Imitation is the sincerest form of kart-tery
Back on the original PlayStation, Naughty Dog (Jak and Daxter, Uncharted, The Last of Us) developed a kart racer to battle against the Nintendo 64's arcade kart racing titans, Mario Kart 64 and Diddy Kong Racing. The game was known as Crash Team Racing, starring characters both old and new from the Crash Bandicoot franchise that Naughty Dog previously worked on. Crash Team Racing followed the foundations of both games it was inspired by, most notably Diddy Kong Racing's awesome Adventure Mode.
After Crash Team Racing and Crash Bash, a Mario Party-esque game, were released, Sony lost the rights to Crash Bandicoot to Universal Interactive. Several Crash Bandicoot games were launched the next console generation with Universal Interactive, then Activision, as the publisher, including a game very much resembling Crash Team Racing. Its name is Crash Nitro Kart, and it pretty much is Crash Team Racing formula without Naughty Dog as the publisher. Not just a carbon copy of its inspiration, Crash Nitro Kart happens to be a solid kart racing experience on sixth generation platforms.
The story of Crash Nitro Kart has Crash Bandicoot and his friends, as well as Dr. Cortex and his henchmen, taken from Earth and forced to race for Emperor Velo and his coliseum audience's amusement, or else Earth will be destroyed. However, if either team, Team Crash or Team Cortex, can earn their chance to race Velo and beat him, the Emperor will send them back home. The story is set up through a nice collection of full motion video cutscenes. The only issue with these is that there is no subtitle option to choose from, making for hard times for deaf players, as none of the spoken dialogue is given text whatsoever.
|You're the star of this game, Crash! You can't be in last place by that much!|
The CNK Challenge is just like the CTR Challenge of Crash Team Racing. Not only must you collect three letters: C, N, and K, around a given track, but you have to come in first place as well. The Relic Race requires you to beat a target time akin to a time trial. Fortunately, in a Relic Race, there are different crates strewn all along the track, each with a number from 1-3 on them. Ramming into a crate stops the timer for that amount of seconds. Both the CNK Challenge and the Relic Race race types are joined by a lone arena type of event in each of the game's four hubs that gives you an arena to speed around in, collecting 20 crystals before time runs out. All of these types of events are enjoyable, varied, and add longevity to Crash Nitro Kart's Adventure Mode. Throw in the ability to run through Adventure Mode as both teams with different cutscenes shown, and you have a single player mode that you can keep coming back to.
|At this rate you're going to be lapped!|
Multiplayer is also offered in the Battle Mode, which brings five game types for players to let out their aggression on their friends or fellow family members. There is your typical point-based mode, a last kart standing mode, a crystal-collecting mode, a capture the flag mode, and a beacon-grabbing mode. Most modes can be played free-for-all style or team-based, save for the flag and beacon modes that are only available for teams. Battle Mode is an engaging experience, but if you're looking for something that gives you the same adrenaline highs of say, Mario Kart 64's Battle Mode, then you will be sorely disappointed.
Crash Nitro Kart feels a lot like Crash Team Racing in more than just with what it offers mode-wise. Developer Vicarious Visions certainly did its homework on how Crash Team Racing plays as well. Crash Nitro Kart features tight and responsive handling, and depending on which of the sixteen characters you choose from (some need to be unlocked), their speed, acceleration, and turning abilities will be different.
The same power-boosting mechanic of Crash Team Racing is present in Crash Nitro Kart. When you hop into the air and start drifting by pressing and holding onto one of the shoulder buttons, a gauge appears. The gauge will grow from green to red. When it's in the red portion, you press the opposite shoulder button to let loose a boost. You can do this up to three times on one drift, and you are also able to chain trios of boosts for some excellent power-boosting opportunities. At first, you might just successfully chain three boosts together, but as you play on, you might become skilled enough to do upwards of 20 or more consecutive boosts on a given race.
Wumpa Fruit are like Super Mario Kart's coins in Crash Nitro Kart. Collecting ten not only boosts your character's top speed, but it also allows items you collect to enter juiced mode. Ordinarily, items have a normal effect, whether it's a homing missile, a TNT crate that traps an opponent in it before it explodes (though by hopping like mad, that opponent can escape), or a bowling ball bomb. When an item is collected in juiced mode, that item becomes an upgraded version, so the TNT crate would become a NITRO crate that explodes immediately when an unassuming someone crashes into it.
|This Aku Mask item serves as a powerful bout of invincibility.|
A good portion of the tracks are the precursor to 2014's Mario Kart 8. They feature anti-gravity sections that have you racing upside-down, at right angles to the ground, and much more crazy ways to laugh off gravity. Sure, they're clunkier in execution and nowhere near as polished, but it shows that Vicarious Visions weren't resting on its laurels when it came up with the tracks of Crash Nitro Kart.
|Make sure not to have eaten too much before racing on some of these courses.|
[SPC Says: B]