Crash Team Rumble Review
After bringing us the first original Crash game in years, Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time, Toys for Bob keeps the new Crash coming with Crash Team Rumble. They’re doubling-down this time out, though, because this isn’t only an original game, it’s an original genre. Crash Team Rumble is a competitive multiplayer platformer, but don’t call it a MOBA. You can’t classify a game that creates a whole new classification.
What Toys for Bob has done is taken the core components of platformers, and Crash Banidicoot platformers in particular, and adapted them to team-based competitive gameplay. The overall goal is to be the first team to collect 2,000 wumpa fruit - if you’ve played Crash games before, you’ve probably collected tens of thousands of them yourself before. However, it’s not simply enough to grab the fruit, or to smash the familiar crates packed with them – in order to score you need to take the fruit to your team’s bank and deposit them.
Before each match begins, each team of four players each selects their characters. You can choose from heroes like Crash or Coco or villains like Neo Cortex and Dr. N. Brio, but everyone is part of the team here and your choice of character isn’t merely a matter of which skin you like best. The game’s characters are placed into one of three different roles: scorer, blocker, or booster. Scorers are focused on collecting Wumpa, and are able to carry more of the fruit before maxing out. The scorers are Crash, Tawna, and Catbat. Again, your choice within a role is not simply a matter of choosing your favorite character. Each one has their own unique abilities and will play a little differently. For example, Tawna can use her signature hookshot in matches, while Catbat has the ability to fly over short distances.
The opposite of the scorers are the blockers. Their goal is to play defense and prevent the other team from scoring. They can steal Wumpa, either by knocking it out of the hands of other players or by simply eliminating them, causing them to lose all of the Wumpa that they were carrying and sending them back to the spawn point. Your choice of blockers are Dingodile, Dr. N. Brio, and N. Tropy.
The third and final character class is the Booster, which you can play as Coco or Dr. Neo Cortex. As the name implies, they’re primary responsibility is generating boosts for their team. There are two primary ways to do this, Relics and Gems. Relics are collected around the map, just like the Wumpa, but less plentiful. Anyone can collect relics, but Boosters can carry more. Relics can be deposited at stations to unlock power-ups such as jump boosts, gun turrets, and force fields. Each map has its own unique stations, including one epic station that takes a lot of relics to capture, but unleashes a potentially game-changing power such as drones that drop TNT crates on the other team or a massive sandstorm tornado that sweeps up any opposing team members caught in its path.
Gems aren’t jewels, but rather collections of platforms. Jumping on these platforms will change them to your team’s color, and if you change all of the platforms in a cluster to your color your team will get a bonus Wumpa multiplier when you bank the fruit. It takes some time for a platform to change color, so teams can battle it out on the Gems when trying to claim them. Again, anyone can capture a Gem, but Boosters can get them to turn to their team’s color faster.
Selecting a character from a class isn’t just a matter of selecting a skin, though. Each one has unique skills and attacks, so while their overall role may be the same, they’ll play differently. For example, Dingodile has a vacuum gun for scooping up Wumpa or stealing it from other players and a vicious tail spin attack, while Dr. N. Brio is weak on his own, but after drinking down a potion transforms into a ground-pounding monster that’s unstoppable for a short time. Also, you aren’t necessarily pigeonholed into a role based on your class selection. Blockers can bank Wumpa and Boosters can attack other players to prevent them from scoring.
Once you select a character, you’ll need to select a power. All powers are available to all characters and are like specials in that they can only be deployed once your power meter is full. Powers include the Healing Fridge, a fridge that generates a healing zone for allies and the Gasmoxian Guard, a large defender that wields an electrical hammer with a knockback attack. Drop one on the other team’s bank and you’ll make it quite difficult for them to deposit their Wumpa.
Each match begins with two teams of four players each starting from their team’s spawn point. Bank placement depends on the map. Banks can be near the spawn points, making the match more of a race to collect Wampa, or they may be across the map, giving teams the option to pursue a defensive strategy. The maps also vary the Gem placement and the number of and verticality of the platforms, giving matches on different maps their own character. Just Beachy is a relatively low and open map with the team banks near their spawn points, while NSanity Caverns features a lot of platforms and verticality.
There are a number of different strategies your team can pursue based on the map and each player’s character selection. While you can adjust that strategy on the fly, you can’t change your team makeup. Players are locked into their character selection for the duration of the match. There are plusses and minuses to this design decision. The developers wanted players to know who they were up against the whole match, but on the other hand if you enter the match with the wrong team makeup to counter what the other team selected, you can be in for a quick and frustrating defeat. It also would have been interesting to change your strategy as the match progressed, such as switching to three blocker and a scorer when nearing victory and completely locking down the opposing team’s bank. Of course, your team’s ability to implement a cohesive strategy depends on whether or not you’re playing with friends. If you really on random matchmaking, sometimes you’ll get a game where everyone plays their role and works together and in others your team will be an uncoordinated mess. You do have the option of creating private matches if you want to play only with friends, and you can fill any empty slots with bots. You can also use this mode to practice with different characters against bots on your own. However, only the public matches support character and season progression.
After a match you’ll be awarded points for your performance – Wumpa banked, Relics deposited, players eliminated, etc. These accomplishments go towards completing goals, character level, and season progression. You begin the game with access to one character from each class and to two of the available powers. Completing goals and leveling characters will allow you to unlock the rest. All of the remaining unlockables in the game are cosmetic, either character skins and accessories or icons and badges for your profile. While leveling characters only unlocks accessories and badges related to that character, season progression is not tied to a particular character. There are no character boosts or enhancements that have any effect on gameplay.
The game is pretty simple to pick up and play – a short interactive tutorial will cover everything that you need to know within a few minutes. There is a surprising number of strategic options here, though, and part of the fun is adjusting your play to the current map and the makeup of the teams. Things can often get chaotic, which is certainly part of what makes the game entertaining. I found the game most enjoyable in shorter sessions of a few matches; it makes for a great diversion in that case. Longer sessions can get to be a bit of grind, though, which brings me back to the season progression. There are fifty tiers of unlockables, but the progress through them is rather slow – most likely to make the premium pass with its 25-tier instant unlock more tempting. If you make it your goal to get through all fifty tiers, then the game will begin to feel like a bit of a grind. At one point during the press sessions for the game, all of the tiers were unlocked for us. While it was certainly fun playing around with all of the skin, hat, backpack, etc. combos for the characters and seeing what other players came up with, it was a little surprising to me that I felt some disappointment after the matches when the match experience I accumulated went nowhere. I think the game would benefit from adding overall player levels – even without any effect on gameplay, getting some recognition for the additional progression would be satisfying. More characters and maps are planned for the future, but some players may not feel motivated to keep playing once they completed the season tiers until there’s something new in the game to work towards. Still, Toys for Bob should get a lot of credit for making a competitive multiplayer platformer that not only works, but is fun to play.
Final Rating: 78% - A multiplayer Crash game that will have you battling on foot rather than in karts.
Note: A review code for this game was provided by the publisher.