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Crash Nitro Kart - Overview

As if chained to a contract, Crash once again ventures into the world of kart racing after another trio of platformers. Crash Nitro Kart is a spiritual successor to Crash Team Racing and owes almost everything to it, leading to inevitable comparisons between both games. In the end, it all boils down to this question: Was Crash Nitro Kart the successor that Crash Team Racing deserved?

Crash Bandicoot drives his kart around a sunny beach. The sun can be seen in front of him.This attempt to emulate the general feel of Crash Team Racing does well in some areas, but not in others.

Vicarious Visions's take on Crash Bandicoot racing looks better than CTR, which is only to be expected given the much more powerful consoles the game runs on. The environments look good and the characters are much more detailed than in CTR, each with his or her own unique animations. The game runs at 60 frames per second, though it does suffer from frequent slowdowns, particularly on the PlayStation 2. The music feels much less energic than its predecessor's, featuring tunes that aren't as memorable and lacking punch. The character taunts get a bit cringeworthy at times as well, and the kart engines all sound a bit annoying, so your best option is to lower the voice and sound effects volume, which is the only way you'll get to hear the soundtrack properly anyway.

The race tracks have also taken a toll. There are only 13 of them, resulting in awkward cups of 3 and a narrower selection compared to the CTR's 18 tracks. Most tracks are noticeably bigger than before, so it's easier to get tired of them. There are 2 new features regarding race tracks: you can activate traps and obstacles by breaking crates with exclamation marks on them, and some segments will have you driving up walls, ceilings, and loops. Thanks to the camera being centered on your character at all times, these gravity-changing segments don't change anything in terms of gameplay, but it does look kind of neat.

Fake Crash drives on the walls of a large yellow tunnel.The new anti-gravity segments complement the returning mechanics from CTR.

The kart handling has been replicated from CTR a bit poorly. Karts now feel much heavier with lower acceleration, and they run slower overall, even when you get a turbo boost. Speaking of, while you still get a boost from big jumps, your kart will slow down whenever you land, effectively negating the effect almost entirely. Powersliding is back, and besides being affected by the overall changes to the kart weight, it's mostly unchanged. You can make your kart run slightly faster by picking up 10 Wumpa fruits, which is now more difficult because they're no longer scattered individually around the tracks, being relegated to fruit crates containing 3 each. Hitting someone will make them drop 3 fruits, which you can pick up to your advantage. As before, 10 Wumpa fruits also means better power-ups (most of which are borrowed from CTR, sometimes under different names and appearances).

Teams are one of the new features in Crash Nitro Kart. Some modes will have an ally joining you who can assist you with power-ups: whenever you and your ally are close to each other, a meter slowly builds up, and when it's full, you can choose to activate Team Frenzy, a state where you get unlimited power-ups for a short amount of time. Additionally, if your ally crosses the finish line in first place, the win is still yours. All in all, the team features are all right, but at the same time, they're not terribly interesting.

Tiny, Cortex, and N. Gin stand in front of a winner's podium.For the first time in a Crash game, cutscenes are pre-rendered and look all the better for it.

All of the modes from CTR are back, including Adventure. You once again get to play through the story and unlock most of the content here, but some improvements have been made to this routine. For instance, rather than selecting a character as you start and sticking with him throughout the whole game, you can choose between two teams: Bandicoot and Cortex. You can switch between each team's 3 characters whenever you like, which is a welcome change. Each team also has its own cutscenes, adding some replay value to this mode. Cutscenes are, for the first time in the series, pre-rendered, and they look great despite the writing being cheesy at times (especially with Team Bandicoot). Regular races always have a teammate helping you out, but the remaining missions are unaltered from CTR: find 3 letters, participate in Relic Races, pick up Crystals, and race against bosses.

Arcade mode is back with a major flaw: Races now end as soon as a human player crosses the finish line. This means that if you're racing with a friend, whoever doesn't cross the line immediately gets ranked as their current position with no chance of improving. This outrageous decision effectively ruins Arcade mode if you're playing with someone.

Quick Race and Team Race are two new modes which are fairly self-explanatory. Quick Race is just a single race for fun, and Team Race is pretty much the same thing, but with racers divided in teams, letting you activate Team Frenzy. The multiplayer VS mode is back from CTR, allowing up to 4 people to race against each other in split-screen. Time Trial also makes a return, unchanged. Annoyingly, the developers missed the opportunity to fix one of CTR's most annoying issues, which is the fact that you can't view each character's stats outside Adventure mode.

Battle mode is back with larger arenas than ever. In fact, one might say too large... The arenas in CTR were just big enough to let players come up with strategies and hide when necessary, but here they're so expansive that simply reaching your opponents becomes a chore, sucking a lot of the fun out of it. Still, it does come with some new additions. The first one is the Arena Editor, which is unfortunately, not what the name suggests, as it simply lets you change the crate placement. There's also a Capture the Flag mode, where you have to find and bring the flag to your base, and a similar Steal the Bacon mode, which is the same concept except you need to get the flag from your opponent's base. Lastly, the Crystal challenges from Adventure mode can now be enjoyed competitively as well.

At the end of the day, Crash Nitro Kart comes off as a disappointment that falls short of the expectations set by the brilliant CTR. It desperately tries to be the same game with some added whistles and bells, but it ends up taking away more than it adds to the package. The slow-paced racing, clunky kart handling, and short number of tracks are just some of the problems that make the game less enjoyable than it should be.

The good

  • Nice cutscenes
  • Two separate storylines
  • Driving on walls and ceilings is a neat novelty
  • You can switch characters in Adventure mode

The bad

  • Few race tracks
  • Tracks and arenas get too large for their own good
  • The karts feel heavy and slow
  • Jump boosts are almost always negated
  • Only 1 human player can cross the finish line in Arcade mode
  • Unmemorable soundtrack
  • Annoying character taunts and kart engines
  • Character stats still aren't shown outside Adventure mode
  • It's a bit hard to pick up 10 fruits and upgrade power-ups

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