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NDS Review - 'Crash Boom Bang!'

by Erik "NekoIncardine" Ottosen on Jan. 6, 2007 @ 6:42 a.m. PST

Crash Boom Bang! will allow players to roll the dice and dive into one of 40 action-oriented, outrageously funny, multiplayer mini-games, as they communicate with and bet against opponents through the never-before-seen DS Motion Panel Communicator.

Genre: Party/Puzzle
Publisher: Sierra
Developer: Dimps
Release Date: October 10, 2006

At its core, video game creation consists of a series of steps, and while certain steps can be shifted around a bit, one of the first steps is perhaps the most critical in design. The design document is where the game's concept and a significant portion of the game is laid out in written form. Typically, it doesn't get too specific, but it's enough to allow you to get a picture in your mind of what the designer intends to do. It's also a very useful way to figure out if your game is broken at the conceptual level, especially after a few revisions. Unfortunately, someone forgot to give Crash Boom Bang a much-needed once-over at this most basic step, or, for that matter, many of the steps which follow.

For better or worse, party games tend to sell. How far are we into the Mario Party series, with it still remaining highly profitable for Nintendo? Who wants to bet that series gets to 15 before Final Fantasy does, based solely on how quickly players are inevitably eating it up? As always in the video game industry, one company gets the ball rolling, and copycats jump on the bandwagon.

Whether it's Microsoft's Fuzion Frenzy or One Piece: Pirate's Carnival, very few current offerings have attained the quality level of the older Mario Party games, let alone the newer ones. Crash visited this type of arena a long time ago with Crash Bash, a playable, reasonably enjoyable, but repetitive game which caught on to one simple fact: The fun is in the mini-games. Unfortunately, it did not include enough distinct mini-games to hold itself up for very long. About the only thing that Boom Bang has over its orange predecessor is variety; the 40 mini-games in this one are distinct from each other with surprising consistency. Too bad they're all broken messes atop a broken mess of a base game.

Crash Boom Bang is broken on several critical levels, so before I get to that, I'll go into its good aspects. It looks fine and sounds solid, with basic but mostly smooth animations as your characters run around lovingly crafted game boards. (There is the occasional graphical hiccup, such as when you're going to a special animation, such as jumping a chasm, and inexplicably run in place for a second.) Sound effects get the point across while avoiding realism on every level, which is a surprisingly good idea for this game. For the DS, it holds up surprisingly well, and it demonstrates that you don't need much power to make a reasonably good-looking game. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost: load times on a cartridge-based game.

The issues get worse when you try to actually play the game. Crash Boom Bang has you using items in a messily sorted inventory, which holds too much stuff, after which you roll a six-sided die to move along the board and choose directions whenever you progress, until you land on a tile and something occurs. It sounds simple, right? Apparently, Dimps didn't think it was simple enough, because at every single turn, Aku Aku will tell you the exact same information about how to "use items to help you win." Every time you hit an intersection, you'll be told to choose a direction and have to scroll through several lines of text to get to the actual option. When you try and pick a direction, most of the time, you'll click on something else and get annoying and unnecessary menus or hint boxes which have to be closed.

Mini-games occur whenever someone lands on a mini-game tile, and they can either be all four players against each other, or one-on-one. Unfortunately, there are no team-based mini-games to spice things up a little. Mini-games are simple, but apparently not simple enough to avoid breaking the controls, or in the rare case that the controls mostly work as intended, just plain not being fun. Worse yet, when the controls are broken, the A.I. plays as though all of the controls are still functional; this pretty much guarantees that while you're getting stuck in corners and wondering why on earth the developers didn't just use the d-pad for you to run around with instead, they're completing the assigned task and winning points by the thousands, rendering the game unwinnable.

Oh, and those items? You get a random batch of them, and you literally need certain items to win certain stages, meaning that as often as not, you won't have the item you need to win. There's a shop item, which will work once. Only once. If you're playing Adventure mode, that's once for the entire game, by the way. Needless to say, this is highly frustrating, since getting any other items is effectively a crapshoot, as you find them within mini-games. To add to the confusion, some items are usable only at certain times (like during mini-games), and the menu for going through them is loaded with unnecessary button-taps which are exceptionally prone to error.

Crash Boom Bang seems to have been designed with Wi-Fi in mind – at least that's the only explanation I can see for adding the Motion Panels menu, which lets you draw and send messages via an unintuitive mess of a menu-based scheme. You can save a few generic patterns for quick use, but really, there's no point in having them when you're only going to be playing with people within earshot. Overall, it's a useless feature which only serves to add unneeded complexity to the game.

If you haven't figured it out, Crash Boom Bang is a mess. There are too many unneeded features, not enough time was spent developing the important ones, and hundreds of small hiccups and issues make this game feel like it should have gone through more inspections at every level of design. Some thought should have been given to how best to use the DS touch-screen compared to when to just stick to the d-pad and controller buttons. It's sad to call a game that tries to improve on a flawed original worse in almost every way compared to said original, but Crash Boom Bang deserves it.

Score: 3.3/10

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