From what I remember Crash Bandicoot was pretty much written off from the first moment when he landed onto PlayStation consoles all those years ago, at least by the non-Sony crowd, he's no Mario or Sonic, right? To his credit, Crash re-appeared again and again getting better every time. Alas, I have many fond memories of Crash 3: Warped, an exceptional title. He even managed what only Mario has done in the past, a successful jump to Karting games. Crash Team Racing was the PlayStation's very own Mario Kart. However this seems to have been short lived, it was followed by a decent Crash Nitro Kart and lately a lackluster Crash Tag Team Racing. But this wasn't the end of Crash's genre swapping antics, he also tried his luck at mini games, Crash Bash. The game was pretty decent and had decent reviews, not quite Mario Party though.
It's now been a few years since Crash had a really good outing and I was excited to learn of a new game being developed for Nintendo DS, Crash Boom Bang. I wondered what kind of Crash game would work best for DS, I imagined a pretty sweet return to Karting form, something to challenge the invincible Mario Kart. To slight disappointment, Crash Boom Bang would be another mini-games / party title, although I can see the market for it.
Upon boot Crash Boom Bang starts off very well, the menus are bright, bouncy and warming – much like previous Crash Bandicoot games. I can't really fault the presentation in this game, it's very good, right from the first screen it feels like a lot of effort has been put into the look of the game. Sadly, the inviting music and cute on-screen display lures me into a false sense of security.
After the first few menus you start scratching your head, wait, what's going on? Followed by another few clicks you finally make it into the game – phew, that was close. Your on what looks like a giant puzzle board, okay so what now? Oh a time limit comes on screen, its counting down fast, what do I do? Ah, easy, I roll the dice. Much like in a real bored game, we move the number of squares rolled, ah ha a mini game!
Finally some proper action, the mini game starts, the rules are explained and we're away. Impressive graphics, good sound but, oh no, we're rubbing the screen with our stylus again. Oh well, maybe that mini game is one of the weaker ones, right? Let's keep going.
It soon becomes apparent that a lot of the mini games in Crash Boom Bang are extremely simple, fairly tedious and well, not very well controlled. For example, there's one where you have to catch apples from the sky. Oh come on, could you please think of something more interesting that than?
In the defense of Crash Boom Bang, it must be aimed towards the younger gamers, that's the only reason the mini games are so simple, I'm sure of it. Another thing Crash Boom Bang has going for it is the graphics and sound, they are actually very good, congratulations to the AV department, job well done.
When Nintendo released the DS, we had great fear that people would be saying to themselves “wow that touch screen is cool, how can we make our game use that?”. It's just not the way it should work, Crash Boom Bang for the most part uses the touch screen as a gimmick, which is a shame because a lot of other DS titles have demonstrated its innovation, this simply isn't one of them.
Okay, lets pull my thoughts together here. Where does Crash Boom Bang go actually go wrong? It's hard to pin down, maybe its even my fault, I just didn't get it. Half the time whilst playing I felt lost and hardly knowing what I was doing or why I was doing it. Even resorting to the manual didn't even provide me with the epiphany I was desperately searching for.
Guilt is flowing through my head right now, I must admit something, I never like it when video games try to imitate board games, there is nothing to be gained from this, its somewhat a simple excuse to fill a missing “adventure mode”. Personally Crash Boom Bang would of worked much better completely removing the board areas, having a simple “stage select” area and concentrated on more mini games with some more variety.
The game is very attractive on the aesthetics, but it lacks anything upstairs. The mini games are half hearted, they work but you soon loose interest as they tend to get repeated over and over again. I'm sure the younger gamers will enjoy the simpler, easy mini games but I really don't see them getting past the whole board game sections.