Crash Team Racing is an unimaginative, uninspired and repetitive title, but its strong multiplayer mode is almost impossible to resist and that’s what will keep you coming back for more.
Can a clone improve upon the foundations of the game it’s based on? Crash Team Racing is clearly inspired by Mario Kart and while the former borrows a lot from the Nintendo series, it introduces a few ideas of its own, making Crash Team Racing really entertaining to play as long as you have friends to play with.
Whenever I write a review about a game that has some sort of story, I feel obligated to include a synopsis, but as you can imagine, the story is the least important part about Crash Team Racing. Basically, all the characters from the Crash Bandicoot universe join forces to defeat the alien creature who’s threatening to destroy our planet. Our favorite marsupial and his buddies (and interestingly, some of his enemies) decide to race in go-karts to decide the fate of our planet and prove, once and for all, who’s the fastest in the universe. I guess it was either that or play soccer, tennis or a bunch of mini-games.
There are five main modes. CTR Adventure is the single-player campaign where you race through levels to collect trophies, relics, tokens, gems, keys and other artifacts. Every now and then, you’ll race a boss and move on to a new section where you’ll find more tracks. In Time Trial, you race against the clock and in this mode, there aren’t any racers or power-ups, but the novelty is that you can save replays in the form of ghosts. Arcade is the fastest way to play single races or cups, though there are some options to choose from (number of laps, racers, tracks and difficulty level.) Finally, there are two multiplayer modes, so if you have some friends to play with, this is the place where you’ll spend most of your time. Versus lets you compete against friends and in battle mode, up to four players battle using weapons against each other in special tracks.
As you can see, there’s a healthy number of modes and several mechanics that constantly keep you on your toes. As you race, you’ll collect Wumpa fruit and if you manage to accrue ten of them, your power-ups will be much more effective. Turbo boosts take place when you land, power slide or when you touch turbo pads. Finally, the crates that are lying around the different environments contain several power-ups. Everything you’d expect is here, including missiles, bombs, shields, TNT crates, nitrogen crates, invincibility and so on. If you’ve played Mario Kart, you know what each items does.
If you’re a fan of the Crash Bandicoot series, chances are your favorite character is here. You can play as Crash Bandicoot, Doctor Neo Cortex, Coco Bandicoot, Doctor N. Gin, Pura, Polar, Tiny, Dingodile and Nitros Oxide. Selecting a character goes beyond aesthetical preferences, since they all have unique statistics attached to them that come into play when you race, so if you want to win, you need to pay attention to the acceleration, top speed and handling of each go-kart.
The structure of the single-player campaign is simple enough, but it can become tedious after a while. The main mode encourages you to finish first in several races to progress. Once you’ve beaten a race, you can go back to that same track and try to beat the clock to collect special relics. Once you’ve collected all the trophies and all the relics, you can participate in “Medallion” races and if you manage to get all the collectibles, you’ll be able to race the final boss and beat the main mode. Ultimately, this feels like an excessive number of collectibles in order to complete the game, making the single-player campaign way too long. Alternatively, you can finish the campaign once and move on to the multiplayer modes which are much more entertaining.
Despite being really entertaining, the place where Crash Team Racing shines isn’t its single-player, but its multiplayer. If you have friends who don’t mind playing classic PlayStation games, you’ll have loads of fun with Crash Team Racing. The multiplayer modes aren’t that inventive and if you’ve played any of the Mario Kart games, you won’t see anything new here. Still, the multiplayer aspect is really fun when there’s a lot of people playing at the same time.
Finally, I must say I found it almost impossible to write this review without making some sort of reference to Nintendo’s racing title. Crash Team Racing takes the term “Mario Kart clone” to an extreme. Not only are the two games similar in terms of gameplay, graphics, premise, music, weapons and mode, but Crash Team Racing’s copies Mario Kart’s tracks blatantly. Team Racing’s tracks are set in tropical islands, stadiums underwater cities and lands covered in snow, but most of them aren’t that creative. I guess it’s understandable to take a few ideas from one of the best (not to mention popular) kart racing games of all time, but developers could have added some of their own ideas, instead of “borrowing” so much.
Ultimately, I’m not sure if a clone can improve the concepts of the game it’s based on. But if that’s possible, Crash Team Racing certainly didn’t accomplish that. Naughty Dog’s racing game has the potential to be extremely entertaining, the only thing you need is a bunch of like-minded friends. When it comes down to it, Team Racing is an unimaginative, uninspired and repetitive title, but its strong multiplayer mode is almost impossible to resist and that’s what will keep you coming back for more.