When Crash Team Rumble was first announced, I was a little skeptical. Another Crash Bandicoot-based multiplayer title sounded like a bad idea when you look at its only predecessor, Crash Bash, and its over-reliance on fan service while delivering a shallow and redundant experience. Thankfully, Crash Team Rumble shattered my expectations by serving a MOBA-like multiplayer experience that is very multiplayer, very chaotic, and very much Crash Bandicoot. It also helps that the new CTR (not to be confused with Crash Team Racing) is FUN.
It’s safe to say, straight off the bat, if you’re going into Crash Team Rumble for a rich and compelling storyline, you are in the wrong location. A small—albeit skippable—cutscene on the title screen impels the chaos that unfolds in CTR. Toys for Bob brought back the design of Crash 4 and somehow, controlling Crash—or the selection of other characters from the series—feels the same as the mainline title. This is a superb choice, as Crash Bandicoot and platforming have a codependency that Toys for Bob took advantage of to make characters a joy to handle.
The magic behind Crash Team Rumble is its clever and simplistic design. In a Rumble, there are three roles a player can play; a scorer, a blocker, or a booster. These three roles require teamwork to fulfill the objective, which is to collect 2000 Wumpa fruit—a Crash Bandicoot staple—before the opposing team.
A scorer collects Wumpa and banks it to score points, a booster captures gems to increase the Wumpa deposit percentage and collects relics to wreak havoc on the opposing team with random arena effects, and a blocker attempts to stop the other team from collecting the lifeblood of the game, Wumpa.
“Crash Team Rumble shattered my expectations by serving a MOBA-like multiplayer experience that is very multiplayer, very chaotic, and very much Crash Bandicoot.”
It’s interesting to note in previous Bandicoot-laden entries, Wumpa fruit only provided extra lives when reaching 100, but Toys for Bob increased their usefulness and importance. In Crash 4, collecting the fruit can net the player gems, and in Crash Team Rumble, it is the prime objective. Toys for Bob must really love Wumpa fruit.
There’s an opening roster of some of the most recognizable characters in the Crash series, with eight in total. Crash, Coco, Dingodile, Neo Cortex and N. Brio round out the classics, with the alternate universe N. Tropy and Tawna from Crash 4 also making an appearance. The Catbat is the final character on the opening day roster making a rookie debut, and it looks like another ‘failed’ Cortex experiment which means it fits right in with the rest of the cast.
Crash Team Rumble matches are a four-versus-four affair, and they become chaotic quickly. This is where the simple control scheme comes in as the best teammate. The chaos that ensues between capturing gems, collecting relics, banking Wumpa, and of course brawling with the other team needs an impeccable control scheme, and Crash Team Rumble delivers. Imagine if the Crash Bandicoot universe had a professional sport: Crash Team Rumble would be it.
While Crash has your basic Bandicoot skillset of belly flops, spins to smash boxes/ opponents, and big jumps, Dingodile uses a vacuum to steal Wumpa from other players as a blocker and uses a monstrous heavier spin attack to send adversaries flying. N. Brio comes equipped with a frail glass cannon body complete with his Frankenstein’s Monster transformation, and Tawna has her signature grappling hook from Crash 4. Coco even has the ability to throw up a ephemeral wall to stop scorers or block opponents from landing safely on platforms. There are MANY moving pieces in a Crash Team Rumble game, and it all works incredibly well.
“Crash Team Rumble matches are a four-versus-four affair, and they become chaotic quickly.”
While playing as a booster, relics also play a big part in a Rumble. Collecting and banking relics can give your team a massive advantage, with one of the environmental hazards that can be achieved by collecting a certain amount. Smaller boosts can reward the player with a spiked hamster ball that smashes into enemies and deals huge damage. The spike ball hearkens back to other Crash series titles — think the ‘Crash Compactor’ level from Crash 4—and is an excellent touch to keep the player riddled with Bandicoot remembrances during a game.
Bigger relic environmental effects can cause massive disruptions on the Rumble stage, and all of them nod back at the series. One of the effects sees Nitros Oxide—from the other CTR—shoot a UFO laser down at the battlefield, causing massive damage like the Hammer of Dawn from Gears of War, while another causes a massive sandstorm that throws enemies everywhere but where they need to go. All the elements in Crash Team Rumble work cooperatively to make a fun MOBA that stays true to Crash Bandicoot himself.
One of my favourite features in every Crash game is the music, and oh my, Toys for Bob outdid themselves with the soundtrack. There are hit songs littered through the Crash Team Rumble soundtrack including three forms of the Neo Cortex theme, ‘Toxic Waste’ from the 1996 original, and when players grasp Aku Aku, the invincibility theme plays.
“Crash Team Rumble is exactly what I want out of a multiplayer title, FUN.”
Toys for Bob brought the heat when it comes to Crash music, and as a bonus, players can include a song of their choice—if it is already unlocked—to play when they K.O. another player. Getting zapped by Neo Cortex’s falling piano ability and then having to listen to his theme AND his big laugh at the same time feels like I was defeated three times instead of one.
While Crash Team Rumble does have high points, I do have some gripes to contend with. At times the game feels unbalanced, and there are special abilities a character can equip that are usable when the cooldown allows. One of these is called the Gasmoxian Guard, and honestly, this ability is so overpowered after using stuff like the Bounce Crate, everything else feels useless in comparison. It’s not uncommon to see full games of eight players, all using this same power-up instead of anything else.
The opening roster is also a little shallow. Toys for Bob has promised that more characters will be featured in the future, but, just like the power-up issue I mentioned, it’s not uncommon to see four of the same character on screen at once which can become stale at times. Once players choose a character for a Rumble match, they’re committed. You cannot change your character mid-game to adjust to your team’s needs—other MOBA titles like Pokémon Unite let you do this—which feels like a poor oversight.
There is also a Season Pass in Crash Team Rumble, which effectively throws an extra entry fee into the mix. The items contained or earnable in the Season Pass are purely cosmetic, but with an opening roster of eight characters and a retail price to play Crash Team Rumble, this feels like an extra toll as a Day One pass.
Crash Team Rumble is exactly what I want out of a multiplayer title, FUN. All the hi-jinks that can ensue in a single Rumble match demand the player stick around for another game. Toys for Bob did a great job staying true to the Bandicoot’s identity, while also crafting a good MOBA title that looks good and more importantly, feels good to play. Balancing issues aside, Crash Team Rumble is a great time that stays true to a beloved mascot in gaming and is an easily enjoyable experience.