Crash: Boom, Bang! - Overview

Crash: Boom, Bang! is a party title that mixes up a traditional board game with quick activities, a few of which are directly borrowed from Crash Bash. It's both the first Nintendo DS game in the series and also the first one to be created in Japan. Developed by Dimps, how well does this game portray the Crash Bandicoot style we all know and love, and how fun is it in the long run?

Crash stands in the middle of a big city.Most of the game is spent traversing luck-based boards.

For the first time in the series, the graphics use a technique called cel-shading, which gives the characters a black outline for a more cartoony effect and to stand out in the DS's small screen resolution. The colorful graphics look good on the handheld, and the music, while nothing to write home about, suits the mood of the action. The charming presentation owes nothing to the rest of the series, so it's a Crash game in name only.

Boom, Bang! is like a traditional board game. You roll the die and get a number, which indicates how many squares your character will have to move across. This is done in turns because there are 4 players for each play session. Once everyone rolls the die and gets set in place, the turn ends and the process is repeated. There are 6 boards with varying objectives, and most boards have splitting paths, forcing you to choose a direction sometimes. As in most luck-based board games, each square can give you a reward, a penalty, or nothing at all. Because of this, you'll want to choose each path carefully, keeping in mind how many squares you have left to move during your turn. Additionally, each board can have more than one map, and you can alternate between maps by stepping into passages or traps.

Neutral squares (of a white/gray checkered pattern) have no effect whatsoever. They may sometimes be placed near traps, but whether you'll activate them or not is based on pure luck. Traps can be very annoying when you're trying to get to the goal, because they always send you a few squares back (or in some cases, entire maps). Yellow squares can either reward you with items or extra points. Blue squares penalize you by subtracting points from your total score, so do your best to avoid them. Red squares activate mini-games, but we'll talk about those later.

The objective in each board is to either get to the marked goal or search for all the key items. Key items are always hidden in neutral squares, but they're never visible until you step on them, so it's purely up to chance. The winner of each board isn't decided on accomplishing objectives, though — the game keeps track of each player's score, and whoever has the most points when the objective is reached wins. You'll still want to do your best to find your way to the goal though, because the player who gets there is rewarded with a bonus of 5000 points (you can get the same amount of points by finding a key item).

Coco looks happy in a desert.Red squares initiate free-for-all mini-games.

Each player can use 1 item per turn. To use an item, you just open your inventory using the touchscreen and select it before rolling the die. You can apply it to yourself or anyone else on the board, which gives the game a hint of strategy (for example, if a player is standing right next to a blue square, you may want to give that player an item that forces him to move a single square, making up for an inevitable penalty). There are items for moving across a fixed number of squares, switching everyone's places with each other, warping to a different sub-map, etc. Unfortunately, items are horribly distributed, so you'll often find yourself with many of the same.

The biggest problem with the game is that it's almost entirely luck-based and requires no actual skill. Sure, that's how most traditional board games are, but this means that if you're buying this game to play solo, you're going to get very bored very fast. Each session can last from a few minutes to an hour or more, depending on how things go. Since you can only save your progress after winning a board, you'll have to reserve some time just to get through Adventure mode alone. This is a poor design choice for a handheld game.

Annoyingly, the basic instructions are repeated to you every single time you have to roll the die. This is fine when you're just picking the game, but it's insane that you have to manually skip this whenever it's your turn to play, no matter how many times you've proven that you know how to roll a die or use an item. To add insult to the injury, there are much less intuitive things the game never tells you about, such as how to purchase new items.

Cortex flies a plane and shoots at other characters doing the same.Mini-games interrupt board sessions and allow players to rack up points.

With the board rules covered, let's talk about the mini-games. These come up every now and then in each play session. They're triggered when someone steps into a red square, and they invariably get everyone on the board to participate, regardless of their position. They can also be triggered when more than 1 player ends up on the same square, but only those specific players will participate in such a circumstance. Mini-games offer you a chance to rack up extra points, but this obviously applies to everyone else too, so it's in your best interest to win them all. This can be a nuisance when you're already in first place and all you're trying to do is clear the board objective, but like almost everything else in this game, activating them is a matter of luck. Such is also the case whenever there's a draw, as the winner is just chosen arbitrarily. There's no rhyme or reason to this. If the game suddenly wants you to prove your worth using actual skill over luck, then it really shouldn't leave a draw up to chance, otherwise what's the point?

There's a total of 40 mini-games, but each of them never lasts longer than a minute tops. This means you're still going to spend more time on the board than anything else (except maybe skipping the instructions whenever it's your turn). The touchscreen generally serves its purpose decently in mini-games, though the instructions aren't always clear on how you should use it, and certain mini-games like flying the plane have rough controls. A few mini-games have microphone support as well, requiring you to blow into the DS to perform an action, like filling a balloon with air. It's about as fun as... well, filling a balloon with air. That's the problem with a lot of these mini-games, and really, Boom, Bang in general: it's not fun.

Crash, Coco, Pura, and Pinstripe pilot hovercrafts to block hockey pucks from entering their goals.The game's limited appeal comes from multiplayer sessions.

Some mini-games are borrowed directly from previous games in the series, including Ballistix from Crash Bash or the multiplayer Atlasphere matches from N-Tranced. If a board's objective is completed, you'll play a boss mini-game. It doesn't differ at all from other mini-games except you can get a lot more points if you win it and you're always up against the Viscount, who is the closest thing the game has to a villain (which is strange, because your progress is actually in his best interest story-wise).

Since mini-games don't necessarily involve every player on the board, you may sometimes be left out. The only thing duller than playing these mini-games is watching the CPU do it. In a vain attempt to keep you from falling asleep, you'll be able to bet on who you think is going to win. Bets are done using points, so you can win or lose the amount you put on the table according to how well your character of choice does. You can also help the player you've bet on or hinder everyone else. To help someone, you can submit a Crystal item to power that player up. Hindering players is done with panels, which will be explained shortly.

Whenever you're not participating in an ongoing mini-game, you'll also have the chance to visit the item store. In fact, it's the only way you can ever visit it... which is beyond stupid, especially if you want some items you can't get from the board. That's not the worst part, though: your items are bought with points. So in order to buy something, you may have to sacrifice your current standing. This is awful when you're trying to buy new clothes for your characters, especially considering how expensive they are.

Crash, Coco, and Pinstripe stand on a checkered square. A manga-styled panel depicting Pura obstructs the scene.Your screen will be constantly bombarded with obnoxious pop-up panels.

Things do still get more annoying. The aforementioned panel system allows you to send messages to other players. You can choose your panels' forms, icons, animation, colors, and so on, and since you can also use the stylus to write your own messages, panels are customizable in almost every way possible. So what makes them so annoying? Well, each player can send them at any time during gameplay, and they take up a rather large portion of the screen temporarily. Since they're placed on top of everything else, they can obscure your vision and cost you a mini-game.

This seems like an oversight, but it's actually touted as a feature. Supposedly, the idea is that you use panels to block your opponents' view, but you can also use it to help the player you're betting in. For example, in a poker mini-game, you might want to indicate which card you want a player to pick, or trick someone into picking the wrong one. The problem (besides how obnoxious it looks) is that it's only really efficient with human players.

The game offers Download Play support, so you'll only need one cartridge for multiplayer matches. That's the most fun you're going to get out of this game, in the off-chance you have nothing better to play with friends. Unfortunately, you can only play what you've unlocked through adventure mode, which is single-player only. Worse yet, this includes every single mini-game, so be prepared to spend hours on the boards by yourself if you want to unlock them all, thanks to the game's random nature.

To end this overview, there's also a feature called My Room, which takes you to your character's personal room where you can customize those "lovely" panels, replay mini-games you've unlocked, change clothes, listen to music, and so on. Changing clothes is pretty interesting, because you can switch your character's clothes with someone else's, so you can do things like dress Crash in Pinstripe's snazzy suit.

Behind Crash: Boom, Bang!'s charming and colorful presentation lies a series of nonsensical design issues that further hinder what's essentially a boring collection of mini-games. The game is too impractical and uninteresting to be enjoyable, especially when playing by yourself. There are much better alternatives in the genre, including Crash Bash.

The good

  • The graphical style looks nice
  • Only 1 cartridge is required for multiplayer

The bad

  • The single-player mode isn't fun
  • There is too much luck involved
  • Each board can last for a very long time
  • You have to skip the same instructions every time it's your turn to play
  • Most mini-games are dull
  • All mini-games need to be unlocked in single-player mode
  • Unlocking a specific mini-game is always left to chance
  • You can't purchase items unless you happen to be left out of a mini-game
  • You need to sacrifice your current points to purchase items
  • The obstructing panels get very annoying
  • It has very little to do with what Crash Bandicoot is known for

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