Back in the 90's Crash Bandicoot was the unofficial mascot for the PlayStation One. The pseudo 3D platforming games were a lot of fun and helped kick-start Naughty Dog, who are now developing the Jak series. After their last Crash Bandicoot game, Crash Team Racing, the furry marsupial was sold off to the highest buyer. The very first Crash Bandicoot game not developed by Naughty Dog was Crash Bash, an uninspired Mario Party clone. Six years on we've got yet another Mario Party clone in the form of Crash Boom Bang for the Nintendo DS. Unfortunately, Crash Boom Bang! feels like yet another clone. Whilst Crash Bash could sometimes be a bit of fun, this game never comes close to being enjoyable; once again.
The set-up for Crash Boom Bang! is pretty straightforward. Coco Bandicoot is invited to a World Cannonball Race where the winner receives $100,000,000. The evil madman behind the tournament is Viscount. Whilst Viscount was developing a resort in Tasmania he found a map of an ancient city containing a power stone. Viscount went looking for the stone but was so confused that he decided to gather the smartest people in the world to gather the stone by tricking them. Dr. Neo Cortex is on the guest list and has also learnt of Viscount's plans, so they're both trying to get the stone. The storyline is actually a bit of a contradiction because if they were all that smart they'd know that the prize money was awfully high, but it's always best not to question the storylines in these type of games.
Rather than take part in a cannonball race you actually start in a city that is shaped like a board game. You use a dice to move your characters. You can always choose which direction to head in and there are secret areas in each level. Each panel that you land on will also execute different actions. Some of the panels will take points away, some will give you points and some will initiate a mini-game. The points are extremely important because whoever has the most points at the end of the round will win. The points also carry over to the next level, so you have to try and keep winning. There are different ways to end the rounds, some of them just require you to get to the end of a level, whereas others require you to actually find hidden pieces in the game world - the playing area is relatively small and there are only about forty spaces or so to land on. During each round you'll also pick up items, which range from travel maps to power stones. You can use these items at anytime during your turn by using the touch screen, although most of them don't really do much at all.
This all sounds like a great (albeit seemingly familiar) concept, but the execution is just damn right terrible and makes playing the game an absolute chore. It also seems like the developers just simply forgot that they were developing a portable title, games can go on for hours on end and there is no save function at all in game, so often you'll just give up and need to start all over again. The game features a festival mode, which lets you replay any of the mini-games you've played before, the catch being that you actually need to finish the game to unlock any of the mini-games anyway.
This would be a lot more detrimental if you actually felt any inspiration to come back to the mini-games, but they're basically all so drearily boring that it's unlikely you'll put yourself through the pain again. All of the mini-games take advantage of the touch screen, but it feels like the mini-games would have benefited if you had the option to choose from the d-pad or the touch screen. One of the mini-games requires you to use the touch screen to move the flippers on a pinball machine, if you could have used the shoulder buttons it just would have been far easier and the mini-game itself would have been more enjoyable. There are plenty of instances like this and whilst there are about forty mini-games, barely any of them are enjoyable.
If you happen to have a friend who also bought the game then you can play any of the mini-games in multiplayer. Crash Boom Bang! features a mini pictochat system where you can send messages to your opponent. The game also supports single card play too, which is a decent little bonus. It's highly unlikely you'll spend much time on the multiplayer in Crash Boom Bang! though, if only because the mini-games tire quickly.
In terms of the Crash Bandicoot license all you're really getting are the characters. Plenty of the memorable characters have made it into the game including Crash, Neo Cortex, Coco, Crunch and Pinstripe. If you're expecting to see Crash Bandicoot themed levels, though, then prepare to be disappointed - it would have been good if there were a few themed levels, if only so the license didn't seem so tacked on.
Visually the game is nothing to write home about. The levels aren't exactly imaginative or impressive and the mini-games feel very stripped back. Crash and co are animated pretty well though. The sound is pretty boring and you're likely to just favour the mute option. In total, the game features six worlds to go through and once you've "saved the world" there is basically no real reason to come back to the game at all. It may actually take you awhile to complete the main adventure, since there is no in game save feature, so you'll need to keep your DS in sleep mode.
When you develop a mini-game all you've got to stand on are the mini-games. Unfortunately, the mini-games are so drearily dull that you're just likely to give up after ten minutes. If you persevere there isn't much of a reward as you try to quickly accelerate through all of the levels. Crash Boom Bang! is nowhere near as enjoyable as Mario Party and quite simply the worst Crash Bandicoot title ever. A true disappointment.