Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled (Switch) Review
As the pioneer of the entire genre, Mario Kart has understandably always been the most renowned and beloved of kart racing games over the last two decades. Many imitators have attempted to emulate the formula over the years, and perhaps none managed it more successfully than Crash Team Racing on the PlayStation. Driven by the success of the Crash Bandicoot trilogy remake, Activision has given the makeover treatment to the marsupial’s original karting adventure and has brought some goodies from its sequels along for the ride.
Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled features a variety of modes, but the Adventure is the beating heart of the game. Drawing no shortage of inspiration from Diddy Kong Racing, you’ll cruise around a hub world comprised of different themed areas. Each area has several tracks that you’ll need to complete to unlock a boss race who’ll surrender a key to the next world upon their defeat. It’s an enjoyable wrapping to see most of what the game has to offer, rather than simply selecting races from a menu.
Each track also has two additional race modes for you to master. CTR Challenge tasks you to collect the letters C T R scattered across the track and still come first, with some letters being deviously well hidden. Relic Race sees you racing a ticking clock to reach the end before time runs out as you smash through crates to freeze the clock for precious seconds. They help to flesh out the adventure mode by offering additional ways to interact with each track that will help to fill your wallet with coins to spend at the in-game shop.
The Pit Stop shop lets you purchase new characters, karts, skins and vehicle stickers for all your customisation needs, including ones from the sequels to the original game, though much of it costs an absurd amount of in-game currency. If you’re playing the Adventure mode in the new “Nitro-Fueled” variant you can change your kart and character at any point throughout the campaign, as well as being able to select from three difficulties settings. Those who strictly want to relive the same game they played when they were younger can opt for the classic mode instead which strips out these customisation options.
Adventure mode can be raced through in a couple of hours, but you can expect to spend substantially longer if you intend to conquer every event. The game puts up a steep challenge on the medium difficulty, with aggressive AI that puts up a tough fight even in the early races. This is also the case for the boss races, which utilise some severe rubber-banding to make it nigh-on impossible to put much distance between you and your opponent. The Relic Races also put forward some gruelling time targets to beat. If you didn’t play this one as a kid, be prepared for a challenge.
This applies even more so for those who haven’t played CTR but have put dozens of hours in recent Mario Kart games over the years. They may be similar in appearance, but you can expect an adjustment phase while you adapt to Crash’s flavour of kart racing. The karts move significantly faster than in Mario Kart (200cc aside), and the drift mechanic is vastly different. You have two buttons for drifting – one to hop and initiate the drift, and the other which needs to be tapped when your boost gage reaches its peak to activate the boost which can be done up to three times. It takes some getting used to, but once you do it’s a novel approach to drifting that feels suitably challenging yet rewarding to pull off. With that said, you’ll need a lot more room on a corner to get it started than in Mario Kart, so expect to end up in the wall more than a few times until you get a feel for it.
Once you’re acclimated the racing is fast, intense and a lot of fun. Races can quickly get chaotic with many tight tracks and plenty of items flying. Scattered across the tracks and encased in crates are Wumpa Fruit, which offers several advantages for those who go out of their way to collect them. Collecting them will increase your top speed but holding the maximum of 10 will upgrade your powerups to more potent versions. TNT crates go from timed explosives that can be shaken off to instant combustion, Power Shields become permanent until hit, boosts last longer and lots more. The item selection overall is great, and this system allowing access to powered up versions makes them even better.
Outside of Adventure mode, you’ll have access to tracks from Crash Nitro Kart, resulting in a respectable 31 tracks available to play. The track designs aren’t as inventive as some modern kart racers, but they’re mostly all still fun to play and they look gorgeous with distinctive visual motifs. This is one of the prettiest third-party offerings I’ve seen on Switch and runs at a consistent 30fps. The only technical drawback for the game, and it’s a big one, is the load times. You’ll spend a lot of time in this game staring at the loading screen. They appear between each race and can take up to 30 seconds at a time. It begins as a minor annoyance but can become frustrating after several hours with the game.
Rounding out the feature set is a robust battle mode with several different game types, ranging from score battle to survival to capture the flag which are played across 12 battle arenas. These and the races can all be played in four-player split-screen or taken online. After some initial hiccups around launch day, the online multiplayer now seems to have settled nicely with matchmaking running smoothly and plenty of players online. The developers have also promised free updates and new tracks in the months to come.
It’s always going to be a tough ask going up against the near-perfect Mario Kart 8, but Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled is an excellent kart racing alternative for those looking for something different. It looks great, packs plenty of great content and offers and quality kart racing experience. There’s certainly a learning curve, and some cheap AI and painful loading times can be frustrating, but there’s a lot of fun to be had here regardless of whether you have nostalgic memories for the 90s original or not.
+ Compelling adventure mode
+ Looks beautiful
+ Races are fast and fun
- Excessive rubber-banding
- Long load times
- Store items are overpriced