Crash Team Rumble May Be One of the Most Original Multiplayer Games of 2023

Crash Team Rumble is the next game in the Crash Bandicoot franchise, though it's not another platformer or even a kart racer. It's something else entirely and arguably isn't even part of a genre that really exists yet. For such a major franchise as Crash and a publisher as huge as Activision, Crash Team Rumble comes across as a big and pretty risky swing in the year 2023. After getting a hands-off preview of the game, I'm not sure every element in Crash Team Rumble is going to pay off, but it has a lot of exciting ideas and if done right, could make it the breakout multiplayer game of the summer.

So, what exactly is Crash Team Rumble? It's a 4v4 game where you play as various characters from the Crash Bandicoot universe and compete to score the most amount of Wumpa fruit in your team's goal. It's pretty simple on paper, but Toys for Bob has gone to great lengths to create all kinds of layers to ensure it's a game worth playing for more than just a handful of matches.

Given this is a competitive 4v4 game, you will have to go directly head to head with other players. Personally, when I think of what I love about Crash Bandicoot's gameplay, I do not think of the combat, I think of platforming. I don't think having Crash do constant 360 degree spins into enemies is the most exciting form of PvP, but Toys for Bob noted that defeating other players is not part of the win condition in the game. It's merely a way to stop others from scoring, so in theory, you could probably play an entire match and just collect/score Wumpa while your team does most of the fighting on your behalf. 

(Photo: Activision)

With that said, the combat we did see seemed generally messy. It's just colorful characters smashing into each other and it didn't feel very fluid. While there are various abilities that can offer variety such as beach balls that allow you to bash enemies with more force and a grappling hook, it largely just looked like a big Looney Toons-esque dustball with creatures smacking each other around. Given we didn't have the opportunity to go hands-on with the game, perhaps this will be something that plays far better than it looks, but visually it appears to lack the punchy energy you'd hope for in a PvP experience.

If you're not looking to get into a fight, the maps appear to be designed in a way that emulates the classic Crash Bandicoot experience. Say an enemy is chasing you down for your Wumpa fruit, you can lead them over to the side of the map where there's a bunch of floating platforms for you to jump between. The chase will get a bit more intense as a result, but also possibly give you the opportunity to shake your pursuer either through skillful platforming or by possibly just whacking them off the edge.

Movement is crucial here and given that is in the very DNA of Crash Bandicoot as a series, it's something you can trust Toys for Bob to do justice. Whether it be running, jumping, grappling, or boosting up in the air, there will be no shortage of ways to quickly navigate the map and out maneuver your foes. Out of all of the gameplay elements at play here, the movement looks to be the strongest part of Crash Team Rumble with fluid animations that beautifully conveys the way each character zips and flips around the environment.

(Photo: Activision)

Toys for Bob also made it very clear during our preview that Crash Team Rumble is a game of strategy and the footage they showed us demonstrated that well. Coordination and communication with your team will almost certainly give you the upper hand in-game. For instance, there are these things called Gem Pads which are optional platforming pads you can capture. If your team successfully holds on to a group of Gem Pads, you'll get a scoring boost of 30% (or more, if you stack Gem Pads). Of course, this can then lead to battles over the Gem Pads which can then make it easier for one person to sneak away from the chaos and go score some Wumpa fruit in their goal.

Who you play as and how you fill out your team will also be crucial as each character belongs to one of three roles: Scorer, Blocker, and Booster. The names are fairly self explanatory, Scorers are good at moving around the map to collect and score Wumpa, Blockers are more combat-oriented characters, and Boosters are good for going out and trying to secure Gem Pads amongst other things. Regardless of your role, you can still do all of the aforementioned stuff, the roles just help determine speciality for those specific characters.

While there are a few gameplay elements like combat that could use improvement, Crash Team Rumble looks like a breath of fresh air. It's something that feels super new, but also comes from a beloved IP. Based on what we've seen so far, it seems like Toys for Bob wants to really reward players who can think strategically and combine all of the layered mechanics to make highlight worthy plays. Whether it will have the staying power it may hope to have remains to be seen, but it feels like at its core, it's going to be something that will be a blast to play with a group of friends.

Crash Team Rumble will release on June 20th for Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, and PS5.