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SummaryNostalgia betrays me
The GoodGraphics and music are both of the quality we expect from Crash games.
Co-Op campaign mode is a lot of fun.
The pacing is very nice; the percentage completion goes up a lot faster than you would think.
Controls work very well.
The game keeps the mini-games interesting enough to replay by introducing variations on the rules.
The BadAI is downright unfair.
While the controls work, the camera angle makes it difficult to play.
No consistent theme to the levels.
Each games has to be replayed way too often.
Story is pointless.
The Bottom LineStory
One of the problems with many party-games that want to compete with Mario Party is that they try to have a story. This simply doesn't work, since a group of players who just want to play some mini-games are not going to give two fucks about the faith of Sonic Shuffle's imaginary land or indeed the struggles of two masks in Crash Bash.
The opening sequence depicts the two entities arguing about who is the best, but instead of fighting it out like the two flying planks that they are, they decide to settle their differences with a contest between the heroes and villains of the Crash Bandicoot universe. This setup was apparently so weak that whoever added this game to the database didn't even bother to acknowledge it, which I can totally understand.
From there on out, the bits of stories are limited to short cut-scenes that precede each boss-fight. Even that is too much, though, since it's nothing but boring exposition that most people are going to skip. Admittedly, Crash Bash isn't the biggest offender in this regard, but it would still have benefited from cutting down the story further.
To progress through this game, the player has to collect a set number of trophies, diamonds and crystals to unlock boss-fights. These spoils are earned by completing the mini-games on each floor; at first you play the regular game for the trophy, then the diamond and crystals can be pursued by playing it again with altered or extra rules. The game starts out on a floor with 4 games and a boss, but each time you beat a boss and go to the next floor, it adds an additional game to the line-up.
The controls for the mini-games are all responsive enough, but my gripe with most of them is that they play in a 3-dimensional space, while the camera is more suited for something 2-dimensional. This makes it very difficult to perceive where your character is located. For example: in one mini-game you are on a polar bear and have to push your opponent off the field with charges, but half the time, you charge right past your foes and fall in yourself. The Mario Party equivalent of this mini-game would be "Bumper Balls", and that mini-game was more playable since the camera was placed higher, which offered a better overview of the playing field.
I also don't really appreciate the fact that when the game introduces new rules, they often don't affect the AI. For example: the polar bear game introduced a cloud that randomly released stunning thundershocks upon the field. This would have been alright, but when the AI is hit by the thunder, it simply doesn't affect them in any way. It even gets more unfair in one variation on the Pong mini-game, when the AI gets an ability that makes balls not count and instant-kill the player if they touch the "fake" ball. These two examples highlight two problems with the AI, they are either not programmed to deal with the special rules in the game or they just turn the game into an unplayable mess.
Playing this game alone is therefore a controller-breaking exercise in frustration. However, when played with a friend, the mini-games provide some enjoyment. I also appreciate that the game automatically teams you up with your friend in campaign and uses different rules to account for that. The 4-player multiplayer also kills any issues you may have with the AI, though the campaign limits the amount of players to just 2.
Graphically, the game looks very good. It has the same style and quality as the initial trilogy of Crash Bandicoot games. I however do think that the HUB-world of the game is pretty useless; it's the exact same room over and over again, but with a different environmental theme that doesn't really carry over in the mini-games you'll be playing on that floor. The room is small, there is no real content to be found, so I fail to see the point in having it. A menu would have definitely sufficed.
Getting a 100% score in this game is very tough, since some of the Crystal challenges are unforgivably difficult. I wouldn't blame anybody for giving up on it.
Replaying this game would be somewhat silly, though, since it's not an adventure game like the others in the series. Once you have unlocked all the mini-games, there is no drive to experience them again from the start and you'd be better off just going back to replay the ones you like from an existing save-file.
Why should you get it?
If you have an urge to play a challenging party-game with a friend, then this would be your solution. The mini-games are made to be more difficult than your average, casual Mario Party.
Why should you skip on it
Alone, the broken nature of the mini-games really get to you and this will be frustrating. Even when having a friend around, most of the fun will come from joking about the poor quality of the game.