Mascot-based kart racers are practically their own genre at this point. With games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and the upcoming Team Sonic Racing, another title will soon enter the ring. Crash Bandicoot recently had a bit of a revival, thanks mainly to the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. Since the original three titles were remade, Activision tasked Beenox with remaking the classic Crash Team Racing. We had a chance to demo Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled recently, taking the remake for a test drive.
In our demo, there were three courses to choose from: Crash Cove, Tiger Temple, and Polar Pass. Eight of the seventeen confirmed characters were available to choose from. Like most other kart racers, each character handles a bit differently. Some, like Crash himself, will be more balances while others like Coco will have better acceleration. Dingodile is heavy enough to have a maximum top speed while Ripper Roo has great handling and acceleration, but practically no top speed. For my demo, I played with several of these characters, my favorites being Ripper Roo and Crash himself.
My first track was Crash Cove, an easy course with few obstacles to worry about. It’s been a while since I’ve played Crash Team Racing, so it took a little getting used to. There’s your basic acceleration, brake, item button and jump buttons. Jumping and holding it down for a turn can be used to powerslide for a boost. Unlike Mario Kart, the powerslide timing is a bit different and involves a gauge at the bottom right corner. It takes getting used to, but with some practice, it can be mastered. Jumping off of ramps can also give a boost, better ones being based on how long you were in the air. These are much easier to pull off and honestly can make powerslides unnecessary against AI.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is definitely a big visual upgrade, which is to be expected nearly twenty years later. Characters are covered in detailed fur, their animations are polished, and the stylized environments are full of life. Crash Cove was a simple example, but the track was lit with a gorgeous sunset orange. The waves of the water wash up on the shores and driving through creates nice splash effects. The environment itself has lots of little details, pretty much all of them being brand new in the remake. Seagulls could be seen in their nests and islanders walk across rock formations as you drive past.
Items in the game are pretty comparable to ones seen in Mario Kart. Tracking missiles work similar to red shells, available either as a single item or in a set of three. Shields are unique items, able to sustain a single hit, but also with the ability to be used as a projectile. N. Brio’s beakers work like banana peels, being left on the track to cause trouble for other racers. TNT crates are traps that can be picked up by other players, able to be discarded if players jump fast enough. Extra turbo works like a mushroom boost, and warp orbs are similar to the infamous blue spiny shell. Interestingly enough, the star-like power-up is either Aku Aku or Uka Uka depending on your character’s alignment.
Where Crash Team Racing sets itself apart in its item usage is the potential to “juice up” your items. This is based on your Wumpa fruit collection, working similar to Mario Kart’s coins. Collect ten and maintain it as you pick up the item and you’ll get a nice treat. Juicing up your items will essentially power them up and make them stronger or give them better effects. It really adds a bit of depth to the combat mechanics, making it so you’ll always want to collect Wumpa fruit to maintain a steady supply. There are a few more items in the game, giving a healthy amount for what likely keeps the gameplay balanced. The game doesn’t have quite as many as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, but the juice up mechanic adds a bit more variety.
I finished Crash Cove in first place fairly easily, despite being long out of practice. Moving onto Tiger Temple, that was when the difficulty notably spiked. Not only were other racers driving smarter, but the obstacles were much more abundant too. Perhaps the most annoying obstacle was the fire-breathing tiki hazards. While the timing was one thing to worry about, the biggest issue here was the area of effect. The range of the fire was much longer than what was visually apparent. This lead to moments where I would drive around it, thinking I avoided the hazard, only to spin out and burn anyway. Hopefully this is something that Beenox fixes before the game releases.
Tiger Temple, despite the fire hazard, was a huge upgrade in details. The temple architecture added a lot of cool visual designs and the environment had a chance to show off some rainy weather effects. This track also has a clear shortcut, though it has to be opened up with a weapon. Roughly halfway through the track is a giant wall that can be blasted open. Once open, it becomes accessible to all racers, at least for one lap. Crash Cove had a shortcut too, but it was a bit harder to reach, involving a special jump early in the track. These shortcuts seem pretty vital to maintain a solid lead against the AI.
Moving onto the final track, Polar Pass, this was easily the hardest track of the demo. Not only does the AI increase in difficulty, but there are more obstacles than ever. Icy roads that make subtle steering cause issues, several areas to fall off, and a few sharp turns, this track will test your skills. It took a little practice to get used to it, but after a couple tries, I managed to get first on the course, beating the next racer by 25 seconds. This was mostly due to limiting mistakes, as well as taking a shortcut by jumping over a wall. Of course, I could chalk it up to dumb luck, but I felt satisfied getting first on each track.
Two decades later and I still don’t know why this game has “Team” in the title. This game is a very different concept to Team Sonic Racing. Either way, being a remake, it doesn’t really matter now. Boasting at least 31 tracks, 18 of which from the original Crash Team Racing, and 13 from the sequel, Crash Nitro Kart, it’s a pretty sizeable amount. There may be a few surprises left, but for now, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is feeling like a solid package. For $39.99, it’s going to be a good option for kart-racing fans. Even better, it’s releasing on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, so fans can buy it on their platform of choice. Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is set to release on June 21st, 2019, and you can expect a review when it gets closer to release.