Thursday, September 30, 2021

Cruis'n Blast (NSW) Review

Wrapping up the month of reviews here at SuperPhillip Central for September is Cruis'n Blast from Raw Thrills. Originally published in arcades by Nintendo, it's great to finally see this arcade racer make its debut on the Nintendo Switch. Let's get behind the wheel with some Cruis'n Blast!

There're no Sunday drivers here!

At first glance, I remember thinking Cruis'n Blast was a high-octane, wild, wacky, and wonderful arcade racing game. I also knew I had to play it, but with the pandemic and a lack of access to arcades in my city, I was out of luck. Fortunately, thanks in part to Raw Thrills, Cruis'n Blast has rocketed out of the arcades and onto the Nintendo Switch for a home console port. Not going to lie here--this was one of my most anticipated announcements from Nintendo's E3 showing, and now that the game is in my hands, I can happily and excitedly say that Cruis'n Blast is indeed a thrilling ride from beginning to end.

Cruis'n Blast puts you behind the wheel (or in other cases, in control) of several supercars as you race from one point to another, witnessing utter chaos, havoc, and unbridled destruction on your way to the finish line. It's all just for spectacle, though, no matter how cool it is to see a gigantic rampaging donut roll through downtown Los Angeles, see a T-Rex take on another dinosaur in a fight, or see a tornado tear its way through a trailer park, for instance. Even when you think you're in danger, you merely clip through obstacles and other obstructions with no harm or penalty to be had.

Now might not be the best time to think about this, but I sure hope my car has good shock absorbers!

That's just fine, though, as the spectacle and almost sensory overload of the tracks are something to behold for sure. Plus, it allows you to just worry about the turns of each track and your nine other opponents instead of contending with them and any hazards you may have encountered. MotorStorm: Apocalypse this ain't. It's pure spectacle rather than something you need to worry about.

There are almost 30 tracks in Cruis'n Blast, and most of these are spread between a series of tours. Now, the 29 tracks is somewhat misleading because a lot of the tracks are just remixes of other tracks in the game. For example, one trip through a track features yetis, and one of which breaks the ice quite literally with racers, revealing a gigantic drop to fall through. A similar track features a dinosaur instead of yeti who pulls the same stunt and breaks the ice, also revealing that familiar fall for racers. So, really, of the 29 tracks, maybe 9 or 10 are wholly original. That doesn't make them any less entertaining or exciting, however. Again, this is where that spectacle of the tracks comes shining through. 

A Ferris Wheel rolling through the streets of downtown London?
Just another ordinary day in the world of Cruis'n Blast.

All tours have a set of four themed tracks. Some take place at night, some feature cop cars and vehicles that try to impede your progress, others are purely spectacle, such as having helicopters that fire missiles onto the track or UFOs that soar by, serving more as cool distractions than anything that can ruin a race for you.

There are four difficulties in Cruis'n Blast: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Extreme. The latter two difficulties need unlocking by completing Normal difficulty with a certain threshold of medals earned, and these two difficulties will put players through their paces most definitely. It's not just about taking turns well, it's also about performing as many stunts as possible to get boosts, as well as rationing your nitrous--though to be fair, with the rubber-band AI, it's more about saving up at least two nitrous boosts until the home stretch of the race. 

Yes, there is rubber-band AI for sure in Cruis'n Blast, but this isn't always against you. It oftentimes goes in your favor. You'll never reach first place after the first turn. Typically, it's always down to the final stretch where you can see and surpass your rivals and hopefully win the race. In Easy and Normal difficulties, passing first place and securing the win are relatively easy to do and can be done earlier in the race, than say Hard and Extreme, where it's usually always down to the wire and a well executed and timed nitrous boost is needed to win. Fortunately, even if you fail to secure the win in a race or do relatively poorly, you can simply retry the race instead of having to restart the entire tour. I can say that this feature makes for a major convenience and lowers the frustration level considerably.

Now, I REALLY hope my ride has good shock absorbers!

Even still, I seldom, if ever, found myself frustrated with Cruis'n Blast, even if I failed to place in the top three of a given race. Not only was I making money, used to purchase new vehicles and upgrades for said vehicles, but more importantly, I was having a freaking blast playing the game. It's so wild, it's so wacky, and it's so off-the-wall that it's hard NOT to smile while racing.

You start out in Cruis'n Blast with a handful of vehicles at your disposal, mostly supercars like the powerful Chevy Corvette. However, as you complete tours on different difficulties and find keys on tracks (there are three on each), new vehicles become available for purchase with in-game money earned by participating in and/or winning races, performing tricks and stunts, and taking out rival racers--something that never got old for me due to the Burnout-style slow-cam when you wreck a rival. Sure, the supercars are nice and all, but it's especially cool when you unlock and are able to race as a English-style Double Decker bus, a UFO, a hammerhead shark, a triceratops, a stealth chopper, a tank, and my favorite of the bunch, a unicorn. Each vehicle can level up by gaining experience from placing well in races. When a vehicle levels up (the max is level 5), you can purchase a new upgrade for them--things like neon skins, decals, accessories, and more. You can also customize your ride with a cavalcade of color choices, too. 

Majestic and magical, the unicorn is my preferred ride of choice in Cruis'n Blast.

Getting behind the wheel of your chosen vehicle, or in control of in the case of a triceratops or unicorn, is an absolute blast in Raw Thrills' racer. There's little to complain about when racing as your selected vehicle. Beginning players can opt to use an auto-acceleration function a la Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and there is also an option for tilt controls for those that want a wilder way to play. 

Steering feels nice enough, though a tad bit loose. However, this isn't too much of an issue due to the penalty for running into railings and walls being negligible enough (though you will lose on harder difficulties by continuously slamming into walls). The right shoulder button serves as a trick button. A double tap of the R or ZR button allows your vehicle to trick off ramps and jumps, as well as other vehicles (pretty much a required skill for winning harder difficulty tours). You can also drift to build up boost energy, which is separate from your nitrous, which is used by tapping the L or ZL button. The latter gives you three nitrous to work with per race, and they're generally best to use near the tail end of a given track. 

Though full of cars and other vehicles to fully level up, tours to complete on four difficulties, and keys to obtain on each track to unlock even more vehicles, Cruis'n Blast isn't a wholly complete package. One giant exclusion is that of online play. Now, local multiplayer which allows for split-screen for up to four players works well, but online play would definitely have extended the life of the game and put it into first gear for sure. Further, I wish races gave you a general idea on how much progress you've made on them. On so many tracks I'd be racing thinking I still had time to catch up with first place, when all of a sudden it was the home stretch and the finish line was mere yards away--way too late to realistically have a fighting chance for first place. A progress bar for each track would have done wonders. 

With so much going on during a given track, it can be difficult to concentrate at times!
Keep your focus and aim for first place!

Cruis'n Blast was a game that as soon as I saw videos of it being played in arcades, I felt the urge and definite desire to play it. It has taken a few years of patience, but now that I got to experience the game on the Nintendo Switch thanks to this home console port, I am pleased to say that my patience indeed paid off. Cruis'n Blast is ridiculous and crazy in all the right ways. How can you not love speeding through tracks where you witness UFOs whiz by, blowing up a dam, all the while you drift into your opponent, causing them to crash in a burning blaze of glory!? I defy you to not love that! Despite lacking online, longevity, and track variety, Cruis'n Blast delivers an action-packed arcade racer that will most likely make you laugh and smile with how outrageous its racing scenarios can get and how fun the overall package truly is.

[SPC Says: B]