The match was too close to call – 1990 to 1995 – but I wasn’t keeping track. All that stood between my team and victory was a chubby crocodile with a vacuum. I danced and jumped around him as he used his big belly and Luigi’s Mansion-like hoover to bounce me around like a loose piece of cat fluff. I just needed a few moments to deposit my Wumpa Fruit, and victory would be ours. I had my blinders on, and that was a mistake. The enemy team’s Wumpa Fruit meter quickly filled to 2000, and the match was over. My team had been defeated, but I was still hungry for more of Crash Bandicoot’s favorite fruit.
Crash Team Rumble, like Crash Bash and Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled before it, is a hectic multiplayer take on the famously difficult 24-year-old platforming franchise. It pits two teams of four against one another in a race to see which team can collect and deposit 2000 Wumpa Fruit first. It’s a simple formula, enhanced by streamlined controls, that makes for a delightful bite-sized and competitive multiplayer experience.
That simplicity is one of Crash Team Rumble’s most enticing features. There is a barrel full of DNA brought over directly from the mainline Crash Bandicoot series. Running, jumping, and attacking all feel like another run through Cortex Castle. Controlling Crash – or one of nine other starting characters from the franchise – feels wonderful.
You can enjoy Crash Team Rumble with these elements alone. All you need to know how to do is navigate around the map, collect Wumpa Fruit (either directly off the ground or by smashing boxes), deposit them into your team’s capture point, and avoid any enemies who want to fight. You’ll learn all that within seconds of jumping into Crash Team Rumble, but there is far more depth to unlock as you explore everything these fast-paced bouts of berry collecting have to offer.
A lot of the extra complexity falls to the wayside as you jump, claim gems, and use Dingodile’s vacuum to hover in the air for a few seconds. The three character classes – scorer, blocker, and booster – can also sometimes shift to little more than tidy organizational buckets, as any character can fill any role if used creatively.
Your team’s needs will change organically as a match progresses, so you may need to do all three in a single game. Dingodile is classified as a blocker, although I found myself going after gems and boosting my Wumpa-collecting teammates instead of solely blocking for several matches.
The joy of single-player Crash Bandicoot games is all about execution. You have to learn every inch of a map to conquer and unlock all its secrets. It’s easy to move on to the next level or to a new game once every box is smashed and boss defeated.
Even though Crash Team Rumble is built off part of the foundation of single-player Bandicoot games, the end goal couldn’t be more different. The only bosses you defeat are other players, and it often won’t be through perfect execution. It is messy, chaotic, platforming-filled matches that come down to the wire.
Abilities, gems, and relics add significant layers of complexity to Crash Team Rumble. Claiming multiple gems, usually three diamond-like platforms positioned next to each other, gives your team extra Wumpa Fruit for every deposited batch. Side abilities can be dropped almost anywhere on the map. Relics, also collected, can be used to unlock special stations all over the map.
Outlining many of these abilities and relic stations would ruin part of the fun of exploring them. Unlocking a spiky-vine ball for the first time and rolling onto the enemy point like Miley Cyrus made me unreasonably happy, and you are likely to feel the same way when you discover some of these wacky tools. Various team compositions, map-oriented squad movements, and well-timed item usage lead to considerable strategic depth – so much so that some players may find it intimidating.
Those hours are incentivized like most modern multiplayer games. You unlock the full cast of characters and abilities as you play and earn cosmetics as part of the game’s battle pass. While giving Crash a whole new wardrobe before you send him out to pick more fruit is rewarding, players who aren’t looking for a battle-pass-driven multiplayer grind may succumb to frustration.
Crash Team Rumble could be viewed as the natural progression of difficulty in the Crash Bandicoot franchise. It takes an entirely different type of preparation and offers a different reward, though. Crash Team Rumble’s take on multiplayer platforming madness is unique, with enough depth to keep you on your toes after hours of gameplay. Those searching for a fresh take on the long-running series should give it a try.
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