Crash Boom Bang! Review
I’m a fan of party games. Anything that let’s you play with multiple people in your home, I like. Even the bad ones – there are ways to enhance your enjoyment of the bad ones! (I was thinking of a good sugar rush!) Historically, only Nintendo has produced party games with any regularity, Mario Party 7 being the latest. But, in the past two years there have been several other titles of fair to excellent quality for consoles that have entered the genre. If you want to get technical, the ability to play many DS games in multi-player mode could be considered a “party” game but Sierra’s Crash Boom Bang! is the first to truly meet the criteria. It does so, with mixed results.
Party games have several common elements: players are competing for highest score/a prize; there are mini-games to play vary in opposition (1p vs. 3p, 2p vs. 2p, etc); points/tokens are earned through the mini-games; and the mini-games require some level of skill along with luck to win. Because of this, all party games to date – to my knowledge – have been based upon existing franchises because it’s simply fun to play as your favorite character.
Crash Boom Bang! doesn’t deviate from this tried and true recipe. You begin the game by playing through single player mode. There is a villain, the Viscount Devil, who wants to rule the world and can only do so by finding the Super Big Power Stone that grants the user one wish. He sets up a $100 million prize race, not telling the contestants what’s at the end, to have them find it. Thus your journey begins and you unlock each of the different levels and mini-games in single player mode to be used in multi-player mode (rather the point of a party game).
Crash emulates much of the game play from the very successful Mario Party series. You choose your favorite Crash series character - of four; four more open up by the end of the game. You have a map or game board with spaces on it; you roll a die then move that number of spaces. Each space activates an activity whether that be a mini-game, adding/subtracting money to your account, finding a piece of the “key” for this map or throwing you to another spot on the map. However, before you roll, you have the option to use items from your inventory to affect the game. These items can slow down a player, have everyone switch positions on the map, turn over puzzle spaces or any number of other actions. You “win” a map by having the most points at the end. You earn the most points by finding the most puzzle pieces, winning mini-games and using items wisely.
At this point, Crash Boom Bang! is like any other party game. It does have some unique features of note. The first is the ability to bet on the mini-games of other players. I enjoyed this aspect however I was bothered by the fact that I was never actually told what my winnings were. It also has Panels. Depending upon your age and how they are used, Panels will either be a great distraction tactic or the biggest annoyance since your little brother stole all your quarters off the Pac-Man machine at the arcade.
A Panel is a personally designed “shout-out” that you make in your character’s room. Each character has a stylized room where their saves, mini-games, etc are stored. You make a text bubble, add text, images, sound, whatever you’d like to your Panels. Then, when playing, you can send your Panels to friends – ostensibly to help – or to opponents to block their view. When playing in single player mode against three sets of AI, I quickly grew annoyed of the volume of Panels thrown at me. However, I can see their use in multi-player if used sparingly and during the mini-games.
Mini-games are what party games are all about. It’s here that the fun truly happens. Because they’re not wholly based upon luck like the game board, you can use your skills at trying to win the most number of coins. Here is where I’m unsure as how to voice an opinion on the game because here is where I feel the game fails. When playing in single-player mode, the game eventually ends and opens up a goodly portion of the mini-games and all the maps. And, playing mini-games against AI isn’t much of a challenge and certainly isn’t fun. The games “seemed” to be good. I wanted very much to be able to play this game with my two children – who better than they to test it? However, it only allows 5 of the mini-games for download and I have to say, they’re five of the least inspired of the lot. And it doesn’t allow ANY of the game board play for download – it requires multiple game cards. At $30 US for one game, I’d need to spend $90 to play this with my children. All of my friends would need a copy. I just don’t see it happening. The advantage of the DS over every game system available is the ability to play great games cheaply. And truthfully, if this game were good in multiplayer single-card play, I’d recommend to my friends that they buy it to play with other people. But, I can’t because it’s rather anemic in single player the cost for multi-player doesn’t warrant testing. ‘Tis a shame.
Overall, I’d have to say I like the game, but unless you’re comfortable with the cost to take advantage of the multiplayer functionality – the entire point of the game – I can’t recommend it. I can only hope the next party game to give it a try on the DS keeps this in mind.