Crash Staff Racing – the unique one – is my life-or-death recreation: the one I might choose if some cartoon, alien villain got here all the way down to Earth and advised me I had one likelihood to beat them in a online game to save lots of the world, and one the place I reckon I might even have a good shot at pulling it off, too. I’ve performed it rather a lot, principally – a lot that I apparently cannot even describe it with out referencing it is race-to-save-the-world Journey Mode – and it is in all probability the one recreation I might say I am really, genuinely good at. I am equal elements relieved and delighted, then, to say that with Crash Staff Racing: Nitro-Fueled Activision and Beenox have completely nailed it. It is a lavish, fantastically polished remaster.
For the uninitiated (type your lives out), Crash Staff Racing is like Mario Kart solely objectively masses higher, firstly as a result of it has a number of odd, Prongles-tier characters in it that signify the whole lot nice and terrible about this period of ’90s model nostalgia, and additionally as a result of it really launched some nice mechanics again within the day: particularly an lively power-slide operate (much like however I promise not precisely the identical as Mario Kart’s) that not solely allow you to drift round corners to stack up velocity boosts, on the threat of fluffing your timing and spinning out, but in addition required you to actively hit the second shoulder button on the proper time to really get the bonus velocity. The later you allow it the extra likelihood of spinning out, however the larger the potential enhance in velocity. It added – and provides – an excellent layer of complexity to the sport’s already cracking, intuitive dealing with: reasonably than being nearly a great line or good braking, cornering in CTR is about figuring out when to hop, when to interrupt and switch mid-air, when to energy slide and whether or not or to not likelihood a sequence of boosts.
Then there’s the opposite standout characteristic, Journey Mode, which it borrowed from Diddy Kong Racing (a recreation I did not play and so will assume no person cared about, as a result of it positively did not earn a world file for promoting quick or something). It is the principle “story” for Diddy Kong Racing and CTR alike, setting you up in a form of 3D platformer cluster of consecutive hub worlds to pootle about in, every with a set of races and challenges inside. Win the world’s 4 races and you’ll face that world’s boss on their dwelling observe, beat that boss and you will unlock time trials and collectable duties in that world, and the proper to proceed to extra races within the subsequent. Beat all of the worlds’ bosses and also you face the large boss, Nitrous Oxide, in a showdown for the destiny of the planet.
It is slightly on the brief aspect, if you happen to’re simply ploughing by way of the races – it solely took me three and a bit hours, though I ought to stress simply how uncomfortably acquainted I’m with this recreation and the actual fact I mainlined the races solely – but it surely’s nonetheless a easy and surprisingly neat hook, even now, offering a mild, progressively scaling introduction to the sport’s tracks and characters. Should you do need slightly extra problem, and possibly have a longing for the times of hundred-per-centing video games like they had been the one factor left in your life, there may be nonetheless a good likelihood to check your self within the a lot harder time trials and crystal-collecting arenas, which drag the mode out far, far longer (however do additionally really feel like somebody’s utilizing all their powers of creativity to squeeze each drop of “content material” out of driving a kart round a observe).
The place CTR actually shines although, clearly, is the co-op. Sofa-wise Nitro-Fueled is maxed out at 4 gamers, as you’d anticipate, however the cut up display screen works a dream, bringing a well-recognized stage of chaos that you just get from any kart racer prefer it. There isn’t any detectable rubber-banding to my eyes, by way of uncooked velocity, however once more like all kart racer there are higher gadgets that’ll seem extra regularly the additional again you go – masks that make you invincible, a lot sooner, and knock up anybody you stumble upon whereas they’re lively for a quick time; blippy blue thingies which might be principally blue shells, homing in and zapping most opponents in entrance of you; and a clock that places everybody else in slow-mo and locks them out of utilizing gadgets themselves as you catch up. Naturally, issues get extra slowed down in the course of the pack, the place there are extra individuals there to catch you with gadgets and zone you out of crates or booster pads, which implies on the different finish of the size it is simpler to tug away even additional when you get a great lead – however I’ve nonetheless at all times discovered the merchandise distribution to be a great balancer. You depend on them slightly, positive, however they’re extra a counterweight to the crowding-out of the principle pack than a complete crutch: you continue to want real talent if you wish to shut a niche from eighth to 1st.
The nicely-tuned balancing is only one a part of it although actually: a whole lot of Nitro-Fueled’s karting simply appears like a pure enhancement of options you are already acquainted with. You’ll be able to accumulate Wumpa fruit, as an illustration, for a lift to your high velocity if you attain the cap of ten – however having ten additionally means your gadgets all get enhanced, too. Masks final for longer; dropped TNT crates, that you just usually have an opportunity to shake off, turn out to be Nitro crates that explode on influence. Refined issues like the location of merchandise crates, in the meantime, implies that you want some extremely advantageous mechanical prowess to really attain them, extra so than most kart racers I’ve tried. I nonetheless wrestle with reliably hitting one or two of the shortcuts or teasingly spaced-out crates even now, when most tracks are dedicated nearly completely to muscle reminiscence. There is a fixed sense of lively decision-making happening – some shortcut jumps, as an illustration, can solely be made with one thing like an merchandise supplying you with a lift; some you may simply make with out one and a few provided that you time it immaculately, leaving them ever-tempting and ever-disastrous, a minimum of for the weak-willed like me, who appear decided to throw away a lead.
I might usually say that stage of intricacy is what provides CTR its longevity, the temptation at all times there to return and shave an additional few seconds off by nailing a sure bounce, chaining a near-impossible set of boosts or simply getting all Forza and discovering a greater line. However with Nitro-Fueled that is form of moot, as a result of Beenox has simply gone forward and added one other fourteen tracks – 13 from the PS2’s lesser-known, locked-in-the-attic sibling Crash Nitro Kart (we do not speak about that one), and an additional retro one for amusing. There are additionally ten extra characters that I do know of, once more from the sequel we do not speak about (CTR has a factor for hiding the odd secret unlockable but when there are any extra, barring the outdated cheat-only one I shan’t spoil, I have not discovered them but). And there is a surprisingly fleshed-out customisation system too – all beauty solely, and all seemingly solely unlocked with cash earned from gameplay, too, not a microtransaction in sight. Each character has a handful of skins, and there are a wealth of kart-tweaking choices – from our bodies to wheels and decals – once more beauty solely, once more unlocked with in-game progress. Beenox can be promising a minimum of three free “seasons” of DLC after launch, bringing new tracks and characters together with, you guessed it, an inevitable look from Spyro.
Critically talking I am left with little, if something, to say. I used to be fearful that revisiting CTR may really feel a bit like going again to your old skool, the place the whole lot’s a lot smaller than you remembered – and possibly if it had been simply the bottom recreation that is likely to be true. However Nitro-Fueled feels extra like seeing and outdated buddy than an outdated classroom, even when it is a fairly bizarre buddy who refuses to develop up and nonetheless wears jorts in public. It is simply plain, dumb enjoyable, a recreation fully unashamed of itself even now. I believe that is in all probability why, even past the enormously beneficiant therapy it is had from Beenox and underneath the good, polished-up hood, CTR continues to be among the finest kart racers ever made.