Review by GBishop

Reviewed: 03/13/01 | Updated: 03/13/01

Crash's imitation of Mario Party just isn't a very satisfying experience.

There’s no way around it: Crash Bandicoot doesn’t have an original bone in his body. From his platforming adventures to his Kart racer, Crash has been imitating Mario shamelessly. Fortunately for Crash, as well as Naughty Dog and Universal Interactive Studios, his games have been well-designed and fun to play, leading to exceptional sales and a bona fide franchise. So here comes along Crash Bash, another obvious attempt to cash in on the success of a popular Mario title, Mario Party. What is different is that Naughty Dog, the team behind Crash’s original success, is no longer on board with Universal Interactive Studios, and this game was instead produced by Eurocom. What effect the absence of Naughty Dog will mean for the quality of future Crash platformers is impossible to know, but as far as this game is concerned, Crash Bash just seems to be missing the spark the other Crash games possess.

As with the Mario Party games, Crash Bash is essentially made up of a bunch of mini-games that can be played by up to four people at once. There’s no board game aspect from the Mario games, which was a neat way to frame all the games; instead, Crash Bash takes a more direct approach, allowing you to just jump in, in one of three different modes. In Battle mode, you select the mini-game you want to play from all that are available, and then you go at it. You can go alone or divide into two teams for cooperative play, and this is the only mode where that option is available. It’s good for practice or for a really quick game. In Tournament mode, you select one group of mini-games to play, with four in each group, and the winner is the one who wins the most rounds. In both modes, you have the option of setting the number of victories needed to win a particular game. It’s fairly simple to grasp.

The other main mode is Adventure mode, where you select one character to go through the game (two for two-players, duh), battling computer-controlled opponents in every single mini-game the game has. There’s a fairly weak background story for all this, where the two masks from the previous games, Aku Aku and Uka Uka, are having some dispute over who would win in a fight between good and evil. Naturally, the only way to resolve this conflict is to have a bunch of Crash Bandicoot characters represent each side in a series of battles for trophies, crystals, gems, and ankhs. There are five Warp Worlds in Adventure mode, made up of variations of the mini-games, and each game has to beaten four times, each time with different stipulations for victory, in order to unlock all the goodies. Needless to say, but I’m saying it anyway, getting everything in this mode can take a very long time. While the computer-controlled characters are pretty pathetic early on, it doesn’t take too long before they start putting the hurt on you frequently.

The mini-games in Crash Bash are very simplistic, so it doesn’t take long to get the hang of things, which is good for a party game; however, such simplicity does lead to things getting rather repetitive and tedious after a short while. Also, some of the mini-games rely less on skill than sheer randomness and chaos, and that gets old very fast. Sometimes the only real strategy involves picking a character that is well-suited for a particular game. There are eight available, including the hero Crash Bandicoot and the heroine Coco Bandicoot, and the rest of the lineup is made up of baddies like Cortex and N. Brio. I found it somewhat curious that guys like N. Gin and Ripper Roo were relegated to supporting roles on certain mini-games rather than selectable characters; they’ve got more personality than some of these other guys.

Anyway, there are actually only seven mini-games in Crash Bash, and each has four variations. If you don’t really like one or two of them, that’s a big chunk of the game that won’t be too appealing. Personally, I found more than one or two of them to be rather boring, so the rest had to carry the load. Here’s a rundown of the mini-game groups:

Crate Crash
In this game, the four characters are placed in a square grid littered with crates borrowed from previous Crash games. The action involves kicking and throwing crates at your opponents, and the winner is the last one who’s got any health left. Explosive crates such as TNT and Nitro do more damage than regular ones, and some variations throw other obstacles at you such as disappearing floors, power-ups, and a spinning penguin. All in all, this is a pretty fun game, though the element of chance does come into play with the placement of crates and power-ups.

Polar Push
This is probably my favorite of the bunch, a sort of “king of the hill” variation where the players, riding baby polar bears, attempt to push each other off an iceberg. Skill does play a part here, as knowing how and when to use the charge is very important. You have a meter that tells you whether or not you can use a charge, so the action isn’t quite as frenzied as in other mini-games. Power-ups come into play often in Polar Push, and there are many times when the match is decided by who can play keep away the best. The control takes some getting used to, but ice is slippery, you know.

Pogo Pandemonium
I bet this game looked like fun on paper: you have each character riding a pogo stick on a grid of colored squares, and the object is to turn as many squares your color (by hopping on them) and cashing them in by hitting special crates. The highest scorer at the end of the time limit is the winner. Various power-ups including speed boots, arrows, and missiles add some pizzazz. Well, I really don’t like this game much at all, simply because the action feels so incredibly random and uncontrollable. If there’s any skill involved in playing this game, I’ve completely missed it. You basically have to be in the right place at the right time, and there’s no way to know when or where that will be. Add to that the difficulty in telling what power-ups are where on the upper rows of squares, due to the angle of the game field, and things get even more haphazard. At least it’s appropriately named.

Ballistix reminds me a lot of the old arcade game Warlords, where the object is to guard your territory from being hit by a bouncing ball, using a paddle. Here, you’re guarding a large goal area instead of a pile of bricks, but the object is the same: don’t let the ball(s) get past your paddle. You get a certain number of points to start with, and that total decreases with each ball that goes in your goal. The last player with a score over zero is the winner. I started out liking this game quite a bit, but its charm wore off fairly quickly, once again because of the randomness in the gameplay.

The following groups of mini-games have to be unlocked by playing well in Adventure mode:

Crash Dash
This is a lap race with very small cars on a very small circular course. You have to try to finish the set number of laps before anyone else, or at least be in the lead when the time limit expires. As you might expect, there’s a bunch of extra-curricular activity involving power-ups and other stuff to prevent skill from having too much impact on the outcome. I really didn’t like the control in this game, and it can be very difficult to see everything that’s going on, even though the entire course is on screen. It’s very easy to careen right off the track, and I suppose that’s the way the designers intended it to be. I didn’t like this one.

Tank Wars
If Ballistix reminds me of Warlords, then this has to remind me of Combat, the classic game of tank warfare. The gameplay is very similar: move your tank around the playfield and fire at your opponents while trying to avoid their shots. The obligatory power-ups show themselves yet again, and one interesting variation features a playfield with shifting walls, which keeps you on your toes. I enjoyed this one a lot more than I thought I would, although it definitely has the most difficult controls of any of the mini-games.

Medieval Mayhem
The games in Medieval Mayhem are all variations on the theme of destroying stuff: balloons, mushrooms, barrels, and targets. Having the high score at the end of the time limit is the path to victory here. There’s a little more variety in this group, so I’ll give it some credit for that. If you’ve unlocked these courses, you’ve either cheated, or you’ve dedicated your life to playing Crash Bash’s Adventure mode. Either way, it really isn’t worth the effort.

Crash Bash ends up being less than the sum of its parts, and it feels kind of cheap. The simplicity of the gameplay is matched by that of the presentation, which is neither spectacular nor terrible. The graphics and sound aren’t going to grab your attention, though I must say that Coco’s laugh is one of the most annoying things you’ll ever hear. This game really doesn’t warrant a long-term investment, so it’s best suited for a weekend rental with a bunch of friends. Even then, you’d be well-served to have something more substantial ready to take over, since this game quickly wears out its welcome.

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

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