With hindsight, I probably should’ve devoted more time to sharpening my lukewarm repertoire of crate-smashing skills back in ‘00, if only to prepare myself for what was to eventually come twenty-three years later. Little did I know at the time, of course, that the ever-faithful Crash Bandicoot would still be going as equally as strong as it was just shy of two decades prior. It blossomed into something bigger, better, and far more inclusive, even, which led me to believe that Toys for Bob had every intention of elevating the series to even greater heights. Or at least, that’s what I thought when I first caught wind of the 2023 iteration of Crash Bash, anyway. Sorry, Crash Team Rumble.
I’ll be the first to admit that, in spite of the bandicoot already having an impenetrable fortress for a reputation and an iron casket of award-winning hits under its belt, the early previews of Crash Team Rumble just didn’t sit right with me. If anything, they reminded me of a watered-down mobile port—a quick cash grab with a litter of microtransactions to boot. And with respect to Toys for Bob, I was pretty on the money, too; Crash Team Rumble does, in fact, have a slew of in-game add-ons that come at a price. But as for all the other premature assumptions I made, well, let’s just say I shouldn’t have ever judged the book by its cover before getting a taste of its sweet, sweet Wumpa Fruits.
Welcome Back to the Party
To put you in the picture, Crash Team Rumble is the third party game to release under the Crash Bandicoot brand since its inception back in 1996. Its concept, much like the one featured in Crash Bash, revolves around a selection of mini-games and the general camaraderie between two teams of four players. Rather than spreading its assets over a wide variety of challenges, though, Crash Team Rumble boasts only the one mode — a 4v4 game that involves collecting and depositing Wumpa Fruits in a timely, albeit chaotic fashion.
On paper, anyone would immediately chalk up the conclusion that a single mode in a self-proclaimed party game is a recipe for disaster and nothing more. With less variety and fewer rules to wrap your head around, anything—even with a poster child as prominent and as universally cherished as Crash Bandicoot—would only be setting itself up to fall short at the first hurdle. However, Toys for Bob stuck by its guns and rolled with it, despite having received mixed feedback during the preliminary phases of its development. Did it pay off for the shortsighted studio, though, or did its lack of breadth result in conceiving nothing more than a twenty-minute throwaway?
It’s Certainly No Crash Bash
Let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room: Crash Team Rumble, no matter how hard it tries to disguise itself as a love letter to Crash Bash, isn’t Crash Bash. On the contrary, it’s a standalone product that brings its own style to the table—a formula that consists of traditional bandicoot-type platforming, witty humor, and on-stage shenanigans with high-octane action and team-based gameplay. A highly sustainable cocktail, if blended correctly, at least.
Just to echo the fact that this is indeed a live-service game, so even with only the one formula in its pot, Toys for Bob is bound to figure out new ways to spice up the concoction in later patches. For the time being, though, the one consumable it does have is surprisingly meaty—stodgy, even, and enough to justify the price of admission. And yeah, collecting Wumpa Fruits in a blind panic certainly isn’t the most innovative idea Toys for Bob could’ve come up with — but it did pour its heart and soul into making do with what it chose to create. Kudos to them for that, at least.
Encumbered by Wumpa Fruits
As far as the Wumpa Fruit-collecting gig goes, the rules are simple. They’re so simple, in fact, that anyone from the age of seven and up could quite easily break into the game without much more than a two-minute taster session and no previous experience in online multiplayer whatsoever. And that’s a good thing, truly, as it broadens the scope to allow for players of all ages, backgrounds, and skill levels to dive right into the deep end without any prior knowledge in the field. That is, of course, providing they’re willing to hang around for upwards of ten minutes to get into an actual match.
Anyway, as I was saying, the rules are simple: Wumpa Fruits are scattered around a map, and two teams of four are tasked with scavenging and depositing them into their respective storage areas. To win a match, one of the two teams must accrue a total of 2,000 Wumpa Fruits before their rivals. Simple enough, right? In theory, yes. Rather frustratingly, though, a bad and unfocused team can quite easily transform such a basic setup into something of an unwanted burden. Not good.
While the objective is simple, it doesn’t necessarily mean the teams you play on are destined to be goal-focused or driven to succeed, as I came to learn relatively early on while moving between lobbies. In fact, nine times out of ten I found myself hurled into teams who much preferred wreaking havoc on the map than actually playing through the motions. Was this a coping mechanism to help alleviate the chore of having to tackle the same fetch quest a dozen times over? Possibly. Either way, one thing became abundantly clear after just three rounds deep, and that was that players just couldn’t care less about Wumpa Fruit.
And That’s All
Although the first few matches of running wild and getting used to the mechanics does provide some level of enjoyment, the lack of breadth also becomes annoyingly apparent incredibly early on, too. As for what lies behind the smokescreen of endless fetch quests is another story—a perk that only those who are willing to yield to the temptation of paying extra will ever see in the virtual flesh. If it wasn’t for the monetization, and not to mention the lack of starting characters and features, Crash Team Rumble could’ve been so much more. And it just wasn’t that; it didn’t meet the benchmark like it should’ve done.
Don’t get me wrong, Toys for Bob has certainly built the groundwork for a solid party game, and one that has every right to be bolted to the Crash IP. But in spite of this, Crash Team Rumble still feels, I don’t know, unfinished? And for a $60 game from a studio of such high caliber, it’s only natural that you’d come to expect more content and less caveats.
Who knows, perhaps that’s just 2023 for you? After all, it isn’t unusual to have a live-service game laced with wall-to-wall monetization in this day and age, and Crash Team Rumble, with all due respect, appears to be nothing more than the latest link in the chain. We’ll let you decide on whether or not that’s a gold mine worth pursuing.
It’s still early days yet, so even with a dozen or more hours under the hammer, I know for a fact that there’ll be plenty more to experience, and that Crash Team Rumble, even in its current state, is still breaking in its training wheels. For the twelve or so hours I did pour into the party title, though, I couldn’t help but sing its praises, if only in bite-sized bursts.
Of course, when put up against the drawing board and next to the likes of Crash Bash and other noteworthy party-starting favorites, Crash Team Rumble does tend to disintegrate into the background. Sure enough, it isn’t the most memorable game in the world, nor is it one that’ll win any major awards at any mainstream event, either. But for what it’s worth, it is enjoyable; it’s addictive in its own unique way and more than capable of robbing you of a few dozen hours. And when all’s said and done, that’s the exact excuse we strive to discover when scouting out new video games.
The question of whether or not Crash Team Rumble is deserving of the price tag is another story. For $60, you could certainly find something that’ll keep you engaged for a longer period of time. However, given that this is a live-service title, and one that’ll no doubt introduce countless new patches in the foreseeable future, there’s also enough of an incentive to pour your money into it and see where it leads you—even if that does wind up being at rock bottom and with a catalog of extortionate microtransactions to capsize it.
It goes without saying that Crash fans will surely get a kick out of this one, even if, technically, it is a weaker version of Crash Bash. Swings and roundabouts, folks.
Crash Team Rumble Review (Xbox Series X|S & PlayStation 5)
Crash Team Rumble, while enjoyable in short bursts, lacks the breadth to be considered a permanent fixture in the multiplayer universe. With time, perhaps, but for now, $60 is a whole lot to request for something that, quite frankly, comes across as mediocre and somewhat forgettable even at the best of times.