Ho hum in spots, but complete laugh out loud in others.
Ever since Naughty Dog left the building, the Crash Bandicoot series has treaded upon a wobbly line of mixed reviews for all of the later entries. Crash Twinsanity is easily one of the best non-ND Crash Bandicoot games, though it still features a laundry list of issues that pull the brakes on what could have been a solid comeback for the crazed, mullet/mohawk sporting marsupial.
Crash Twinsanity actually breaks away from its well grounded formula that was the basis for previous main-game titles Crash Bandicoot 2, Warped and Wrath of Cortex. Instead of being confined to narrow hallways and claustrophobic arenas, Crash is now free to explore through some fairly open environments, that while still give a linear progressive system for the story, will now also have those Gems from previous games littered around for you to collect. Instead of requiring that you unlock secret Warp levels, or smash every crate in the level, the Gems are now restricted via explosive related puzzles, mostly. The Crystals are also still in play here as well, though they have also taken a back seat and for the most part you probably won't even realise you just collected a crystal since it's more often than not initiated through a cutscene.
As such, Crash Twinsanity is much more beginning to resemble a traditionally modern platformer, akin to a Ratchet and Clank or Jak and Daxter, trading in the gauntlets for a more story oriented path to follow. Crash still isn't as action oriented as the previous examples, however, and your game is primarily paved with platform puzzles of the predictable variety. The traditional Crash combat is still present, though, but it has a slighty larger focus than previous Crash iterations. This wouldn't be so bad if the combat still wasn't all that engaging, and the enemies weren't still only here to act as a nuisance. When they start throwing enemies by the dozens, it gets to be a drag and can be frustrating to die losing those all-important lives of yours because of them getting in the way when you just want to get back to the platforming.
The platforming itself isn't as tightly honed, either. It's much more satisfying to pull off than any of the combat scenarios, though due to the camera sometimes making it hard to judge the depth between platforms, and also platforms that don't project Crash's shadow when he jumps over them, can lead to some really cheap deaths. Not to mention that Crash's faithful Aku Aku masks have been made to be nigh useless; they won't save you from TNT/NITRO crates, and while collecting three masks in a row still makes you invincible, it no longer permits you to just charge through everything anymore without getting damaged. Even the joyful voodoo beat is gone as well. Alongside the more open environments, the other most noteworthy alteration would have course be the new-founded alliance between Crash and his arch-nemesis Dr. Neo Cortex. Because of a greater evil--two super-smart parakeets who have arrived to destroy Crash and Cortex's precious Nsanity Island--Crash and Cortex set aside their differences and team up, for the most part. As such, throughout the game Crash and Cortex will make use of each others abilities to overcome obstacles they couldn't otherwise.
The most common scenario for when they team up is when Crash is lugging along Cortex by the edge of a power crystal, as Cortex humorously tries with all his might to pull the other way. It allows you to now do a much larger spin attack, you can use Cortex as like a mallet to smash through harder objects, and you can also throw Cortex wherever you like for your own sadistic amusement (if Cortex ''dies'' he'll just teleport next to you soon after)... And to allow Cortex to unlock some passageways that you couldn't reach on your own, there's that too. This isn't what Crash and Cortex's dynamic duo-ism stricts to, though. On occasion, Cortex will be forced to flee from some sort of danger, shifting the view into a 2D side-scroller perspective. Here, you're to try and get rid of all the hazards, allowing Cortex safe passage as he runs away. It's pretty exhilarating and a good test for your reflexes. Also should Cortex die (and he will) you yourself won't lose a life, so you can try and try again as often as you like until you get it nailed.
Along with the gauntlets you have to play Guardian Angel to Cortex in, you'll also finally get the chance to use that square head of Cortex to slide down a mountain. It can be a little tricky to control at times, and there are moments where the game will throw obstacles or endless pits that you simply couldn't have foreseen the first time, but it's otherwise a great mix of pace and, like the rest of the game, is devilishly hilarious. Finally, there are also the occasions where Crash and Cortex just start attacking each other and their fight manifests into a ball of chaos, resembling something out of a Looney Tune cartoon, you can control. Though while within the context it's genius, the playing part simply wasn't fun for me and was the defining moment of where the controls threw me off the edge - literally in a lot of cases. Throughout those sections, you're asked to have some surprisingly spot-on direction, and the controls being so loose as they are will force upon you a lot of accidents with the duo rolling just that little too much near the edge. Trying to stay safe on the elevator rides was simply far too finicky that it has any right to be.
Even though Crash and Cortex do get plenty of opportunities for some cuddle time to sort out their issues, there's still a surprising amount of alone time as Crash where you'll have access to his staple list of moves; double jump, body slam ect. You will also get to control Cortex on his lonesome, too, though they also stand as some of the worst sections of this 6-8 hour adventure. Cortex being the frail little coward that he is only has a puny blast pistol for his offensive attacks, and virtually zero for the defense. He can't jump very high, and thus his sections primarily focus on tedious combat, or segments where you are to run away from an incoming danger. Those aren't so bad, but in the less than agile shoes of Cortex don't particularly make them any good either.
Besides Crash and Cortex, there is also now Nina Cortex - Cortex's ''niece''. Nina is fortunate enough to be saddled with the gift of dual bionic arms, which she can use to attack enemies with, though they're mostly for traversing through the environments. That all also sounds pretty great in concept, however she can only use those arms for swinging across a minor few rings that are always conveniently placed exactly so as to let you know where to proceed. The detection is also kinda off, so the swinging about too only acts as more of a hindrance than anything. Nina can at least jump to a decent height (no double jump, though) and she has a spin attack similar to Crash's alongside her bionic arm slaps. She's a complete cybernetic Goth as well, with a large bucktooth protruding out of her mouth like a swimming pool launch pad; a great character design to be sure, though I still always yearned for when I could just get back to playing as Crash.
The humour of the game is probably the one thing that especially kept me stuck in. Even with the middle-some controls, and tiresome non-Crash'ing segments, the hilarity was always begrudging my anticipation to forever carry on. And Twinsanity is genuinely laugh out loud funny at times as well. One gag in particular that initiates the Cortex snowboarding where Crash finds himself fixated towards the swaying movements of Cortex's rear is a favourite of mine. There's a lot of great physical humour and sight gags that appear reminiscent of the Looney Tunes. It's not surprising to find out that the story is written by some of the minds behind Ren and Stimpy.
The charming humour mixes perfectly with the bouncy and criminally catchy soundtrack to give an incredibly light-hearted and breezy atmosphere. The Nsanity island theme is one of my favourites for how it is so well entwined with Crash's exaggerated movement animations. There's a solid variety of tracks that start off with the aforementioned Nsanity theme, which is a kind of melodic boogie, but then there's some alternate rock, some vintage Haunted House tunes and even a dash of heavy metal, which appropriately plays during the Nina Cortex section. The voice acting is all also really well done, and Dr. Cortex in particular deviously steals every scene with a grandiose and overly-dramatic performance by Lex Lang.
The colourful and cartoony graphics tie all of the almost soothing sensibilities the game gives with a smooth silken bow. The only problem to pick at towards the production values is how sometimes the game will have zero audio, during the boss battles in particular. It's incredibly jarring and pushes the idea that maybe this game was a little rushed in spots. Otherwise, it's a delightfully well animated adventure that is a pleasure to witness and explore. Crash Bandicoot's reputation across the ps2 onwards is a fleeting embark towards the gutter; none of the games are anything anyone really needs to play, but for Crash Bandicoot apologists, Crash Twinsanity is easily the best Crash you can find without a Naughty Dog logo close by.
And seriously, this soundtrack...