This was the exact point where the Crash series went downhill.
But with the dawn of a new millenium came major structural changes at Naughty Dog. First, the company announced that they would be focusing their efforts on a new series on the PS2 that would eventually become the fantastic Jak and Daxter games. In order to do this, however, the company decided not to make any more Crash games and handed development over to the fine folks at Eurocom Entertainment.
Crash Bash is a mediocre game on multiple levels, a title which not only fails to duplicate the fun multiplayer of Mario Party, but also seems to feel like a shameful cash-in in many ways. The premise of the game almost seems promising when you first hear it. Basically, Crash and his pals begin competing in a mini game compeition where the goal is always to get the most points or shoot the most goals etc.. In the game you get to play as a variety of Crash characters right off the bat. Now, at first this may seem like an interesting concept, but the execution absolutely kills the game.
To see what I mean by this, i'll draw a comparison between Mario Party gameplay and Crash Bash gameplay. In Mario Party, you move across a grid-like board filled with spots you land on that each individually affect gameplay in someway ,with a coin mechanic that is crucial to get stars and win the game. In Crash Bash however, the single player game consists of you simply walking into portals where you play the minigame and need to reach a certain score to advance, which causes frustrasion. In addition to this, Mario Party has simple relaxing minigames that are fun to play, but not so difficult as to intervein with the strategic elements of the game. But in Crash Bash the minigames are designed with much steeper learning curves that are all related to manic speedy action and just aren't that fun to play.
But this is not the only area where Crash Bash is a signifigant step down from it's predecessors. Graphically the game is definetely a poor effort. The character models, which where once so crisp and detailed in Crash 3 and, especially, in Crash Team Racing, are now much drabber, due to the lack of color variety in the art design. While some of the textures do look good, and some environments are detailed, the game on the whole just isn't anything special to look at.
The sound in Crash Bash, much like the gameplay and graphics, is average when it's at it's very best. The game uses some very annoying sound effects and music that no one will enjoy listening to. It isn't so bad that you'll want to turn off the audio, but it's utterly not a proficient sounding game.
As far as replay value is considered, this game has very little. You'll be sick of playing the single player way before you even finish it, due to some of the worst pacing ever put in a party game. Multiplayer is flawed by the fact that you need a multitap to take it to it's "full pontential", but this game's full potential is 1-3 hours at best due to the fact that these game aren't a great deal of fun to play.
If you were to pick up Crash Bash as your first Crash Bandicoot game, you'd probably think of this as a half-baked, gimmicky series wth little to offer the industry. And unfortunately, by the standards that today's Crash games have set, the truth would be on your side. It's a shame too. By the time Crash Bash came out, the first 4 games in the series had shown the series' incredible potential at it's meteoric peak. But because of this tripe, the games just haven't fufilled that potential by a longshot. And that is probably because this was the exact point where the crash series went downhill.