The original Doritos Crash Course was given away for free on Xbox Live Arcade to promote the famous snack chips, an exceptionally rare occurence on Microsoft’s downloadable game service. What turned out even more surprising was that the time trial-based platformer, which made use of the Xbox Avatar system for playable characters, was actually pretty fun. Now, Doritos Crash Course 2 has been released, once again at no cost, with a fresh coat of paint and some new bells and whistles. A lot of it works, but the new progression system, while certainly encouraging gameplay, might lead to some heavy frustration for players who aren’t willing to put their all into perfecting each run.
Like the original, Crash Course 2 sees players taking the Avatar linked to their Xbox Live account and running them through multiple obstacle courses around the world. Environments this time around range from the Amazon to Egypt, and a quick look is all you need to see how much more effort has gone into making this game look nice compared to its predecessor. While the original had serviceable backdrops that also contained some cheering crowds, this one provides an ample amount of extra scenery and eye candy, such as temple ruins, UFOs, and roving penguins and polar bears. It’s purely cosmetic, and doesn’t directly change the gameplay, but it’s still a nice touch.
The basic control scheme is also unchanged. Players go across a 2D plane with the left analog stick, and hold either the left or right trigger buttons to run. The catch is that running for too long will cause your avatar to trip and temporarily become incapacitated, meaning that you’ll need to know when to temporarily ease up on the speed. Other mechanics include sliding down slanted terrain for speed and jump boosts, swinging on ropes, and bouncing off trampolines.
The original Crash Course had a very linear and straightforward way of progressing through its campaign. Each level that was completed, no matter how long it took, would automatically unlock the one after it. The sequel mixes things up a bit. Strewn throughout each level are 16 floating stars, waiting for players to collect them. Any level can be unlocked at any point, but each one requires you to pay a certain amount of stars. In other words, you’ll have to work a bit harder to earn the right to play every level.
Thankfully, there are two other methods to earn stars. One comes in the form of the medal system. Each level has 3 AI opponents to race against, each representing a medal. In other words, the player must beat the slowest opponent to win the bronze, the second fastest to get the silver, and the fastest to get the gold. The better the medal you earn, the more extra stars you’ll collect at the level’s end. Also, each level has three bonus objectives, ranging from staying ahead of certain opponents for the whole level to never grabbing onto ledges. Fulfilling these also nets a few stars.
The nice thing about this system is that it adds a lot of replay value to each level. You can even pay extra stars to unlock hidden alternate paths for each one. The downside is that the levels and competition get noticeably more difficult as you progress, with later levels being especially formidable in terms of difficulty. I suspect very few players will make it all the way to the end, because the final product is hardly the type of game suited for casual play.
Multiplayer is included for up to four players, both online and split-screen local. The game automatically matches you up with players closest to your skill level, which I’m guessing is based on the amount of stars you’ve unlocked. Since you’re playing through the same levels from the campaign, any stars or medals you obtain in multiplayer will thankfully transfer over.
Unlike the original, there is a pay-to-play component that makes use of Microsoft points, and while a lot of it is purely cosmetic, such as graphical effects for your avatars or embarrassing costumes to dump on your opponents, more useful items, such as the mistake-fixing Rewind, also need you to spend points if you want a lot of them. The game is perfectly playable without spending a cent, but because of the aforementioned difficulty, paying can look unfortunately enticing at times.
I give Doritos Crash Course 2 props for its much improved presentation and bevy of new features compared to its predecessor, but I have to warn players that they will be in for some heavy trial and error if they want to get anywhere in it. Thankfully, you won’t be feeling cheated out of any cash if you end up disliking it, assuming you don’t spend any points on items. And for that reason, it’s worth checking out.