Nintendo created the perfect template with Mario Kart, a series that’s so enduring that it’s still one of the company’s best-selling games. In the radical 90s, its popularity saw it cloned and copied by just about everyone. Some of those attempts were better than others, and Naughty Dog’s Crash Team Racing was undoubtedly the best of them.
For starters, it did something that Nintendo still hasn’t managed to do in its Mario Kart games: deliver a single player experience that’s more than just racing a series of 4-race cups. Crash Team Racing borrowed heavily from other kart racers, but Naughty Dog managed to grab the best bits. It drew inspiration from Mario Kart for its best tracks, with Cortex Castle – as just one example – a near copy of Mario Kart 64’s Bowser’s castle. The game’s adventure mode heavily appropriated from Diddy Kong Racing – nut honestly, none of that really matters because Crash Team Racing was some of the best damned fun available on the original PlayStation.
And now it’s back, given the same loving remake treatment that Activision gave the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro remakes. I think the best remakes are the ones that look and feel like they do in your rose-tinted memories of long ago. Too often I boot up an old, beloved game, only to feel like my memories are betraying me.
Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fuelled is one of those sorts of remakes. It looks and sounds amazing. Most importantly though, it feels and plays just as it did twenty years ago. Each track’s twists and turns are as you remember them, each boost pad exactly where it should be. A Crash Team Racing old hat will be able to pick this up, and through muscle memory alone, be able to pull of the game’s signature triple-boost as they careen around corners. That’s not to say it’s the old game with a new lick of paint. While the adventure mode remains intact, it’s now split off into two modes. The paper-thin plot is the same between them.
Nitrous Oxide, a curmudgeonly alien wants to enslave earth, and Crash and his pals need to race against him to stop that from happening. That’s as much narrative impetus as there is, but any excuse to drive very fast in a tiny vehicle is good enough for me. There’s a classic mod for purists, that has a set difficulty mode, and makes it so that you’re stuck with whichever character you choose for the duration of the game. The newer Nitro Fueled mode lets you choose from any of three difficulties at the beginning, and also switch between characters and kart customisation throughout. It’s definitely the more modern of the two, though an option to change difficulty mid-game would probably be welcome because the game can be pretty tough.
Newcomers, I feel, will probably struggle with Crash Team Racing. That is until they master the very necessary drift boosting that requires alternating between the requisite boost buttons. It’s not a hard mechanic to learn, but it’s definitely one that’ll take a bit of practice to master. There’s a new, optional feature in this remake called Nitro wheels, that make your wheels glow at the opportune moment for a boost. It’s a nice addition that’ll make learning the timing for the drift boost a little easier.
The adventure mode plays out exactly as it did in the past. In your kart, you can drive over to an unlocked race, completing which unlocks more races. After four such races, you’re able to race against that area’s boss. If you beat the boss, you’re awarded a key, which lets you progress on to the next area. I have to say that aside from the balmy Ripper Roo who was an enjoyable opponent the rest of the bosses are outright cheating bastards. Oxide, as you might imagine, is the bloody worst of them; a frustrating race where the odds are definitely not stacked in your favour.
Completing the game doesn’t take very long at all; I think I saw the credits five hours after pressing the start button. Because it’s a Crash Bandicoot game though, the experience is sufficiently padded with events that’ll have you racing the clock to earn relics, collecting gems to open up racing cups and collecting the hidden “C,” “T” and “R” letters that pepper levels. It’s only after you do all this superfluous stuff where you get to race Oxide again in your bid to save earth from enslavement.
While I appreciate the inclusion of the adventure mode, I have come to realise that the hub world is really just a long, animated menu where you drive between menu options – making it really not that different from Mario Kart after all. Still, it’s a nice thing to have, and it helps feel like you’re doing more than just racing one track after another.
As you play the game, you’ll unlock parts which you can use to customise your cart, characters to play with and aesthetic fluff like decals, spray jobs and stickers. And while there’s an in-game store for you to buy more of the stuff, you’ll only be able to use the cash you earn in-game; there are no microtransactions here. As we know, there’ll be Fortnite-like seasonal content coming to the game so there’s always some or other reason to grind for cash. Thankfully, that grind is fun.
Games like this live and die by their multiplayer though, and Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled is just as fun as it ever was when you’re playing it in a room with friends. The “Local Arcade” menu option here gives you a full suite of multiplayer modes, ranging from single and cup races, to time trials and Relic races and multiplayer crystal collect-a-thons. Of course, the original’s adversarial Battle mode returns and that has its own options – letting you set it up for capture the flag, scored battles, last kart standing and more. There’s an awful lot to play here, especially if you’re able to have friends around. What’s also quite nice is that there’re more tracks available in the multiplayer than in the base adventure mode. There are tracks from Crash Nitro Kart available to play, as well as a few skins from Crash Tag Team Racing.
If I have to be critical, taking off those nostalgic glasses for a moment, I will say that Crash Team Racing’s fast and run racing has largely been surpassed. This looks great and is a treat for old fans, but newer kart racing games like Mario Kart 8 and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (both which feature transforming vehicles and flying) have a sense of speed that and dynamism that’s missing from CTR. It may look new and shiny, but it plays like a game from twenty years ago. That though, I suppose, is the point – but it’s hard not to feel like it’s a bit of a relic.
Thankfully, the game’s
Last Updated: June 27, 2019