Crash Twinsanity - Overview

After years of not doing much to a stagnant formula, the Crash Bandicoot series finally took the next logical step and evolved to something more contemporary. Traveller's Tales Oxford Studio took some of the bandicoot's defining traits and applied them to an ampler and more modern game world, resulting in Crash Twinsanity. Was it a much needed refreshment for our hero, or did it fall flat on its promise? Let's have a look-see.

Crash stands on top of a jagged rock with Aku Aku floating nearby. The ocean separates them from N. Sanity Beach, seen in the distance.Twinsanity introduces open-ended hub areas that encourage players to explore.

Twinsanity feels like something different right off the bat. As soon as you start the game, you're greeted with a wide, open beach to explore, introducing one of the game's four open-ended hubs. These areas connect levels to each other seamlessly with no loading sequences (except when you're changing between hubs or when you respawn too far away, but even then you won't have to wait long). Though Twinsanity is a pretty short game, each level has something unique going for it. Levels are almost as linear as before, though they do offer a few rewards for those willing to get off the main path sometimes.

It's worth noting that some levels can't be accessed directly, so you'll have to replay a whole different level from start to finish before getting to where you want. A particularly annoying oversight prevents you from leaving the last hub without finishing the game, even if you've already done it before.

There are lots of little nods to the classic games that long-time fans will be sure to appreciate. While the scenery isn't as varied as in some previous games, what's there is very nice to look at. N. Sanity Island looks more beautiful than ever before and has plenty of neat little details scattered around. It's a shame the game loses much of that attention to detail afterwards, as each new hub looks more barren than the last. On the other hand, this works in favor of the 10th Dimension, a nightmarish area that proves just how much the game is willing to try new things. The game looks great for its time and never dips below 60 frames per second. The Xbox gets a bit of a downgrade compared to the PlayStation 2 version, as it generally looks darker and the lighting is more basic and less dynamic (ironic, given that the Xbox is more powerful).

The game's soundtrack is a unique collection of a cappella themes provided by Spiralmouth. Besides some synthesizing, the band used no instruments and everything was done with their voices, which makes Twinsanity a very different game to listen to. At times you'll be wondering how the band pulled certain stunts off, such as the heavy metal theme in Rooftop Rampage. Certain songs do get irritating at times, but the soundtrack is generally catchy and quite funny.

While disguised as Coco, Cortex waves and smiles at the viewer.The game is more story-driven than usual, with a heavy focus on humor.

Since Twinsanity is a more story-driven adventure than usual, there are now mid-level cutscenes and events that make the plot more compelling and prevalent. The humor in the game works really well and it's faithful to the Crash Bandicoot universe, though it's sometimes spoiled by the lack of polish and sound effects in some cutscenes. One major downside is that you can't skip them, even after having watched them before (unless they're pre-rendered, but those are usually the ones you don't want to skip). This quickly becomes nerve-grating if you keep losing lives in a spot where a cutscene is triggered. There are only so many times you can hear a fat walrus threatening to cook you before you want to scream.

All the characters have been redesigned, but they still look and act like themselves (something is definitely wrong with the way Crash smiles all the time, though). The supporting cast is wider than usual, and you still play as Crash most of the time, but it's his arch-nemesis, Dr. Neo Cortex, who truly steals the show. Due to Crash's silent nature, Cortex does most of the talking in the game, so he sometimes shows hidden layers beneath that evil, megalomaniacal exterior, which makes him much more interesting than before. His interactions with Crash are also a delight. You've got an evil, uptight scientist on one hand, and a hyperactive bandicoot with no common sense on the other, so things rarely go as planned, much to Cortex's chagrin.

Crash uses Cortex as a snowboard to flee from a group of penguins attached to rockets, who are chasing them down a snowy mountain.Throughout the adventure, Crash will use Cortex as a versatile tool, such as a makeshift snowboard.

Controlling Crash doesn't feel too different from previous games, so you should be familiar with the gameplay if you're a series veteran. On the other hand, the plot demands that you sometimes bring (or rather, drag) Cortex along with you, and this has some effects on how you move. When Crash and Cortex latching on to a crystal, the doctor's oversized cranium finally makes itself useful by doubling as a mallet. Your spin radius also increases, and you can throw Cortex so he can clear a path by defeating enemies with his ray gun or activating machinery.

There are more chaotic ways to play as the duo. For instance, Cortex loses his temper on one occasion, so he engages in a brawl against the bandicoot, forcing you to control them both as they roll down an underground roller coaster while punching, twisting, choking, and spanking each other (similar to the hamster ball from The Wrath of Cortex, but with easier controls and much better level design).

If snowboarding on someone's back has always been one of your dreams, then good news: Cortex is more versatile than he looks, so with a little imagination, Crash can use him as a makeshift snowboard to slide down icy slopes (not that Cortex ever agreed with it). This mechanic takes a while to get used to because of it uses the duo's weight and momentum to steer, so you can't simply veer left and right. It can be quite off-putting until you get it down, but once you do, you should have no further trouble with it.

Cortex cowardly runs through a creepy school hallway, followed closely by Uka Uka.Cortex has a large role in the game, including his own playable level with an emphasis on shooting.

Cooperation is still essential to Crash and Cortex's goals, so when the bad doc is being chased by something, you'll have no choice but to clear a path for him. This happens during side-scrolling segments, with Cortex automatically running in one path and you, as Crash, getting rid of his obstacles in the other. Beware, because if Cortex gets caught in a trap, you'll lose a life.

It wouldn't be right to give Cortex such a major role in the game without also making him playable, so you do get to control him in a few, rare occasions. Playing as Cortex is just how you'd expect: he's a terrible jumper, but his ray gun takes care of business. Just remember to pick up ammo crates, or Cortex will start screaming like a little girl. Cortex has a lot of moves and attacks (including tripping and sliding on his face), but none of them are actually effective besides regular ray gun shots, so there's a lot of missed potential here.

Nina Cortex launchers herself in the air atop the academy's rooftops. Uka Uka follows closely behind, while a gargoyle flaps its wings and hovers nearby.A third playable character, Nina Cortex, provides a different take on the usual Crash platforming.

There's actually a third playable character who is, sadly, used even less than Cortex: his niece, Nina. Besides being able to perform a Crash-esque spin, this bionic goth can use her extendible metal arms to smack enemies, climb up buildings and grab gargoyles to swing from one place to another. Playing as Nina is very fun, which only makes the short-lived nature of her playable appearance all the more disappointing.

Gems are your rewards for exploring, as you don't have to break all the crates in a level anymore (which would have been an insane task, given how numerous they are and how much bigger the levels have gotten). You can find gems in unconventional spots, often with no direct means to reach them, so you'll have to work out some puzzles to clear the way to them. Gems unlock concept art and movies and are totally optional, though your 100% reward is just a short, disapponting video. They say the journey is what counts, but some of these gems are simply frustrating to get.

Since many optional gem puzzles involve explosive crates in some way, it'd be easy to bypass them by using an Aku Aku mask and sacrificing a hit point. This means that explosions now mean instant death, which seems like a real cop-out given how things have always worked up to this point. On the plus side, you always get a free mask whenever you respawn, essentially giving you two hit points from the get-go. Another thing worth noting is that you can't fall off from too high without losing a life. This is done to prevent you from entering places you're not supposed to be, but it also gets kind of annoying sometimes.

Dingodile readies his flamethrower behind a wall of flames.In true Crash Bandicoot form, many bosses will try to to stop you on your tracks.

Saving is now done via golden crates usually placed at the beginning and at the end of each level, and for the first time in the series, it's done automatically by default so you won't risk losing progress. Since some levels are very large and difficult, the save placement can get quite unfair, and mid-level saves would have definitely been welcome. To make things worse, extra life crates permanently turn into regular crates once you've broken them. This is by no means an easy game, so this design choice will hurt many newcomers.

In truth, there are many things in Twinsanity that don't work, sometimes literally. Due to a convoluted development, the game is both extremely short and riddled with glitches. These extend from harmless oddities (some glitches are actually beneficial if you know how to use them) to getting stuck and being forced to reset the game, though the latter kind is rare and won't likely happen unless you're intentionally messing around. These aspects, coupled with some glaring plot holes, sudden difficulty spikes and lack of polish in some areas can be detrimental to the average player's experience. On the other hand, Twinsanity is simultaneously a much needed refreshment and a love letter to the series's origins, so long-time Crash Bandicoot fans will likely put these flaws aside and simply enjoy the game for what it is.

The good

  • The first Crash Bandicoot game to feature open areas
  • Exploring the world yields rewards
  • Unique soundtrack
  • Follows and expands on many of the series's original elements
  • Cortex gets some great moments
  • Lots of character-derived humor that feels right at home
  • Different play styles that are easy to pick up

The bad

  • Very short game
  • Lots of glitches
  • General lack of polish
  • No way to directly access some areas
  • Poorly spread save points
  • Extra lives never respawn on the same save slot
  • Aku Aku won't protect you against explosive crates
  • Some tracks get annoying to listen to
  • Some gems are frustrating to get
  • Disappointing 100% reward

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