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I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first jumped into Crash Team Rumble. The latest trailers made it look more like a MOBA than the Crash Bash sequel we had been expecting. I’d dabbled with MOBA before, but it isn’t a genre I’m particularly strong at, which is why I was pleasantly surprised at how different Crash Team Rumble is from most MOBA games.

There are three different classes to choose from when you start, each with specific roles. They can all try a bit of anything if they wish, but this is in the same way a goalkeeper can run across the pitch and score a goal. Crash and Tawna are scorers who run around the field and collect fruit. Dingodile is a heavy, blocking others from scoring. While Coco and Neo Cortex are boosters: super fast disruptive players, who just try to stop everyone else from having fun.

The way these roles are set out guide players in the right direction when it comes to how to play, and a good mix on each team always brings the best results. I would have liked another option of blocker, but this is just the beta, so improvements are sure to be made. There are also only three maps at the moment, but each is small yet densely packed, making matches even more chaotic.

This is a big part of why Crash Team Rumble is more like Splatoon than a traditional MOBA. You still collect and score points in your team’s goal, but there are plenty of battle and movement options more akin to a platformer. Tawna has a super fast grapple that helps her hop in and out of action. Coco seems like she can bounce around endlessly. Dingodile can pull you in with his vacuum, and Neo can shoot you with lasers. Rumble makes much better use of the 3D space than any traditional MOBA, where players can easily use their platforming skills to escape any scuffle.

Crash Team Rumble Crash Bandicoot.

There are also two types of special weapons that can really swing things in your favor. The first is a personal special weapon. These charge when you do things related to your type – so scoring, blocking, or supporting your team – and then help your team nearby. There’s a static ranged attacker, a health machine, a big electrifying dude, and an extra big sack for fruit. These last a very short time, but create the best synergies. Playing as Dingodile, you may want to put a health machine on the enemy base, and make it harder for them to take you out as they try to score.

The other type of team upgrade are different weapon spots around the map. For these you need to collect relics and deposit them in these spots, and all of your team's points will be collected together for the common good. There’s balance to this: things like a Junker Ball which deflects enemies for a short time may cost just eight points, while an Aku Aku mask that protects your team and rains down hellfire across the whole map will cost 30. These help bring the team together for a common goal, and give a visual clue to the strategy.

There were no microtransactions in the beta, and everything could be unlocked with points you get from playing — all our digits are crossed that this will continue to the full game. There’s not a lot of variation so far, but it’s a solid foundation to work with. Each character has its niche, and no one feels too overpowered, and the different weapons come with their own synergies. Where it really shines is in the brawls, where complex 3D movement options remind you that you are indeed playing a Crash Bandicoot game.

Crash Team Rumble map.

My main disappointment is in the AI. Sometimes if the lobby wasn’t full you’d have an AI character stand in. However, these were pitiful, and having one on your team is pretty much an instant loss. I assume this will be tweaked for the full release, but we also hope you won’t need AI teammates by that point.

Overall, Crash Team Rumble is an unexpectedly promising start from a genre of game I don’t usually mesh with. It brings Crash’s 3D platforming prowess into this game style in a way that feels both natural and balanced. There is some good synergy so far, and nice ways to introduce newcomers to the genre, and keep them in their lane.

We hope to see more maps, more items and more characters in the full release which is set for June 20, 2023 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.