Review by Speedy Boris

"When Crash Bandicoot Went Downhill"

Crash Bash marked the turning point in the Crash Bandicoot library. Being the first game not developed by Naughty Dog (instead, a combo of Eurocom and Cerny Games), it had its work cut out for it to live up to or surpass its former entries. Does it? No.

1) Graphics: What a step down from Crash 1-Racing, and Crash 1 in particular! Whereas the Naughty Dog games had plenty of lush environments, Crash Bash feels a lot simpler in its textures and backgrounds. The adventure mode hub is a lot blander this time around, too: It's just a circular line-up of the levels, with an uninspired space backdrop. The character models even seem simpler, with characters looking more blocky (i.e. less polygons) than previous outings. I suppose this was done to make the graphics run at an acceptable framerate with so much on the screen, but it's still disappointing.

2) Sound: This is the only highlight of the game. While the actual sound effects are serviceable but nothing extraordinary, the music by in-house composer Steve Duckworth captures the same kind of quirky feel that the Mark Mothersbaugh/Josh Mancell tunes did from the first four games. I particularly like how he arranged the Crash 3 melody in different fashions; one of my personal favorite tracks in the game was for the first Pogo level, which is hip, funky, and heavy on the "baseball stadium" organ orchestration.

3) Controls/Gameplay: For a party game, Crash Bash doesn't feel like a good time. I'll go through all the events, and how they fare:

-Pogo Pandemonium: This is probably the best event theme in the game, though that isn't saying much. The goal is to hop on your pogo stick around the square arena. Each time you land on a space, it becomes your color, and hitting a purple crate adds up all the spaces of whose color you changed. The player with the most points wins. It's a reasonably fun event, especially when you get the "speed shoes" power-up, allowing you to hit more spaces in less time. The event isn't flawless, though: The arena is cramped, it can often be difficult to gauge perspectives the farther away from the bottom of the board you are, missiles from the other three players can grind you to a halt and are hard to avoid due to their speed, and too often, when you and the AI are going for the same crate, the AI often gets the crate instead of you, even when both are basically traveling the same speed and are the same distance away. It's infuriating when that happens, as it's like the AI has an unfair advantage.

-Polar Push: I loathe this event. The object is to knock the other three opponents off the ice using a polar bear that you're riding. There are four variants: In the first, you have to create an opening to knock them off first, as ice blocks surround the arena; the second has a walrus that keeps jumping onto the arena and tilting it; the third has Uka Uka progressively shrinking the arena with a laser beam; and the fourth involves shooting bombs at the other players so they're easier to knock off the platform. This could've been a fun little event, but they had to ruin it with one problem: The bump attack. It's supposed to nudge opponents off the ice, but what good does it do when the opponent has the same attack and often uses it at the same as you, effectively cancelling it all out? Matches often become futile efforts of butting heads and little else. Of course, that's if you even line up with an opponent in the first place, as the perspective makes it difficult to tell whether you are able to hit them from your standing position, and the imprecise controls while sliding on the slippery ice only makes this harder. Your best bet is to pick up a lightning bolt attack from the hovering machine or Uka Uka, as if you hold onto it long enough, the opponents will be struck with lightning and freeze momentarily, allowing you to knock them off the ice with no opposition. But even in that case, the effects of the attack don't last long enough, so there's no way you can take care of all three of them before they recover, unless you're in the second event where the arena tilts and they'll just slide off themselves.

-Ballistix: I used to like this event for some reason, but now, I can barely stand to play it. It's basically Pong except with four opponents instead of two (with two of the opponents being on the sides), and multiple balls instead of one. Variants include a version where you can grab the ball and send it flying, a version where a time-limited power-up allows balls to deflect away from you, and another where the entire arena tilts constantly. My problem with this mini-game is simple: It's impossible to avoid all the balls. If there were just one ball to worry about, that'd be one thing. But when there are four or five in the arena at once, there's no way you can possibly keep the balls away from entering your goal, unless you have amazing luck. It's especially impossible when they travel so fast, faster than a player can react, and further impossible when there are often two that go in-between you, meaning you can only defend against one of them at a time. That's really what this game boils down to: Luck. And what luck further boils down to is poor programming. I also don't like how difficult it is to land a ball in the side opponents' goals. You have to sort of ricochet the balls in a specific fashion, and again, it feels like luck when you do it right.

-Tank Wars: This one also sucks. You control a tank and the object is to blow your other three opponents away. Sounds simple, but the problem is your tank is way too slow, the arenas are cramped (which means trying to get away from enemy fire is next to impossible), and if you're caught between two enemies, you're screwed. It doesn't help that the fireballs stay lit for a long time, which means that you have to wait a long time before firing again, and it also makes it tougher to avoid attacks when they stay active for longer periods. The best thing to do in these events is just stay back and let two of the opponents kill each other first, leaving just one to worry about. The fourth tank level, taking place in a swamp and utilizing different play mechanics, is impossible, I swear. The controls are both too loose and too tight at the same time, if that makes any sense.

-Crate Crush: The object here is simple: Pick up the crates and throw them at your opponents. The last one standing wins. My main beef with this event is the throwing ability. It's difficult to throw diagonally, and it never seems like you can throw as far as your opponents. Much like Tank Wars, it's almost better to let two of the opponents die first so you can concentrate on one.

-Crash Dash: This event isn't so much bad as it is a huge step down from the wildly fun Crash Team Racing. Whereas that game was a perfection of the kart racing genre with a multitude of creative tracks, here we have one tiny, circular loop (all taking place on the same screen, mind you) where all you need is to make ten super short laps to win. Really? We went from CTR to this? Sure, they added hindrances to make this tougher, like missiles, the ability to be bumped off the arena, and environmental hazards such as volcanoes, but you're basically doing the same thing each time. One plus: At least these events are relatively easy to complete, unlike some of the other later events.

-Medieval Mayhem: Basically a catch-all term for a variety of events, this is what Crash Bash should've been in the first place: A variety, not just slight variants on the same six themes over and over. The first one requires you to pop the most balloons by jumping and hitting them. Simple enough, although a constantly-changing direction for the arena and color-changing balloons (you can only pop certain colors) make it more challenging. And much like other mini-games in this collection, the perspectives can be confusing at times. Still, it's not half bad. At least the platforming controls are decent.

In the second game, you're on a dragon and have to hold onto a gem long enough to shoot it at a moving target. How many points you get depends on how far back you are in the arena; the farthest spot nets you the most points. This is my least favorite of the Medieval games, because it's so blasted hard to hit that target, even though it's as big as a house. Much like Crate Crush, the diagonal shooting controls leave much to be desired. Also, you rarely seem to hold onto the gems for very long before the opponents snatch them away.

The third has you smashing mushrooms with your mallet. It's kind of like Whack-a-Mole. It's reasonably fun, though your mallet smashing attack could've been a touch faster.

The fourth is hard to describe, but is sort of a variant of Pogo Pandemonium where you have to get more points than everybody else by smashing enough barrels. See, you're carrying a powder keg and you have to explode the barrels, which vary in point amounts. It's not bad, although you run kind of slowly.

4) Conclusion: Crash Bash reeks of a "me too!" attempt to cash in on the Mario Party series, although it's kind of hard to prove much of a competition to that series that when you only have a small handful of unique mini-games. It doesn't help that many of these games have numerous problems that just plain don't make them fun to play. I beat the game back in 2000 when I first got it, but replaying it in 2010, I wonder how I even had the patience to put up with its frustrating gameplay. Even Crash fanatics should be wary of this title; I'd recommend just getting one of the Mario Party games instead.

Reviewer's Rating:   1.5 - Bad

Originally Posted: 07/07/10

Game Release: Crash Bash (US, 11/07/00)

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