I must confess that I’ve not actually played a Crash Bandicoot game before. I know, I know, how is that even possible? And having never experienced the marsupial madness of this classic series, approaching Crash Team Rumble slightly intimidating. Not only would I have to do online battle with a small army of kids who have too much free time and too much skill, but I would also have to do so not knowing my Wumpa fruit from my Quantum Masks. Thankfully, I need not have been concerned, as Crash Team Rumble is undoubtedly one of the most accessible multiplayer games I’ve encountered.
The set-up for Crash Team Rumble is simple enough: two teams of four loveable characters from the extended Crash Bandicoot universe do battle in an enclosed arena. Each team must explore the level – consisting of platforms, bridges, and falls into the infinite abyss – to collect Wumpa fruit. Once a player character is laden with all the delicious fruit they can carry, they must lug it back to their bank (and avoid getting twonked by the other team in combat) and add their ill-gained booty to their team’s score. The first team to reach two thousand points wins. Simple, eh?
Several wrinkles are added by the addition of floating gem platforms; landing on these twinkling delights will capture them for you and your buds. Hold off the opposing team for long enough and the gems will be yours and yours alone for several minutes, the result being that you receive a score multiplier. That is until the gemstones are up for grabs again and all hell lets loose once more. It’s a bit like capture the flag, basically.
Then there are relics to locate; find these, stick them in a relic bank, and you’ll unlock a ridiculously entertaining power-up. You’ll be turning into a bouncing beach ball of doom, summoning a terrifying tornado, or transforming your team into super-powered ghost yeti thingies.
There are three different character types to choose from. You have Crash and his ilk – the scorers – who are responsible for collecting fruit and getting points on the board. Then you have blockers, such as the enormous Dingodile, who are armed to the teeth and intent on stealing collectibles from puny scorers. Finally, characters like Coco Bandicoot are Boosters, and have the requisite skills to capture gem platforms with aplomb.
And, when it comes to Crash Team Rumble that is pretty much it, which proves to be both a strength and a weakness. On the plus side, the simple nature of the game makes it supremely accessible. Controls for the 3D platforming are straightforward and the tutorial is concise and clear. Thanks to the distinctive and limited character types, even when playing with complete strangers you’ll work pretty well as a team without much fuss, as each player goes about the task that their avatar is best suited for. Levels are compact and easy to navigate, with a generous double jump ensuring even the most inaccessible-looking platforms are a doddle to reach. Ideal for younger gamers then, or more mature players whose well-worn gaming skills are seeming to fade at a worrying rate.
There is a negative to this simplicity though, it that once you’ve played as a few characters and lost – I mean, ‘won’ – a few matches, you’ve pretty much encountered all there is in Crash Team Rumble. At this stage, in its embryotic first season, there is only one game mode on offer and a handful of maps to collect Wumpa in. After an hour of play, you will have played on each stage several times. There are a couple of extra characters and a fair few costume items to unlock, and Toys for Bob have set the levelling up speed to glacial. Unlocking one boring bobble hat for completing a character level is hardly incentive to keep playing. As the season continues this situation will likely change, but seeing as Crash Time Rumble is a £25 release rather than free to play, you really don’t get much bang for your buck, or pound for your pound, depending on your preferred currency of choice.
What you did get for your money though is a rock-solid online game. Players are found quickly, matches are stable, and I am yet to encounter any crashes. The game also seems pretty popular with a lot of players out there. These solid foundations suggest that Crash Team Rumble could enjoy plenty of support and success in the future.