Game title: "Crash of the Titans"

Platform: Reviewed on Nintendo DS; also available on Wii, Game Boy Advance, Xbox, 360, PlayStation 2, PSP

Studio: Sierra Entertainment

Rated: E for Everyone

Score: 8.5 out of 10

THE REVIEW:

Crash. You know him, you love him. He's everyone's favorite Australian marsupial export. In cartoon video game format, anyway. The Crash Bandicoot series has been around, what is it, nearly 11 years now? My how this genetically-advanced kid has grown up. Almost freakishly, like a mutant. Wait, that's the point!

Crash, for those not in the know, is a wacky yet kind-hearted and laid-back guy, who wears jeans to go with his coyote-fox-Tasmanian Devil goofy good looks and charm. The dude wants nothing more than to play Frisbee with his friends, eat pancakes and be at the beach watching sunsets from his home on N. Sanity Island.

Standing in his way is the antagonizing Doctor Neo Cortex. Yeah, that same evil Doctor Cortex, the mad scientist who, in this installment of the story, captures Crash's genius sister Coco and the island spirit guardian Aku Aku in a plan to use stolen island mojo to create an army of wicked animal mutants. And take over the world. Big surprise. Wait, Aku what? Aku Aku, Crash's metaphysical ally, the ancient voodoo mask spirit of an old witch doctor who looks over the Wumpa Islands. Stay with it ...

So Crash gets his mojo working, battling it out with a host of new creations and titanic monsters, hoping to put an end to the evil doctor's scheme. Good luck with that. Yet years of team racing and warping from previous game incarnations seem to pay off big time for Crash. Along with his patented tornado spin, the little guy now has a powerful acrobatic fighting system (Sierra calls it "Hyper-Dynamic Combat") that employs punches, flying kicks, counter moves and unlockable, upgradeable combos.

The game's coup de grace, Crash's ability to "hijack" enemies (rather, commandeer them with a bull-riding technique) is a pretty cool idea: beat the bad guys at their own game. Hang on to the "jacked" mutants wearing the Aku Aku mask, using their immense powers against other enemies and you've got some seriously fun time-wasting on your hands.

Gameplay: The idea is basic and uncomplicated: (1) bash, smash and crash as many booty-filled crates and containers as you can; (2) jump, slide, skate and scale throughout the various lairs, landscapes and jungles, locating mojo, masks, gems and other items; (3) fight off the mutant attackers. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This is where the game gets a little monotonous, although the graphics and game play are very solid and intuitive on the DS format. The expanded fight moves are easy and also allow fun interaction with surroundings, rope-swinging, wall-running and general chaos. Just watch out for the toxic waste rivers, the green lab residue and other nastiness along the way. It seems there might be more storyline and depth of play in other formats, alas, it's still pretty imaginative.

There is familiarity with nine returning characters from previous "Crash" titles, and the mutated, outrageous creatures such as Scorporilla, Ratcicle and Whalephant are fun challenges on the four islands within the DS realm. As is the quirky "Pachinko board" segment, a game within the game to get gallery art, cheats, etc.

Also nice are the island co-ops to cash in collected mojo for leveling-up.

One minor complaint: There should be a few more auto-save checkpoints available as progression is made along the way.

THE WRAPUP

Parent's take: Pretty entertaining across the board, with obvious comic-related mayhem, chaos and mildly-aggressive overtones. This will keep your kid entertained, that's for sure. While there is a lot of fighting involved, the moves and actions are not overly mean-spirited or ruthless, rather, just fun comic shenanigans. No bloodshed, no brutality. It's a good kind of fight, and a good goal: who wants a world full of killer mutant animals, anyway?

Final word: Having sold more than 40 million units worldwide, it's easy to see why Crash Bandicoot is one of the most successful video game franchises of all time. As the fourteenth installment in the series, "Crash of the Titans" will only solidify that legacy, as this game is fun, fast and furious. Just make sure you bring along a sense of imagination to this twisted island adventure.