Crash Team Rumble Review
A rotten Wumpa Fruit
The orange bandicoot spearheaded the PlayStation brand when it was initially released in the 90s, and it's easy to see why, as the gameplay looked deceptively simple but required pitch-perfect precision—one wrong sneaker step, and you would end up being a petrified floating ghost. While the recent Crash Bandicoot games such as Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled and Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time promised a bright new future for the franchise, the latest spinoff Crash Team Rumble has unfortunately fallen into the shores of mediocrity and will leave a sour taste in your mouth like a rotten Wumpa Fruit, as this MOBA feels unremarkably dull and forgettable.
The first important thing to establish is that Crash Team Rumble is a through-in-through online multiplayer game with no local play. What's more, at the time of launch, only one game mode is available. If you are part of a niche echo chamber that was hoping to see something resembling the frenzied madness of Crash Bash, you will be sorely disappointed.
The action attempts to capture a competitive sport's highs, accompanied by the iconic Crash Bandicoot platforming, as you will often be chaotically running around across the map and attacking your opponents. The conditions for each match are reasonably straightforward; collect Wumpa Fruit and deposit them at your team's Wumpa bank. Whichever team assembles 2,000 Wumpa Fruit first will be victorious. Alongside collecting the delicious citrus fruit, you will want to attack your opponents. If their health depletes to zero, they will be knocked out, which will take them out of action for a few seconds, but more importantly, they will lose everything they are carrying.
Each side has four players, and the character roster includes familiar faces from the franchise, like Coco, Dingodile, and Neo Cortex. When you first start playing, there will only be three characters available, but earning badges from fulfilling objectives in a match, like scoring a certain amount of Wumpa Fruit, will unlock an additional five characters, including a brand new character called Catbat. The developers probably intend to add extra characters down the line, but it's a bit disappointing that only eight are available at launch, as it does not add much variety to the gameplay.
Every character is distinctively different from each other. Crash has the iconic spin and slam attacks at his disposal. Dingodile can strike enemies with his almighty tail, and Coco can use her tech-whiz smarts to activate a Quantum Wall, disrupting attacks from opponents. All these manoeuvres can be executed with one or two button presses, which makes matches incredibly easy to jump into.
Another big factor in playing your character is that everyone will fall into one of three classes: Scorers, Blockers and Boosters. Scorers can carry significantly more Wumpa Fruit and are expected to bank more points. Blockers act like glorified goalkeepers; their responsibility is to defend the team's Wumpa bank and stop the opposing side from scoring. Finally, Boosters primary goal is activating gem platforms that will boost the amount of Wumpa deposited for a brief period of time.
The class system is not the most elaborate or comprehensive out there, but it's diverse enough to encourage different playstyles. Each character's unique move pool and class system are also designed to complement one another. For example, Blockers like Dingodile are best for attacking, which makes them hard to counterattack but not impossible. If you play a Scorer like Crash, you could utilise combos like jumping in the air and slamming onto the opponent immediately afterwards to get the upper hand on Blockers. It's nice to see there was a bit of thought behind the class system, and just because you like a particular character does not necessarily mean you're locked into playing the game a certain way.
At the beginning of each match, you get the opportunity to pick a power. These abilities range from summoning a Gasmoxian Guard who knockbacks enemies, to a Healing Fridge which will plonk the household electrical appliance onto the field and heal nearby allies. This power is charged naturally throughout the match, but if you fulfil the class role on your team, it will charge far more quickly, adding more importance to the class system. These powers are far more aggressive than your regular attacks, and beginners are more likely to rely more on them, as it's easy to charge up and a good way to be effective without much effort.
There are nine maps in total, each reflecting different places in the Crash universe like one map is based on N. Sanity Caverns from Crash Bandicoot 4. However, all these maps feel inferior compared to the original locations they are based on, as they are small and unmemorable. Some map layouts didn't feel like there was much variation between them, with Tiki Towers and Just Beachy looking highly similar, as they are surrounded by water with bland, generic terrain. Ultimately, all the levels feel claustrophobic. This design was probably intentional to create close-quarters skirmishes regularly, but it more results in you not having to travel too far to collect Wumpa Fruit for your bank, leading to repetitive gameplay rather than busts-ups with opposing team members.
A few things on the map attempt to avoid making the locations feel empty, but it has limited success. Alongside Wumpa Fruit, there are also Relics disbursed across the map, and if you drop enough Relics at a Relic Station, you can earn powerups. There are two types of Relic stations. The standard ones offer abilities like laying down shrooms on the ground that will slow down the enemy. The other station type, known as Epic Relic Stations, is far more helpful, as you could summon Uka Uka, which will protect the entire team while meteors cascade on the map, attempting to take out the opposing side. Unless you aim to open an Epic Relic Station, which requires 30 Relics, these powerups are rarely stronger than the powers you charge up, making Relics a bit redundant and not worth your time in the grand scheme of things.
You can also capture gem pads, which attempt to emulate a game of hopscotch. Jumping on a gem pad will change it to your team's colour, and if your team captures all the gems without being interrupted by the opposing side, the team will get a momentarily boost when depositing Wumpa Fruit at the bank. Again, this is not the most exciting feature in the world, but this was probably one of the more interesting aspects of the map design because it could cost you the game if you didn't pay attention.
Crash Team Rumble has a typical Season Pass reward system, and the launch batch of rewards is free, no matter what edition of the game you purchase. Rewards include customisations like hats, bag backs, emotes and banners. These unlockables sound good on paper but don't look the best when equipped on the character. One item you can unlock is a beanie, which does not even cover Crash's head; it just sits on his eyebrows. When you compare the customisation options to Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fuled, it pales in comparison and feels more like spare clothes in a discount aisle and do not entice you to work through the battle pass.
On the presentation front, everything looks like a modern Crash Bandicoot game, with the soundtrack encompassing previous Crash Bandicoot game music or new rehashed versions of these iconic songs. Every match played out smoothly, and there was no lag whatsoever during the game or when inputting commands, which is a crucial aspect for any online multiplayer. Finding and loading into a match could take a few moments, but if you have ever played Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fuled, the loading screen is nothing alike and greatly improves upon the latter's net coding.
There is nothing wrong with a game being on the simplistic side, but Crash Team Rumble falls into the disastrous category of being unimaginative and downright boring. What's even more frustrating is you can see there was a lot of thought put into certain aspects of the game, like the class system and how each individual character's moves would directly impact one another. But it's brought down by barren maps, a small character roster and flat-out repetitive gameplay.
After you have played for an hour, you've pretty much seen all that the game has to offer, and you will find yourself putting down the control pad, looking for something else to play. Considering the game's standard edition sits at the price of $29.99 USD, it's pretty bad that there is only one game mode on offer, as it's not too deep or elaborate. There are some spectacular free-to-play games out there, but this game is nowhere in the same league as them.