Game of the Week: Crash Arena Turbo Stars

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Crash Arena Turbo Stars

Developer: Zeptolab
Platform(s): Mobile
Genre: Unique
Cost: Free-to-Play
Rating: 4/5

Pros:

  • Very reasonable to play without spending money
  • Unique physics engine and combat style
  • Little-to-zero loading time
  • Consistent reasons to log-in, including daily and weekly rewards

Cons:

  • Not suitable for long periods of play
  • Not enough variety in potential builds/weapons
  • No social component

Battlebots, But With Cats

The awkward name of Crash Arena Turbo Stars was obviously designed to smash random action words into the abbreviation “CATS,” which makes sense, since the game features small cartoon cat characters.

At its root, however, CATS has little to do with felines and more in common with the recently revived television series BattleBots, which featured teams of engineers battling robots equipped with saws, axes, and numerous set-ups designed to flip the opposing robot.

In CATS, you’ll be tasked with creating your own battle vehicle, with a selection of body types, wheel sizes, and weapons including blades, drills, chainsaws, rockets, and lasers. A number of other items, like boosters and forklifts, add variety. You then send the vehicle into battle against random opponents, where you win by either destroying the opposing vehicle or outlasting your opponent until giant walls of death encroach from the edges of your phone, destroying the first vehicle it comes across.

Surprising Amounts of Strategy

The game, despite its cartoonish graphics and relative simplicity, contains a surprising amount of strategy in build-outs. Popular builds include a small “boulder” cart with boosters designed to get behind the enemy and destroy it and large “titans” which are easily flipped but contain a boatload of hit points.

Because of the physics involved, you will run into players with builds designed to flip your cart, boost behind it, one-shot it with lasers, or slowly grind it down with drills and saws. It plays like a complex version of “Rock, Paper, Scissors”, with different meta builds succeeding against other builds.

Daily Parts and Ladder Climbing

At the core of the game are “tournaments,” where you will be matched with 14 other players online with similar strength load outs. These tournaments run 48 hours, although you can skip the wait by successfully destroying every opponent in a tournament bracket with a single build.

Successfully completing a tournament (either by instant promotion or finishing in the top 6 players) moves you up a bracket, and also gives you access to stronger parts. This means that your fundamental goal in CATS will be ladder-climbing the various brackets. At the top, you can “prestige”, which basically means start over again, but this time with some permanent boosts to help make your next climb easier.

In additional, you can play “quick battles,” which earn you crates that you can open after a 2 hour or 6 hour wait. These crates contain additional parts, and winning 5 quick battles in a row will guarantee a higher level part out of one of your crates. You can also watch ads to diminish the wait time on the crates, or pay gems (the game’s real-life money currency) to skip the wait entirely. These crates will be your primary motivation for logging in between checking on tournaments.

A Few Critiques

The game lacks a chat system, clan system, or any real multiplayer component beyond the player vs. player fights. The game would benefit from a clan vs. clan battle system similar to hit mobile game Clash of Clans, and it’s easy to see how CATS could make such a system work.

It also lacks enough build variety. While the options seem overwhelming at first, in later tournament brackets builds break down into a lot of the same. You’ll run into bouncy boulders aimed at getting behind you, tanky titans designed to outlive you, and laser or rocket-heavy builds designed to effectively one-shot you. Additional weapons or build options would help break through the late-game monotony.

Also, while quick battles offer some rewards, the game could use some more consistent content to fill the wait time between loot crate openings. I understand that the wait likely incentivizes more cash shop transactions, but I also imagine CATS loses more than a few gamers by offering limited content.

The Verdict

Despite these critiques, the game doesn’t feel like a clone of another game, as mobile titles often do. It’s not your typical empire-building game, nor your Candy Crush clone. If you like building robots, and can tolerate cats, I suggest you give it a try. I give Crash Arena Turbo Stars a solid 4 out of 5.