Review by Dalton Of Zeal

Reviewed: 03/29/04

River City Ransom olympics? It's as fun as it sounds!

Enter Todd Thornley the Third: student, athlete, and son of Mr. Thornley, president and founder of Thornley Industries. Being the only child in his family, as well as having a rich and powerful father, Todd has grown up with a silver spoon in his mouth, and a general spoiled rich kid demeanor. But he's also quite the accomplished athlete, leading the Washington University All-Boys Track Team, while still managing to fit in time to study at this prestigious academy and follow in his successful father's footsteps. But poor Todd has a problem; no matter how good of an athlete he is, he STILL hasn't won the Annual All City Track Meet. And the crushing part?

He's been beaten every year by a team from the lowly Southside Community College.

Oh, the humanity!

Enter Crash Cooney: student, athlete, and all-around tough guy. Unlike Todd, he doesn't have a rich father, or a silver spoon. Crash is a man of the streets, it seems; he's rude, crude, and tough. He's also the leader of the Southside Community College track team. Every year, Crash and his boys win the All City Track Meet with ease, due to Crash's incredible athletic prowess, and Crash gets all the glory (and the lovely ladies) afterwards.

Todd has lost for the last time.. he's had it! Bursting into his father's office (taking out the door in the process), he's bawling his eyes out, crying about his recent loss. Rather than giving him a speech about how ''Winning isn't everything'', his dad tells him there's no room for failures in his family, and if he messes up one more time, he's history! Ouch.. what a burn.... poor Todd. If he doesn't shape up, he'll be forced to live in the dreaded middle-class section of the city! He might even... brace yourself.. have to work a 40 hour work week!


But wait; Todd has an idea! Why not challenge those Southside jerks to another track meet? But this time, there will be no rules, no holds barred, and no mercy! And to ''sweeten'' the deal (or lead the Southsiders into a sense of false security), the events will be played out in the Southsiders turf!

Mr. Thornley loves the idea; this may be the chance for his no-goodnik spoiled son to bring home the gold. Also participating in the tournament are two nearby schools; Lincoln and Jefferson. And as a backup plan in case Todd fails (and Mr. Thornley assumes that he will), a 5th team made from Thornley Inc's roughest, toughest factory workers will participate in the events to show those kids how REAL men play the game!

That's the premise behind Crash N' The Boys: Street Challenge. What the game delivers is an incredibly fun, 4-Player track and field game that really makes good on the aforementioned ''no rules'' aspect. From the start, you are offered to choose how many people will play (1 to 4 players), and each player will assume control of one of the 4 schools (if there aren't enough players, the CPU gets all the unwanted schools). From there, you can play all 5 events in order, play a short game of 3 events, or simply practice one event. As they say, practice makes perfect.. and you'll need it, because the winner who trounces over the other 3 schools in each event will face off against Team Thornley!

R U Tuff Enough?

The events themselves are the meat of the game, but the main objective of the game is to have as many ''medals'' as possible at the end of the game. Medals are given to your team for winning the events (depending on what place you finished in), and can be found scattered around during some of the events. Medals also act as currency; between events, you're free to shop for track meet ''essentials'' such as armour, brass knuckles, thumbtacks; or for the man with medals to spare, a violent robotic fish named Chomper who, when deployed, makes a beeline for the crotch...

But wait! What kind of crazy track meet would involve such things as body armour or Chomper, the aforementioned mechanical mackerel? That's the Street Challenge, my friend! Take a seemingly innocent event such as 100 Meter Hurdles; in Crash 'N The Boys, it's called ''Hurt-les'' because the goal is to to make it to the Finish line first, but you are now allowed to shoulder tackle through hurdles and toss the pieces at the opposition. If that doesn't work, the two tracks are close together, so grab a discarded hurdle bar and take a 360 degree swing at the other guy! And if a hurdle isn't handy, there's always the easy to perform spinning jump kick.

Or how about the Water Slaughter? In this event, it's you and your opponent in a swimming race, but with no finish line, getting to the end first doesn't matter. The object of this event is to knock the other guy out, via underwater brawling, or the incredibly cruel act of sitting on your opponent's head as he comes up for air! Then there's Rooftop Jumping, where you pole-vault, unicycle, or even long-jump like Mario to cross a city skyline (three strikes and you plummet to the ground!). Or Hammer Golf, where the ball is of the ''and-chain'' variety, and your clubs are your athlete's River City Ransom-esque arms. The final event is my personal favourite; an all-out street brawl between 2 fighters, featuring such classic special moves as the ''Lower The Boom Punch'' (in which you spin your opponent around on your pinky finger, then toss him into the air and uppercut him in the back, sending him flying into the concrete!)

Of course, these events wouldn't be any fun if they were poorly executed, right? Well, Crash 'N The Boys does things right. For example, the hurt-les event is played on one screen with a side-view, rather than a split screen. Now, it may sound unusual to do it this way, but there's a reason. If you are nailed by a flying hurdle (and you will be), falling off the screen won't throw you way behind with no hope of winning; rather, you'll be thrown back onto the track, relatively close to your opponent, with a slight loss of HP. There's always a chance to catch up and grab first place.

Two of the events (Hammer Golf and Rooftop Jumping) are played solo, and only the former really seems to slow the game down a little. The course takes a while to complete, mainly if you decide to take it slow and pick up the medals along the way. Water Slaughter takes place on a single screen, with a fair amount of water to swim around in. Judo is your typical Final Fight setup; you can move in all directions, and the A and B buttons serve as kick and punch, and can be paired with the D-Pad for running attacks.

Each event is handled differently, with a different perspective and a different control setup. The controls take a little getting used to, mind you, but they are a vast improvement from the standard take on track and field games. Yes, the games contain a fair amount of button mashing, but not without consequence. For instance, when grappling in the Judo event, you wear down your opponent with B button tapping, but after sapping his strength to nil, you have a short amount of time to scroll through potential moves with the A Button and confirm with B. If you were to tap B mindlessly, you wouldn't even get to perform a move.

Or the Water Slaughter, where you must press B and directions on the D-Pad to punch without getting counter-punched. You can press the buttons as fast as you like, but you won't get much out of it aside from a knuckle-sandwich in the face (double the pain if he's wearing brass knuckles!) Even the Hurt-les event has you being careful; tapping right on the D-pad increases your running speed (you run automatically), but running at constant top speed makes you an easy target for your opponent, and an even easier target for a tossed hurdle spanking. And the made to be played with a Turbo controller Hammer Golf is much more rewarding if you take it easy and not throw so hard; you won't get first place, but you will pick up more than the victor's share of medals strewn along the course if you throw and aim carefully.

The teams feature 5 players each, with a big shot leader in the front, along with his right-hand lackey, and 3 other guys they brought along to fill the slots. Obviously, the higher-ups have better statistics than the filler, but having them play through every event is not a good idea. Competing in events takes a toll on one's HP, and if you decide that Crash should always be the man for the job, he'll be burnt out at the halfway point, attempting to leap the city skyline, only to slam into the side of a high-rise, unable to pull himself up. And when Judo rolls around, he'll be knocked to the floor with a few measly punches. You have a team to control in this game, so spread the events out between your team members! Some have higher stats in one department, but are not so hot in others. In essence, no team is better than any other (aside from maybe Thornley), so no player can choose one team and win every time.

The characters and setting themselves are humorous, never to be taken very seriously. The title may make the game seem like a knock-off of the abysmal State of Emergency, but the graphics are of the cute sprite variety, with chubby tough guys and chubby schoolgirls. The dialogue and music are lighthearted, and suit the graphics well. The characters are easily distinguishable from one another; there are a few different skin colours, eyes, lots of different hairstyles, and facial features of each character, though the body frames are always the same. And the characters are humourously named and designed; from Crash, to Cheese, to Wheels, to the nerdy but tough Brawny, to the Wacko Jacko-esque Milo. As lighthearted as the graphics are, the competition is fierce, unlike many ''kiddy'' games these days, which focus completely on graphics.

With careful planning, some practice in the game's 5 events, perhaps a bit of spending to make the events go more smoothly (Retreat for the Rooftop Jumping event is a MUST) and a bit of luck, you will be able to trounce even the mighty Team Thornley, and win bragging rights over... well, that's where Crash 'N The Boys really shines. Playing the game is fun on your own, but as you play against computer opponent after computer opponent, you'll realize that this game is tailor-made for a group of 4. I've had this game a long time now, and I have invited my friends over countless times to play a few rounds of this game together. As a bonus, since only 2 people play the events at once, the game doesn't require a multi-tap or 4 controllers!

It isn't a revolution; it's just a lot of fun

Overall, Crash 'N The Boys is a real winner; a classic 4-player game that's easy to get into, if not a little difficult to control at first. Fun on its own, but even better if you can round up 3 friends and play the whole game through, Crash has stood the test of time for me, and I still enjoy playing it, even though my friends aren't into this kind of thing any more. If you are as sick as I am of FMV-loaded, story-driven, 1-player ''epics'' with average gameplay, seek out this old relic and relive the days of games when graphics weren't important, high scores mattered, FMV was nil, gamers actually played games together. If you can find a group to play this game with, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

HIGHLY recommended.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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