Naughty Dog gives a crash course in kart racing.
Remember back in the day when mascot platformers were in high demand? How about mascot kart racers? Yep, those were popular back in the day, too. ...I miss those days. Thus, I decided to time travel, so to speak, back to 1999 and bust out my copy of Crash Team Racing. Giving Mario and his pals a run (or is it ride?) for their money, Crash Bandicoot and friends have a kart racer that's solid and most importantly, a blast, whether solo or with friends.
Crash Team Racing is in no short supply of modes, making games like Mario Kart 8 jealous, even when that title has online play! The main single player mode is Adventure, which was obviously inspired by Diddy Kong Racing, a game that had just released the previous year. Players control one of eight characters as they progress through overworlds, collecting trophies, CTR tokens, relics, and gems in their bid to take down the evil Nitrous Oxide who wishes to turn planet Earth into one gigantic parking lot. Good for karts, bad for everything and everyone else.
A pithy selection of races are available at the beginning of the adventure mode, but as races and trophies are won, new locations open up. Once all of the racing trophies have been earned in an area through getting first place, the boss garage opens. After a boss has been defeated, CTR challenges and relic races open up, as does a new area to explore and compete in races in. CTR challenges pit you in a race against seven other opponents. However, you must not only win, but you have to collect the letters C, T, and R too. Relic races are essentially time trials where running into differently numbered boxes stops the timer for a limited amount of time.
|You can't get second on the track|
named after you, Crash!
My favorite part of Crash Team Racing isn't the wacky characters, that to be fair, I didn't grow up playing the Crash Bandicoot games so I really have no emotional attachment or interest in them. No, it's the track design, specifically the shortcuts available. Some offer some insane sections to slice off seconds from your overall time or create more distance between you and your competitors. A lot have a risk vs. reward dilemma to them (such as hopping off a ramp or hill at the exactly right time to make it over a wall), while others are just hidden well and require great skill to access them.
|Careful. We've spotted a mad dingo|
riding around these parts, pardner!
To assist in getting the best possible times in races, you're going to need some skill and some finesse. An incredibly crucial kart racing maneuver in any kart racer that has any worth to it is the power slide. It works a bit differently in CTR than say, Mario Kart, but I don't say that like it's a bad thing. A power slide begins with a hop and a slide around a corner or turn. As the slide continues, exhaust builds from the back of the kart. When the exhaust turns black, that's your signal to hit the left shoulder button to create a makeshift boost. This can be done three times, taking into consideration when the exhaust turns black for each boost attempt, of course. The final of the three possible boosts lasts the longest.
|For our Spanish-speaking friends,|
a screenshot to make you feel more at home!
While power slides are an essential to liven up a kart racer, so are items. Crash Team Racing has enough of those in both offensive and defensive forms to keep races interesting. Thankfully, CTR uses a Mario Kart 64-like position on items. What I mean by this is that you will never see the AI using a CTR equivalent of the blue shell. Instead, they tend to stick to boosts, bombs, missiles, and flasks, which in Mario Kart lingo become mushrooms, green shells, red shells, and banana peels respectively.
|This mask serves as Crash Team Racing's|
answer to Mario Kart's Super Star.
Crash Team Racing delivers multiplayer thrills for when just competing against computer racers gets a bit dull after a little while. The game supports up to four players, though for three and four player action you'll need the Multitap peripheral for the original PlayStation version. Even with just two players, going against the AI and competing in four race cups is a wildly exciting and thrilling time.
|Use some of that polar bear power|
to get into first place!
Crash Team Racing was indeed the PlayStation's answer to not only Mario Kart but then-popular Diddy Kong Racing. With a capable adventure mode, lots of multiplayer options, plenty of unlockables, tight controls, and solidly designed tracks, Crash Bandicoot's racing debut delivers a rewarding kart racing experience that is unmatched on the PlayStation platform and wouldn't be matched until the PS3's Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing in the kart racing arena, almost a decade later. This is probably preaching to the choir, but Crash Team Racing is a well done kart racer that's still worth a spin today.
[SPC Says: 9.25/10]