Published on July 6th, 2023 | by Daniel
Crash Team Rumble! PS5 Review
Summary: A surprise I never thought would work so well. Kinda like the Wumpa Bazooka, it doesn't make sense, but somehow, it just works!
Crash has come a long way from his humble beginnings as a failed experiment, turned wumpa hording, plan sabotaging, Cortex pounding Bandicoot. If you’d have told me a few years ago, that a 4v4 arena battle in the style of Crash Bandicoot would be a great idea. I’d tell you to pass me whatever you were smoking, but the idea seemed insane and impossible. But here we are, midway through 2023 and it really exists. Crash Team Rumble, a team based competition where heroes and villains have come together to claim victory, in a battle for the most Wumpa fruit. So pick your favourite character, do you go with the classic Crash? Or do you take one of the unique support characters? Dominate the field, collect and capture wumpa fruit and be victorious!
On paper, Crash Team Rumble seems like such a crazy idea. One that breaks the fundamentals of other games of it’s kind. Instead of mastering the layout of a map to take out the enemy team, earning medals for how many takedowns and in how many different ways. You’re instead racing against your opponent to be the first team to collect 2000 of the series’ famous Wumpa fruit. The game is online only competitive multiplayer, pitting you and 3 other friends or strangers up against another team of 4. There are 8 iconic characters from the franchise that are currently available, with more on the way. They’re all categorised into their own unique roles, scorers are; Crash, Tawna and Catbat. Blockers are; Dingodile, Dr. N. Brio and Dr. N. Tropy and finally, boosters are; Coco and Dr. Neo Cortex. At first, only Crash, Coco and Dingodile are unlocked. But the longer you play, the more challenges and medals you collect, the more characters you unlock. I’ll give you a rundown of each role below:
- Scorers: As the name implies, this category specialises in speed and wumpa collecting. With a moderate stat spread across all categories and a high Wumpa stat, these guys can hold a lot of Wumpa. Each of the characters in this category have their own unique abilities, for example Crash retains his triple spin, slide and air dash, along with his signature super slam, Tawna instead has a super pin kick, a hookshot with a longer range dash (that also deals damage) and a hookshot uppercut. Catbat is very different from the previous pair, she can fly for a certain amount of time, attacks opponents with her wings and can even divebomb her enemies. But probably the most unique thing about her is that she can heal herself and her team with her heal burgers.
- Blockers: Once more, the name is obvious, this category specialises in offence, defense and taking down opponents. With generally low mobility, there are some exceptions to the rule, and sacrificing the ability to collect as many Wumpa. They instead focus mostly on maximum health and combat damage, for example, Dingodile has a vacuum to suck up Wumpa, but it doubles as a short range blaster to both drawn in and knock opponents back. This is especially useful on the edge of arenas where it can be hard to come back. Dr N. Brio has the unique ability to transform into a hulking brute to smash Wumpa crates and opponents alike. He can also toss a slime monster out to attack his foes, these creatures can also contest gems.
- Boosters: This is probably the more out there class, these guys specialise in being incredibly mobile. They main advantage is to chase down gem spawns on both sides, the more gem boosts they can score for their team. The more Wumpa the scorers can score. Right now there’s only Coco and Cortex and they are polar opposites. Coco sports a quantum wall, which boosts hers and allies speed but additionally hurts her opponents. And she can also use her spiral ability to launch herself into the air, damaging all foes she runs into, she can also double jump whilst in a spiral. Cortex on the other hand, can transform his opponents, when dashing into them, this causes a massive knockback, excellent when used near map edges or to push the other team into their allies or their special powers, both personal or stage powers.
Playing each character is fun, each of them really do feel unique. Crash and Dingodile are great starters and solid all-rounders in their roles. But this is a game where unlocking the other playable characters actually means something. Tawna might not have as much health as Crash, but she’s faster and stronger. Catbat is even weaker and can’t collect as many wumpa, but is more agile and can heal herself and allies. It’s the same in the blocker and booster categories, giving everyone their own unique feel and skillset is no easy feat. This gives the game plenty of replayability initially, despite only being a game of one mode and a handful of maps that will eventually repeat. With each new unlock or whenever you get tired of playing one character you can mix it up by playing another.
That’s not all there is to it, no. The maps themselves each have a unique set of features. The game boasts a rather large variety of maps, nine in total at launch with more on the way. Each map also has it’s own relic stations, some maps feature two, others a whopping three. All provide an advantage to your team in one way or another; some by boosting mobility, like speed or jump boosts. Others by providing offensive or defensive boosts, some even give you a boost by charging your abilities faster or even boosting your wumpa scores! Most of the maps themselves are laid out in symmetrical fashion but there’s also a few asymmetrical maps too. The early maps feel like an introduction to the game, playing as pretty straight forward dashes from side to side in order to collect the most boxes and dump into your bank to score. Others provide more of a challenge, some being more vertical than others, placing their gem locations above risky zones and requiring more finesse to master. The game thankfully doesn’t feel very pay-to-win, though it definitely rewards players who’ve put the time in to learn their chosen characters to the max. And those who learn the layouts of each map to best utilise speed and precision to secure boosts, relic pads and score the most wumpa.
Crash Team Rumble is addictive, fast paced and action packed. Every second is spent blasting around the field chasing wumpa fruit, gems or steamrolling your opponents all the way to that sweet, wumpa flavoured victory.
Graphics and audio are going to be lumped together as there’s less to talk about in these categories compared to other games.
If you’ve played any of the most recent Crash games, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time! or Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled, then the graphics here will be very familiar. Crash has always had the same catroony vibe about it since the series first inception all those years back in the 90s when I was but a child. It’s simply been refined over the years to still retain that nostalgic Crash feel, but for a modern era. It’s bright, vibrant and colourful. Characters have all been designed with incredible detail and effects of both character abilities and map relic stations are spectacular. Maps are inspired by actual game locations throughout the franchise and bring them to life, shading is crisp and clean, down to a level where you can even see the little details on the sides of wumpa crates.
One thing I love, which I’ll cover a bit more of in the audio section, is the ability to customise almost everything in the game. From custom skins, to accessories like hats, backpacks, emotes, score effects, event the shadows they cast in game! With the battle pass, you can level up as you go along, yes it means spending a bit of money, but it does offer a reason to keep playing, to collect more customisable items. There’s definitely a market for this in games now, there will always be those who dislike it and others who will pay for it anyway. As far as I’m concerned as long as they’re not bleeding you dry of money and you’re able to get hours more enjoyment out of the game. Then it’s fine by me.
Skins can be as simple as Crash with a different colour fur. Or as complex as pixelated Crash from the first game. Hats are silly little additions, from dunce hats, to bowler hats and more. Similar to hats, backpacks range from simple, to out right carrying a robot or a mummy strapped to your back. I do love how each and every customisable option has a unique little soundbite that plays when you select them in the menus. This made for some funny moments where I’d simply scroll between the various options, just to hear the silly sounds each one played.
Crash Team Rumble has a nostalgic packed soundtrack. The menus have an upbeat, modern remix of the original opening tracks from each of the various series installments. Each character in the heroes menu comes with their own background music unique to each of them, each from various moments in the franchise’s history. For example Crash’s is the iconic tune that plays at the end of each level of Crash III: Warped. Each character has their own unique tune you can unlock by playing and progressing with them. If you have the battle pass, you can earn some music through that way too. The benefit of having these tracks selected only shows itself if you’re the MVP of a given match. So while it’s fun to hear them in the menus, it becomes really special to hear it when you ace a match and are rewarded with the opportunity to show it off to everyone else in the match.
Each map as their own unique and modern take on existing songs from the franchise, so nothing overly new. But when playing a radically different Crash Bandicoot game such as this. The familiarity of the soundtrack is very well received and welcome. There’s no spoken words in the game apart from some minor voice lines from each character and the booming, excitable voice of the arena announcer. The simplicity is welcome, there’s no need for story or voiced lines in a game designed for you to wumpa stomp (see what I did there?) your opponents to victory. But perhaps a couple of taunts to throw at the opposing team, perhaps even a few unique interactions between characters directly relating to one another, like Crash Vs Coco or Cortext, could have been a nice addition. Overall however, a solid build that I don’t really have many complaints.
I absolutely expected to try this game out for a couple days, get bored after a few matches and put it away never to touch it again. But boy was Crash Team Rumble a slap in the face, that I never saw coming. It’s fun, fast paced and addictive. Matches are short and sweet, not long enough to get boring and just long enough to get a little sweaty when it comes to those tight matches. Where both teams are evenly matched and fighting hard for every last wumpa, takedown, boost or block. Does it suffer from balancing issues? Absolutely, some matches you can be stomped in under a minute, others you could eradicate the opposition in less than a minute yourself. And as a result of the lack of players at any given time, you might get stuck playing against the same sweaty players for a few matches one after the other. But the game is designed in a way that simply changing the character you play can affect how the next match plays out.
The lack of modes is a worrying sign, but the one mode we do have is so well fleshed out. That you don’t notice it at first, it takes a good chunk of playtime before you start feeling the burn out. And it’s the perfect game to blow off a little steam in. Is it worth the surprisingly steep price tag? Probably not, for a game with only one mode, less than 10 characters at release and content that is earned mostly by either paying for the deluxe edition or battle pass. It’s simply just not enough, if it was sold as an add-on to a re-release of Crash 4 or perhaps paired with a new mainstream game, it might be worth it. Or sold separately at half the current retail price as an arcade style game, then I’d buy it.
For me, it boils down to a simple fact, am I missing out by avoiding the hefty price tag? No. It’s good fun for what it has and what it does. But there are other games that provide the same dopamine hit for better value or contain more content. I hope with the characters due for release in future, the developers can come up with more content or modes to pair them with.
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