Crash is back for another racing game. Or should we call it another racing clone?Review by Steven Rodriguez
Crash Bandicoot, the once unofficial mascot for the PlayStation, is back for his second karting appearance in the form of Crash Nitro Kart. It's hard to not consider this game a clone of Mario Kart, which is what the original Crash Team Racing was regarded as, but as it turns out, CNK is actually more a kin to the N64's Diddy Kong Racing than Mario's game. After playing through it you'll see why it's called a clone, and an average one at that.
As the game opens, you'll see how Crash finds himself back in a racing situation. As sister Coco tunes up the Bandicoot kart fleet, an alien spaceship sucks up their house and transports them to an alien world. Dr. Cortex and his cronies get beamed up too. The premise of the game is to race around worlds to entertain the aliens, win races, get trophies and keys, and ultimately win back your freedom to return home. It's a pretty funny story, mostly because of how lame it is, and serves as a glue to link the various game modes together.
Nitro Kart's main feature is the Adventure mode. When you get into it, you'll be dropped into a central hub with gates leading off to various themed worlds, with only one accessible at first. Within each themed world, there are four tracks, and you'll need to beat the racing challenges in each. After you do so, you'll race the level boss one-on-one to get the key that will unlock the gate to the next world. Planets include the stereotypical ice, fire, and jungle worlds, among others, and the tracks are what you'd expect, with features such as the lava pits in the fire world. The tracks are somewhat creative, though it's nothing that will wow you when you first race on them.
The game's angle is that at the start of Adventure mode, you can pick a team of racers. Team Bandicoot and Team Cortex are the two you start with, and each team has three pilots: The all-around racer, the small, easy to control type, and the big clunky speed character. There are four teams in total, with two racers racing from each team. The idea is to have either you or your teammate place first. This format presents an interesting situation to the person playing: You don't need to win the race yourself in order to win that particular track's trophy. This means you can theoretically beat all of the tracks without winning a single race yourself, which sort of defeats the purpose of a racing game.
Compounding this is the actual racing. During the course of a race, a "Team Frenzy" meter fills. After about a lap or a lap and a half, it fills completely and upon activation, it gives you unlimited random items for about 10 seconds. This means you can unload on someone ahead of you, easily overtaking them, or drop items behind you at will, making it really hard to be passed. This makes the racing way too easy, since all you need to do to win is wait until the last half lap, use Team Frenzy, and take out the two guys in front of you and win the race. It cheapens the game somewhat, taking actual racing skill out of the equation, since items come so easily.
Crash Nitro Kart does a pretty good job with power sliding and boosting. When you press either L or R to hop into a power slide, a meter appears. When this meter fills up between halfway and full, pressing the other shoulder button will activate a boost, and the meter will start filling again. You can boost up to three times this way. You'll also get a boost for hopping off of ramps. The idea is to link together the sliding around the turns, hops off ramps and the various boost plates around the track to link these boosts together. Obviously, the more boosts you can get in a row, the faster you'll go. It can be a little hard to handle the speed with some of the faster characters, but it can be mastered with practice.
After you've gone through all the Trophy Races, you have the option to go back to each of the tracks for more racing action. CNK Challenges require you to collect the letters C, N, and K around a track and then win. The Relic Race is the game's version of a time trial, where you go around a track as fast as possible while breaking time crates that freeze the clock for a short period. Both of these modes offer an alternative to the flawed racing that the normal Trophy Races offer, but the racing in general is still average.
The game's multiplayer options are plentiful. You can either race or battle against three friends in a variety of modes. The battle modes include a Capture the Flag mode and Steal the Bacon (which is basically one-flag CTF), and both are pretty fun with four people. The racing is a bit slower with more people on the screen, however, making it a little harder to enjoy. Curiously, the team aspect of CNKâ€™s Adventure mode isn't available with two people, since Adventure is for one player only. It would have made a lot of sense if you could play through Adventure cooperatively.
Considering that Mario Kart is already out and about, it's would be impossible to recommend Crash Nitro Kart over Nintendo's own kart racer. However, some might be turned off by Mario Kart's relatively high difficulty, so something as easy to beat as CNK might be nice to play through if you've been frustrated by one too many turtle shells. There's only room for one kart racing title on the GameCube, and unfortunately for Crash Bandicoot, his game isn't it, even if you can get some enjoyment out of it.Pros:
- Great multiplayer battle mode
- Good, simple controls
- Too easy to win with unlimited items
- Don't need to place first to win a challenge race
- No co-op Adventure
The Crash games do have their own style, and this style is easily seen throughout CNK. Of course, it's not the best looking one around, but it works. Basically, if you've played any of the other Crash Bandicoot games out there, then you have a pretty good idea what this one looks like.Sound: 6.0
The music is rather generic, and you'll easily forget that it's playing while in the middle of race. The sound effects are rather plain too. The best part about the game's audio is that sexy talking mask that gives you advice between races, but even he gets rather annoying.Control: 7.5
The karts control pretty nicely, but can be hard to handle consistently at top speed. Power sliding is pretty easy to do, as well as using items and generally jockeying for position. There are a few times during a race where your kart changes into hovercraft mode, which is a bit screwy to slide around corners with, but it's a minor quirk.Gameplay: 6.0
Think Diddy Kong Racing with a lot of problems that make it way too easy. For one, you don't need to win a race to advance, as long as your teammate wins. The occasional use of unlimited items for a brief period is also a bit silly, since you can use it to cream anyone ahead of you or make it impossible for someone behind you to catch up. The variety of racing modes is a nice addition, but since the racing itself is ludicrously unbalanced, there's nothing other modes can do to save it.Lastability: 7.0
Yeah, there's a lot to do, but the problem is that you'll be doing it over and over again. The number of tracks is comparative to Mario Kart, but for some reason, it seems much more repetitive. The four or five different tasks you'll need to do for every track start to get boring, considering how easy it is to win races. Multiplayer is only good for the battle mode, and there's a map editor for custom battle arenas.Final Score (Not an average): 6.5
When you look at the entire game you have a pretty generic kart racer that is enjoyable, but flawed where it counts: the racing. It's a little too easy to win races, and once you beat it all, there's very little for you to keep coming back to. If you don't mind the ease of winning and the fact that you can beat the game handily (and you're tired of, or don't yet have Mario Kart), then Crash Nitro Kart can be a crate full of fun. Otherwise, dust off Diddy Kong Racing and beat Wizpig again.