at most, making things much more fair.
Combos play a more important role now. As before, you can pick up Mojo to improve your combat abilities (there aren't any new ones this time around though, so you just increase your health and attack strength), and chaining combos will multiply the amount of Mojo you get. You can get up to 20 times more Mojo if you chain a lot of combos. If you combine this with the 2x multiplier pick-ups, you can temporarily get a whopping 40x multiplier. Beware, because getting hit or falling off a pit resets your multiplier instantly. Speaking of damage, recent games up to this point alternated between having lives and just doing away with them completely. Thankfully, Mind Over Mutant does the latter thing. If Crash runs out of health or falls into a pit, you'll just respawn in the immediate vicinity.
Not every Titan is brainwashed in this game. Titans have developed their own societies since the events from the previous game, so you'll come across a few small villages where Titans will tell you where to go or let you take control of them. Finding the right Titan to overcome an obstacle is a frequent endeavor in the game, but while this is never a problem while playing through the story, Titans change places once you've finished the game for some reason, making it hard to guess where a species of Titan will appear. Because of this, side-missions may take longer than they should.
There are no longer levels or separate chapters. Depending on your current mission, you'll need to reach a certain place in Wumpa Island, which is now an open world with interconnected areas. Every place leads to a different one, but there aren't any central hubs with easy access points. This is bad because you'll always have to thread through territories you've already visited before to get to your destination, which makes things repetitive and unnecessarily padded. This is even worse when you consider that you can't switch back to Crash if you're holding 2 Titans, along with the fact that you can't carry more than that.
So, for example, to get to Evil Public School, you first have to go through the entirety of Ratcicle Kingdom, and that's assuming that's your current location. There are many areas like this that only have a single way in, and the lack of hubs or teleporters make it all the worse. You do get 3 teleporters late in the game, but they're not enough to counter this problem. They really should have just made the save points double as teleporters and let you choose from the map. It would certainly have given the map a purpose, seeing as how it's completely vague and useless as it is.
Another problem with exploration is the camera. Because it's fixed and you can't move it manually, backtracking becomes much more awkward than it should be. Running against the screen has been done many times in the series before, but those segments were usually created specifically for that effect, so the angle and the obstacle placing worked fine. Here you sometimes have to go back the way you came, meaning you can never see much of what's ahead of you unless it's a 2D section. Backtracking itself is a major problem, because you do it way too often in the game's story.
Still, there are some rewards for exploring Wumpa Island. You can find voodoo dolls in secret areas to unlock concept art and golden Wumpa fruits to increase Crash's health. There are also simple mini-games collection mini-games and battle arenas. They're completely optional, but you can win big amounts of Mojo if you beat them. You can also take on side-missions to unlock more concept art and, in the Xbox 360 version, improve your GamerScore. Besides that, you can find special hero Titans and beat them up so you can take control of them. They only differ from regular Titans in appearance and upgrade separately, but they remain your allies for the rest of the game once you've beaten them.
Multiplayer was one of the best things to come out of Crash of the Titans, and thankfully, it's back in full force. Some changes have been deliberately made to it: the second player now has the option to play as Coco instead of a palette swap of Crash, who has her own animations but is otherwise identical. You can actually play as her by yourself if you have 2 controllers - just use the second one and you're set. Unfortunately, the PlayStation 2 and PSP versions of the game still force the second player to use Carbon Crash due to hardware limitations, so if you really want to play as Coco, you'll have to pick up the Wii or Xbox 360 version.
The backpack and piggyback mechanics are gone in favor of a more supportive secondary role: when one of the players decides to sit back, the corresponding character will take on the form of a mask similar to Aku Aku, enabling that player to point with a cross-hair and shoot chickens. Some side-missions require 2 players to complete, meaning you can't get 100% by yourself. There are a few segments where you'll need to make use of each player's weight to get across rotating paths, but with enough practice, you can actually do these alone. The only real problem with multiplayer is that it's easy for either player to hit the other one, making the Mojo multiplier reset. Since the multiplier is essential to getting upgrades in this game, this can sometimes become annoying.
Mind Over Mutant is a mixed bag in the end. It fixes some of the problems from the previous game, but it presents players with a bunch of new issues that weren't there to begin with. Its short length, extensive backtracking, and the fixed camera make this game hard to recommend to just anyone, but there are still many fun elements to be enjoyed alone or with a friend.