Crash Team Rumble is a fundamentally flawed game and I don’t think anything can be done to fix it. I’ve already explained that it’s sort of a MOBA, but without the things that make MOBAs fun, and our own Stacey Henley echoed those sentiments in her review, calling it “the most basic version of a MOBA [with] nothing added on top”. I think it’s unlikely that this $30 live-service game with an uninspired battle pass and weak gameplay will catch on, but there is one aspect that I hope will survive this misguided effort: Crash can move like crazy, afraid.
As a lifelong Crashhead (Crashnut? Bandisciple?), I can speak with some authority on the topic of movement in Crash games. What made the originals so appealing was how precise you had to be while platforming. Originally, Crash didn’t have a lot of momentum, which allowed for more aerial control, so much of the challenge revolved around executing jumps perfectly. The practice would make you feel more comfortable with the physics and courses, which is a skill expression that has many players trying to complete levels as quickly as possible.
Crash Bandicoot: A warped canonized time-relic speed runner that has since become a staple of the series. Warped also unleashed Crash’s movement. While Crash Bandicoot 2 started the trend with the slide attack and slide jump, Warped added moves like the double jump and super spin that created even more combo options that helped Crash maintain his momentum. These new techniques allowed Crash’s movement to become more expressive than ever before.
Crash went through an experimental phase after Warped and appeared in a number of games that introduced one-and-done mechanics. There isn’t much to say about the “crash feel” until we get to Crash Bandicoot 4, which introduced some notable techniques like the triple-spin, wall-running, and Quantum Mask abilities.
Toys for Bob, the team behind Crash Bandicoot 4 and Crash Team Rumble, has developed the series in a much more meaningful way than any non-Naughty Dog developer, and that includes what they did with Crash Team Rumble. As a PvP game, Rumble demands the tightest control and greatest freedom of movement that Crash has ever had, and in that one aspect it completely delivers.
The first thing you’ll notice when you take control of Crash during the tutorial is how jerky the camera feels. The way it balances strong acceleration with smooth braking helps you be incredibly precise in your movements. Crash rarely had a free-wheeling camera like this, so it’s amazing how well Toys for Bob managed it on its first try. I don’t know of another 3D platformer that has such tight camera controls, but it adds a lot of energy and control to movement, which is important for a game like this.
Then there’s Crash’s controls, which work better than ever. Movement is designed around the game’s combat, which involves a lot of chasing and running, and what the developers have come up with seems incredible. Locomotion is incredibly sensitive and precise, allowing you to dodge, jump, and slash your opponents as you chase your way around the arena. Crash can chain together slides, airstrikes and triple spins to accelerate in any direction and try to confuse his opponents with unpredictable movement. This guy doesn’t just move shmoves.
There’s a skill gap here that you rarely see outside of a Smash game, and Crash can do some ridiculous things in the hands of a skilled player. You have so much control over his every little move that the good players will look like they are faster than everyone else. If Rumble was Crash Team Sports, I think it could be amazing. I’d love to see a 3D platformer starring Crash that uses this movement, and I hope that Rumble’s inevitable failure doesn’t spell the end of Toys for Bob’s involvement with Crash (or existence, if we know Activision). It may not be Crash 5, but it still feels like an important milestone for the way Crash Bandicoot plays.
Next: Crash Team Rumble is a MOBA without the things that make MOBA games fun