Review: Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled

I can’t believe Crash Team Racing came out 20 years ago. TWENTY. YEARS. Wow, I feel old. I remember it being good. I think it might have even been really, really good. Was that the case? If this remaster is anything to go by, then yes. It was good. It still is good. Really, really good.

So it’s a kart racer. Featuring the stars of Crash Bandicoot, you get to play as Crash, the girl bandicoot, the bad guy scientist, a new alien, some other baddies and a cat or a bear. The characters look good but they’re not really well known – but then I’m not a huge Crash Bandicoot expert. Usual rules apply, each has their own strengths and weaknesses – the big boys are faster but with slower acceleration, the small ones are nippier getting going but with a worse top-speed.

All of the original tracks from Crash Team Racing are here, but so are also the tracks from Crash Nitro Kart. Character skins and kart designs from Crash Tag Team Racing are also included – so there’s a lot of game here. It’s nice to see a remaster/remake which tries to really make sure you get a full package, opposed to just replicating the original. Nitro-Fueled then feels like more of a ‘Greatest Hits’ of the Crash racing games.

The remaking is really well displayed with the tracks. Side by side comparisons really show it, but on their own, they look fantastic. It shows how limiting the old technology once was, if this was the vision. Some of my favourites are Coco’s racetrack, which giant holograms projecting over the stadium, and a windy Rainbow Road equivalent which feels like utter madness and shouldn’t work. I should know the names, but there are a lot of tracks in fairness.

Crash Team Racing is going to have the hardest time on Switch because of comparisons to Mario Kart. Sure, that Sonic game came out recently (which isn’t that great) but Mario really rules the roost. Thankfully, Crash plays a lot different. Some things will be familiar – get power ups to hamper others. The usual ones are here; speed boosts, equivalent blue shell etc, and collect apples (the equivalent of stars) to a max of 10, to go faster. However, this also improves some of your power ups – so extra worth having.

Crash has a unique boost mechanic. Hopping over jumps will give you a boost upon landing, and drifting round corners does too – providing you activate. Crash has two drift buttons. Both hop and initiate a drift, but the catch is when your drift bar reaches the right point, you press the opposite drift button, to boost. You can do this up to three times before activating a super boost. The super boost has to be perfect too – too early, and you don’t get as big a payoff. Too late, and it’s a fail – no boost for you. This adds a layer of depth to Crash, and chaining boosts becomes very important. It feels more like a speed racer than a traditional kart racer at points too.

As you would expect, couch play is here by way of split-screen and works nicely. Sadly you can’t play together online. Online modes (new for this version of Crash) let you race or battle. The campaign mode is single player only, and is probably one of the better known features of Crash. Set in a hub world, you do various races to prove to an alien that he’s not the best racer. It’s daft, but introduces new characters to unlock – and once you beat a race, you can go back to best it by a time trial mode, or collecting the CTR tokens on a course. These are nice extras – also quite hard! I played on easy and blitzed through the races and the bosses, but these additionals are tough.

Each race earns you coins, and these coins can be spent at the Pit Stop to unlock new karts, new skins, new characters, colour ways etc. There are no microtransactions – it all has to be earned in game. I found that playing online to be the best way to earn currency quickly, even though I lost most races. Sadly, the net code isn’t amazing and I’d often gain or lose places without seeing anyone. Shame.

The other final moan/nitpick is the frame rate. It’s a solid 30. And that’s fine. But Mario is 60. And as nice as Crash looks – and it does look nice – if it were just that higher a frame rate. Oh well. At least there is parity across the versions, with even the PS Pro one topping out at 30. There is some graphical disparity – whilst Crash looks lovely in portable mode, once docked there is some noticeable jaggy edges. It takes the shine off a bit, and whilst motion blur is used nicely in game to smooth any roughness out, the text still looks harsh. I did not notice this on the PS Pro version.

All in all, Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled is brilliant. It’s a great addition to the Switch kart-racer library, and a great game in it’s own right. It shows that, despite being 20 years old – it was a great game then and remains so today. It has very much stood the test of time and this is a worth remake.

Reviewed on Switch

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