Crash Team Racing
Developer: Naughty Dog | Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment | Release Date: 1999 | Genre: Racing | Website: n/a | Purchase: Amazon
Ever since the early days of the SNES it has become almost obligatory for platform characters to get their own carting game if they become successful enough. All of them were of course trying to be like the classic of the genre, the very addictive Mario Kart. The imitators mostly turned out to original clones with varying degrees of success, but that hasn’t stopped this trend from leaking over into the 32bit arena. I guess it was only a matter of time before Crash and the gang got their own racing game since they are just about the leading platform stars on Sony’s hardware.
The storyline is definitely no Shakespeare, but it does give you a reason for driving around like a mad lunatic. For once it’s not the evil Dr. Neo Cortex and his henchman that’s causing havoc, but actually an alien called Nitros Oxide. Believing himself to be that fastest racer in the galaxy, he challenges all the inhabitants of Crash’s world to a race. If they win, he leaves their planet in peace, but if they lose they’ll all be enslaved. Turning up for the challenge is eight of the fastest racers in the world, including Crash, Coco, Dingodile, Polar and even Dr. Cortex himself. Before getting a shot at challenging Oxide they’ll first have to race each other through a series of tracks and take on master racers like Ripper Roo, Papu Papu and Komodo Joe. Not the most original of plots as I’ve said, but who cares as long as the game is fun.
The main part of the game is the adventure mode where you’ll be taking part in races to earn cups that will unlock other tracks and keys that will open up more challenges. By finishing all the tracks, beating all the bosses and defeating Oxide you’ll only have completed about 38% of the adventure mode however. There are also relics to be earned, Crash Tokens to collect and Gem Cups to be won. This means apart from straightforward racing you’ll also take part in challenges like collecting all the crystals on a track before the time runs out or finishing a race in under a certain time with crates that freeze time for a short period to help you out. For those aiming at 100% completion this game will keep you busy for ages. That’s without even touching the time trial and arcade modes also on offer. Multi-player fans will be delighted to hear that their needs are also catered for and Crash Team Racing even has a four player mode where you can race or battle each other in teams. Just make sure your TV is big enough to make it worthwhile.
The graphics in Crash Team Racing look a lot like those in the previous platform games and most of the tracks are also based on levels from them. This means you’ll be racing through the usual clichéd snowy mountains, caves and jungles. Everything looks sharp and detailed however, and most tracks have some nasty locals to watch out for as well. Beware the giant man eating plants or huge spiders that can drop down from the ceiling. Your fellow racers can also become a nuisance since the game has quite a few power-ups that can spoil your day.
Rockets, tnt crates, bombs and all the other usual weaponry can be picked up and by collecting the wumpa fruits scattered about can even be made more potent. Incidentally these fruits also make your cart go faster so try and have the maximum of ten at all times if you want to stay in the race. Each track has booster strips like those found in Wip3out and you can also pick up Nitros, so speed is something you won’t find lacking. The basic cartoon like graphics definitely helps things speeding along at a decent speed even in four player mode.
The audio is bearable, but at times feels like it was just recycled from the previous games. Characters have their own trademark yells and phrases but there are far too few of these and they can become annoying. The music also didn’t do much for me. Controls are good enough and you’ll definitely want to play with an analogue controller. For such a simple seeming game you can actually pull off some impressive tricks like power sliding, turbo boosting and brake turns so while the game might seem easy at first later tracks will need good reflexes and a fair bit of luck to complete. Your opponents are a ruthless bunch and will think nothing of shooting a missile up your tailpipe on the last bend before zooming past. Since you have to come in first to win the track this can be a bit annoying, but that’s all part of the fun.
While Crash Team Racing isn’t going to do much for the genre it’s still an entertaining game which fans of the Bandicoot will really enjoy. There’s not really a shortage of racing games on the Playstation but the four player mode will probably attract a few people. Overall I had fun playing this one and really liked the fact that there are so many challenges to complete even after you’ve won the last race. It’s always nice to get some real value for money.
*Review originally published December 1999.