Title: Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled
Genre: Racing, Arcade
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Audience: Everyone 10+ Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief
Release Date: Out Now – 21/06/19
Price: £34.99 – Rapid Reviews UK were very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
At the time of writing, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fuelled is fast approaching Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in my list of most played Switch titles. Predicting an overtake in the very near future, our Rapid Review aims to explain just why, nostalgia aside, this title is a must-own for anyone with the slightest inclination for racing, multi-player, or downright wholesome fun.
A remake of the 1999 PSOne title of the same name, Crash Team Racing has been developed from the ground up to release on all major home consoles a mere 20 years after its inception. Staying true to the original for the most part, players of the original racer will feel right at home here. As well as this, any newcomers will find a title that has been carefully crafted to provide a direct competitor to Nintendo’s greatest karting hero, Mario.
Reflecting on what made the original Crash Team Racing so great, I concluded that the main man himself, or rather, bandicoot – Crash – was the driving force behind the success on the PSOne. While he has seen somewhat of a resurgence in recent times with the remastered trilogy of the platforming action he is renowned for, and I felt that this title needed to do more than rely on its namesake to make it a success story for modern racers. Fortunately, the game created by Naughty Dog way back when had all the foundations to stand the test of time, regardless of the relevance of the main character now.
While I don’t wish to spend the entirety of the review comparing CTR to Mario Kart, others inevitably will and it will only serve to make our thoughts more relevant to do the same. With the game comprising of many of the features from the Mario Kart series, including eight racers on the starting grid, power-ups available en-route and all-out karting warfare on the busy race track, there are many similarities. Even a collectable veeeery similar in design to the blue shell makes an appearance here. Where it differs, however, is in a number of the design features and opportunities presented to the gamer.
The first notable mention is the ‘Adventure’ mode available in CTR. Focused on offering a story mode of sorts, this mode centres around challenging to prove your worth as the greatest kart racer of them all. You will visit many different areas, all of which consist of four standard races and a 1v1 boss battle to unlock the next area. The story itself is rather generic and lacking in both creativity and spark, but the chance to free-roam around the areas already unlocked and the renewed focus given to the outcome of the races is a breath of fresh air. It was the first time that I felt that Mario Kart had missed a trick omitting something like this from their games.
Second, on my list of noteworthy features is the drifting mechanic. A lot has been said in the gaming world about said drifting, with some thinking it is a fantastic alternative to the more tried and tested methods, and others calling it an abomination. I believe that when you manage to pull off a perfect 3 x drifting multiplier, there is a sense of satisfaction that rivals anything in the racing genre to date. It requires timing, skill and an intuitive eye, but it can be the difference between winning and losing. Initiated by using the R or L button, you drift into the corner and then use the opposite R or L to conjure a timely boost, indicated by the gauge in the bottom right of the screen.
Finally, and seemingly another bone of contention among kart lovers, the world over is the difficulty. Although I can relate to the frustrations many have had with CTR, I am personally enjoying the challenging aspects of the title, and it is a testament to the game that I came back for more, time and time again. There are tweaks to be made, specifically with ‘rubber-banding’, as I have lost the game in the final milliseconds because an AI competitor has found a change of pace from out of nowhere and pipped me to the finish line.
The ‘rubber-banding’ is one of a few issues that are hindering both the reception of this title and its possible success. Outside of the races themselves, I have had the game crash on several occasions, and the online multiplayer requires changes to be made. It is unstable and struggles to offer a smooth racing experience for those of us racing around the globe. When it does work, it is an absolute joy and one of my favourite multiplayer games on the Switch to date.
The visual and audio elements of this remaster are almost all I had hoped for, with all the familiarity of a Crash Bandicoot title being present here. From the sound of the Aku Aku mask to the crash of boxes, and even the pop as you collect apples around the course, I found myself reminiscing time and again. Much like the remastered trilogy, I felt the graphical content on offer here was missing a beat. In both of these titles, I am given the impression that the remasters were optimised for the Sony and Xbox counterparts, and then subsequently ported to the Switch. The visuals are great, but a lack of clarity means they aren’t quite what I wished for.
Beenox has been fortunate when dealing with the original title that the characters and courses associated with Crash Bandicoot are superb. There are all manner of racers to choose from, all unlockable via in-game currency purchases made at the ‘pitstop’. Again, I love seeing what is for sale each day and saving up my coins to buy one. An update, coming soon, will address how the coins are distributed to make things more accessible for the average gamer, but I thought this was an excellent way to keep things engaging and to motivate others to continue playing. It wouldn’t be right to customise your character without customising your kart, and the pitstop has karts available, paint jobs to apply and decals to decorate your racing mobile.
More often than not, when a game like this drops, there are many opinions shared. Too tricky, unstable, unoriginal, the list goes on. I think the poor online experiences have soured the thoughts of some gamers, while others will view it as just another nostalgia trip with little else on offer to appease new fans. I have found Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled to be an experience I will enjoy for years to come, just as I did the original, and can highly recommend this for all gamers of all ages.
While the difficulty may not be for everyone, and the drifting mechanics enquiring further experimentation before enjoying fully, what cannot be debated is that CTR Nitro-Fueled is an engaging, enthralling, fun-filled romp that I am excited to dive back into.
Rapid Reviews UK Rating
You can purchase Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled on the Nintendo eShop at the following link: https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch-download-software/Crash-Team-Racing-Nitro-Fueled-1494955.html
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.