Crash Bash Preview

At first glance, Crash Bash may look like an attempt by Sony to cash in on the craze started by games like Mario Party. But in actuality, Crash Bash's minigames are way beyond what Nintendo has on offer.

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At first glance, Crash Bash may look like an attempt by Sony to cash in on the craze started by games like Mario Party. But in actuality, Crash Bash's minigames are way beyond what Nintendo has on offer. Instead of just challenging you to hit a button really fast, the Crash Bash game types require that you have an almost Bomberman-like level of strategy in order to truly excel. Toss in the fact that you experience the true potential of the game in four-player mode, and you've got what currently looks like the PlayStation party game to beat this year.

While your first instinct may be to just hook up the multitap and go to town with a four-player match, the game also has an adventure mode, which can be played by one or two players. The adventure mode is set up much like the Crash Bandicoot platform games, where you have a hub world that is broken up into different levels. In this case, the different levels are different games. Each game has a main game type and two variations that serve as extra challenges. You must collect a certain number of objects to make your way through the entire game.

One game plays like a four-player game of Pong or, if you're a die-hard 2600 fan, it plays a lot like one of the Pong variants included in Video Olympics. After a certain number of balls elude you, you lose and your side turns into a wall - the last paddle remaining is the winner. One variant to this mode is the ability to suck the ball in and freeze it on your paddle, which lets you place shots more accurately, sort of like the old Atari game, Warlords. Another game puts all of the Crash characters onto the backs of polar bears. All of the bears are then placed on a small piece of slippery ice, and the object is to knock the other players off the edge of the ice in true king-of-the-hill fashion. Two variants are melting ice and playfield angles that change depending on your location. Still another game puts the characters on pogo sticks. Here, you hop from square to square around a board, changing the squares to your color. Collecting boxes, which litter the playfield, is the only way to convert your colored squares into points. Variants here include mushrooms that make you automatically lose if you eat them, as well as a scoring modification that gives you points when you enclose an area with your color.

At the outset, you choose a character. Each character has different strengths and weaknesses. For instance, Crash is a small character, so while he's faster on the pogo stick, he lacks the mass to truly do well in the polar bear pushing contest. Another nice addition to the game is that you can either play on two-person teams or play every bandicoot for himself in the four-player mode.

Graphically, the game has a nice look to it. The characters are large enough to make them easy to discern from one another, and the Crash characters maintain the same level of animation that made them so likeable in games like Crash Team Racing.

While the version we played still needs a little work in the AI department, a little play balancing should ensure a very nice learning curve. But the four-player game is already extremely fun, with enough options to keep it interesting for long periods of time and nicely addictive gameplay. Plus, it doesn't have a hokey board game element at its center - which is always a nice touch.

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