Crash Twinsanity is a 3D platformer developed by Traveler's Tales and published by Vivendi Universal Games in 2004 on PS2 and Xbox. Following 3 years after the ending of Wrath of Cortex, the titular mad scientist tries to get his revenge on Crash. He fails miserably, but before he can give it another go, he's interrupted by the arrival of a pair of interdimensional birds who aim to destroy the chain of islands Crash calls home and enact their own revenge on Cortex. To survive the threat these pan-dimensional parrots pose, Crash and Cortex team up best they can, to varying results.
It's clear that the aesthetic of the series is influenced by decades worth of hand-drawn cartoons. But aside from the many comedic ways Crash can die and the proper ending of Warped, the series has played its minimalist story mostly straight. Looking back, this is kinda strange, even if the decision serves the previous 4 main game titles pretty well. But with Twinsanity, this is no longer the case.
The story is a proper comedy from scene one, as Cortex kidnaps Crash's sister Coco and dresses up like her in order to guide Crash to a trap while being nice enough to provide a tutorial. With the elimination of the level hub, the story has room to play out as a journey between Cortex and Crash across the various levels. This allows for more comedy and setpieces than what the series has offered before. Due to some lacking scene direction, it's not as funny as it could be, but that's not to say that it's boring (save for pre-gameplay cutscenes being unskippable following a death).
Lex Lang's Cortex basically carries the whole thing, as he has the majority of the game's lines to his name. The game spends just about the whole runtime degrading his presence as a credible villain. So much so, that you almost feel sorry for the guy. Crash is pretty under-utilized though, having few things to do in cutscenes and not even having a bunch of hilarious deaths to showcase, which is a shame.
The Twinsanity incarnation of Crash is pretty fun to use. He has his standard set of moves, plus the ability to roll orbs and the like by kicking and spinning. You also have free control of the camera thanks to the new open level design. The only issue I have is that the timing for the slide jump is somewhat tighter than in previous games, which throws off my muscle memory. But the game doesn't demand precision slide jumps, so it's not much of a problem.
While Crash has top billing, he isn't the only one you'll be controlling throughout the game. Early on, you get to team up with Cortex, which opens up a few more moves. You get a bigger spin, lose the double jump, and gain the ability to smash Cortex into the ground and throw him across gaps during team-ups. During these sections, the game shifts from pure platforming into a more puzzle-centric ordeal. It's not taxing on the brain, but it shows that the series doesn't need pure platforming to stay engaging. There are also some "vehicle" sections making use of Cortex to mimic the rolling ball and snowboard from Wrath of Cortex, which is fun, but can easily get out of hand during hard turns.
On the more negative side, I don't like the nerf provided to the Aku Aku mask, as it doesn't protect you against explosive crates anymore. Even collecting three to trigger the temporary invincibility isn't to let you run through explosives. Hell, the invincibility state doesn't even break regular boxes, which was one of best parts of the previous games.
Being unfinished, the game is also rather glitchy. It's mostly harmless stuff, but there are a few times where the hit detection just gives up. The first boss in particular gave me no end of grief, as throwing Cortex into it just wouldn't reliably register.
For one meager level, both Cortex and his niece/daughter Nina are playable in their own little sections, to lackluster results. Cortex just has a blaster and some incredibly simplistic stealth mechanics to play with. Undercooked doesn't even begin to explain it, there's just nothing of interest there. Agent 9 from Spyro 3 is more engaging to play as!
The same goes for newcomer Nina. The only thing she has that makes her stand out from the others is her grappling hook. And even then, it's not used for any interesting platforming. That's assuming you can get the damn thing to work. The game doesn't lock you into the pull animation, so if you forget to let loose of the analog stick when using the grappling hook, you are bound to careen off the level. Even then, I swear there's something iffy going on under the hood that makes it a pain to use, as proven by my terrible experience with the final boss during Nina's section, which is the SECOND TIME you use her!
Separating Twinsanity from its peers is the new open-ended environments. Outside of the proper levels, there are large (by series standards) areas full of optional gems to collect, connected by these boring tunnels. While this sounds like the correct way to truly bring the series to modern (at the time) standards, it doesn't really work.
While the graphics are fine, I just can't bring myself to explore these areas to find gems. They're not difficult to get, only difficult to find, making them the polar opposite of most gems in the previous games. You almost always knew how to get those gems, which often involved getting all the boxes in a level. It was mostly a challenge of platforming skill. Here in Twinsanity, boxes are almost meaningless, save for earning you extra lives which should have cut from the series entirely at this point. They just don't add anything to the game.
And while both this game and the previous ones use gems to unlock extra cutscenes, I think the addition of so many more gems in Twinsanity make them tedious to collect, especially without all the pomp and circumstance present when collecting gems in the old titles.
The game feels tethered to the past games, making it harder for it to reach its full potential. That's not to say that there aren't some fun things to it, like the acapella soundtrack and the platforming challenges in the last level. But I think they should have taken a look at other 3D platformers and removed every element not fit for the 2.5D design from the old games and replaced them with new ideas meant for a 3D Crash game.