Crash of the Titans (Nintendo DS) - Overview

Crash of the Titans on the Nintendo DS isn't quite as drastic a departure from Crash's usual stuff as the main console version. Inspired by the classic games, Amaze Entertainment produced a blend between the original Crash style, the new combat mechanics from the console version, and a unique flavor.

Unlike the previous handheld adventures, Crash of the Titans DS is a 3D platformer. Despite the DS's limitations and low screen resolution, this is actually one of the better-looking 3D games for the system, thanks to the extra effort that went into giving just about everything its own 3D model. Crash's animations are particularly fluid, and you'll see him stretch and bounce all over the place like a cartoon.

Not only that, but all of the dialogue is fully voiced by the original actors, which is a rarity for a Nintendo DS game. The cutscenes and dialog are reminiscent of a sitcom, and in fact, they even put in a laugh track after certain jokes, many of which are so intentionally bad that there's a good chance they'll come full circle for you. Coupled with an original soundtrack that sounds quite decent, it all makes the game's presentation one of its strongest points.

Besides having combat moves at your disposal and the ability to control any enemy you defeat, there is little in common with the console version. The game prefers to focus on platforming and toying with crates as you remember them, and is much closer to the classics than its name implies. It's a completely different game, and one that stands out not by trying to mimic the console experience, but by doing its own thing.

Crash has most of his original moves (such as the spin attack and a cosmetically different belly-flop), and besides the new combat abilities, you can also use Aku Aku as a slide-board to get around quickly and grind on rails. Levels are structured linearly like in the original trilogy (right down to the pink crystals and side-scrolling bonus paths), and since classic crates are back (some of which in jumbo size), breaking them all will once again reward you with a gem. Wumpa fruits are present, but they're rare and serve to replenish your health. Taking their place as the most common collectible are the Mojo spheres introduced in the console version. Collect enough Mojo and you'll get the chance to upgrade Crash's moves and attacks from Coco's parlor (or buy "hacks" to change the game in helpful or humorous ways). If you pick up enough Mojo in a level, you'll be rewarded with a second gem.

A common problem in most levels is that checkpoints are spread too far away from each other, so despite the lack of a lives system, it can be frustrating to fall into a pit and having to do a lot of stuff all over again. There are only 8 levels in the game (plus boss fights), but each level is pretty lengthy. The game would have benefitted from splitting every level in two, especially given the fact that you can only save after finishing a level (thereby contradicting its portable nature). It doesn't take long to finish the game, but getting 100% will keep you busy for a while longer.

When it comes to the new combat mechanics, things are simple and straight to the point. Punch, kick, and spin your enemies to defeat them and you'll be able to hitch a ride on their backs and take control of their powers. There's a larger variety of enemies compared to the console version, and you can control every single one of them regardless of size and strength. Enemies aren't hard to defeat, so combat in this version doesn't get much in the way of platforming. In fact, and unlike the console version, you can even jump while riding an enemy, which is a definite plus. True to the series's nature, the game also offers a few boss fights against some familiar characters, but while the cutscenes can be humorous, the boss fights themselves are nothing to write home about.

The DS's touchscreen and microphone can be used for special enemy attacks (like, say, blow on the handheld to breathe fire or flick the touchscreen to throw a banana). You can simply press a button if you prefer, but special attacks are stronger when you use the DS's unique features. Another use for the touchscreen is using items from your inventory. You can find these hidden in levels, and each item has its own temporary effect, like making you invincible or stronger.

Every time you defeat a boss, you'll get the chance to play as Nina Cortex. The objective in these short levels is to turn the small, cutesy animals you'll run across into mutants with the help of Nina's ray gun. You get unlimited ammo, but you'll often have to recharge your ray gun by spinning a dial on the touchscreen (which is simple, but a bit bothersome since it breaks the flow). These levels can't be replayed after you beat them and serve mostly as a change of pace from Crash's usual routine.

There are plenty of extra challenges that you can take to win gems. Besides breaking all the crates and finding enough Mojo, each level has a few Tiki Masks to collect, making it one more gem per level if you can find them all. A fourth gem can be acquired by beating a level's special event, which comes in the form of a short and self-contained challenge that you control with the touchscreen. Events are varied and include objectives like sweeping all the Mojo from an arena within the allotted time, or using a mutant to roll down a hill. Just as before, gems count towards your completion percentage, and getting 100% unlocks an alternate ending.

Crash of the Titans DS boils down to a very enjoyable entry in the series that feels like its own thing, despite borrowing the best elements from both the console version and the original PlayStation games. The short length and poor checkpoint distribution are problematic, but it's still one of the best Crash Bandicoot handheld games you can play thanks to its great presentation and varied gameplay.

The good

  • Great graphics for a Nintendo DS game
  • Fully voiced dialog featuring most of the actors from the console version
  • The classic elements are adapted well
  • Combat is short and simple
  • You can control every single enemy (and, unlike the console version, jump with them)
  • Some replay value can be found in optional tasks and hunting for collectibles

The bad

  • Only 8 levels
  • Each level goes on for too long
  • Checkpoints are sparse
  • Some players may find the jokes a bit cringeworthy

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