When Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time fans were daydreaming of what would follow the former PlayStation mascot's platforming return, we can't imagine an online multiplayer game with a Battle Pass ranked very high on their wishlist. Fast forward almost three years, though, and Crash Team Rumble makes emotes and pinging just as important as collecting Wumpa Fruit. It may not be what enthusiasts wanted, but those who give it a chance might realise it's what they needed. While Crash Team Rumble won't pull you away from Fortnite or Genshin Impact for very long, there's just enough depth and enjoyment for a few brawls each night.
Likened to a basic MOBA (League of Legends, DOTA 2, SMITE) by some, what developer Toys for Bob has here is a battle to collect Wumpa Fruit. Four players make up both sides, having selected a character from one of three different classes. The objective of each match is to collect 2,000 Wumpa Fruit, and the type of character you pick dictates whether you'll be helping your team achieve that or stopping the enemy from doing so.
Scorers are meant to collect Wumpa Fruit, Blockers are designed to stop opposing players from scoring, and Boosters should be activating temporary point doublers. Within those three classes, you can play as famous faces from the Crash Bandicoot games past and present like Coco, Dr. Neo Cortex, and Dingodile. No matter whether they're friend or foe in the mainline titles, a team of four will need to put aside their differences and effectively play their role in order to win.
Across the eight characters available at launch, each one takes a slightly different approach to their class. Crash Bandicoot himself comes with the usual spinning and dashing moves, while Tawna has a hookshot to get about faster. Meanwhile, Coco can place Quantum Walls to discourage pursuers and Dr. N.Brio transforms into a rampaging monster for a short time. This variety lends credibility to each character, allowing them to excel in a number of situations.
Nine maps ship with the base game, each of which features different limited-time power-ups. Collecting Relics is how you’ll unlock them while taking control of Gems is what activates the point multipliers — the main task handed to Boosters. With a bit of know-how, a team can effectively start scoring, multiply its Wumpa Fruit, and prevent the enemy from competing all at once.
When it all comes together, Crash Team Rumble is a bundle of fun. While some matches can quickly become very one-sided, the back and forth of Wumpa Fruit collection and denial usually creates some tense bouts. Toys for Bob has put its all into this single main mode, making sure it offers just enough so that anyone can get up to speed in no time while the hardcore experiment with abilities and smart team composition.
It's a great "one more match" type of experience that allows you to immediately get back into the fight for Wumpa Fruit after a heavy loss or a satisfying victory. Even with a few seemingly overpowered abilities if they're in the right hands, the game strikes a fair balance to where there's always a chance the enemy team could mount a comeback — there's never quite enough breathing space, and that's a good thing.
Perhaps the biggest thing holding Crash Team Rumble back, though, is what the previous seven paragraphs have built up to: it's just one mode. If you find you don't vibe with what Toys for Bob has put together after the point of purchase, then there's absolutely nothing else here for you. You can play the same mode in private matches with your friends or compete against bots, but the only single player content is the tutorial. Disappointingly, there's no local play either so the game is a no-go when you've got mates around.
It goes back to how we opened this review: this is a great experience for maybe 30 minutes to an hour each night. While there's some depth to explore, the chances of a friendship group being willing to play just one mode across less than 10 maps for a decent length of time seems slim. We simply can't see many players sticking with the game beyond maybe a week or two when there are so many bigger multiplayer titles on the market. At least based on what's there at launch, because perhaps this is where the live service angle will come into play.
It remains to be seen how long Toys for Bob will get to support Crash Team Rumble for, but what's built into the game on day one feels much fairer than other Games as a Service. Everyone gains access to the first seasonal Battle Pass with their purchase of the game, and there's no in-game store to buy items from, meaning microtransactions aren't a thing. In addition, all eight characters can be customised, and these skins and decals are all unlocked through challenges and simply playing the game. This could all change a few months down the line — we've seen it happen time and time again — but at launch, the live service trappings feel reasonable. You're rewarded for playing rather than spending money.
The load times aren't nearly as generous, though. While you do have to factor in the internet connections of other players as a match loads, you're sometimes waiting an egregious length of time before it gets going. The majority of bouts are ready to go after a roughly 15-second load, but others can take up to a minute. Due to the varying quality of players' internet connections, though, there's only so much the game can do to mitigate longer load screens.
The online multiplayer space is so competitive that it's tough to judge whether Crash Team Rumble will be able to carve out its own niche and warrant support beyond what Toys for Bob has already committed to. However, those who give the game a chance will find a really fun fight for Wumpa Fruit with varied classes and characters. Addictive just enough to look past the lack of local play and potentially long load times, Crash Team Rumble is worth trying — even if you wish Crash would just stick to what he's known best for: platforming.