|For years the best sellers, Mario Kart and it's sister game Diddy
Kong, were the only novelty cart games out there, leaving PlayStation owners without a
cart to call there own. Sure there were non-racing car games like Twisted Metal and
Vigilante 8 and violent racers like Road Rash 3D, but nothing like the cute fun of Mario
Kart. That was all over when SquareSoft released Chocobo Racing, a cart racing spin-off of
Final Fantasy VII. Chocobo Racing didn't have the character or the intensity of Mario
Kart, and frankly I was quite disappointed after such a nice looking opening FMV. Enter
Crash Bandicoot, the brash ad mascot for the Sony PlayStation. A little more grownup than
Mario and Sonic, Crash is the star of the Crash Bandicoot platform adventure games. Now
Crash and Sony have a cart to call there own.
Ok, I have to get something off my chest before I go any further. I am a Mario Kart addict; it's one of my most favorite games in the world. As far as I'm concerned, Mario Kart 64 attained perfection in the spring 1997, and every other cart game is just trying to live up to it. The first summer I lived away from home I had this really crappy job at the college cafeteria washing dishes and serving food. I had just moved out of the dorms and into this apartment with eight friends. We had a TV, a Super Nintendo, and Mario Kart. The first few weeks of summer, while everyone else was out looking for a job, I was at home mastering Mario Kart. By the time I absolutely had to get a job the only ones left in town were in the cafeteria. But I've never regretted my decision and that is how much I love Mario Kart. All that being said I can return to actually talking about the game I am supposed to be reviewing.
Crash Team Racing is far and away that best novelty cart game on the PlayStation. The novelty cart genre is ultimately supposed to be fun and specialized for the multi-player environment. Crash Team Racing is all a novelty cart should be. It does this by directly ripping off Mario Kart. Sony has replaced the fun and familiar Nintendo family with Crash and his pals, but otherwise stuck to the Mario Kart formula as closely as possible. A little too closely if you ask me. For Pete's sake, the slide turn speed bust is exactly the same. I always wanted something just like Mario Kart for the PlayStation, but this is ridiculous. I have say that, if I had never played Mario Kart, CTR would be one of my all time most favorite games to play.
While CTR has a lame-o storyline about a mean alien who I guess wants to race, it doesn't lack on character. I'm not the biggest fan of the Crash series, but there are eight characters from the series, plus a few hidden characters to unlock. They (most especially Crash) were for the most part familiar to me. They were pretty standard picking for a race game-- fast with bad handling or slow with good handling. CTR races like any other novelty cart game: silly characters zoom around a track acquiring weapons and using them on the competition, all in a race for first. For a little excitement there are wumpa fruit. Collect ten and all of the weapons are powered up. Novelty cart fans won't be disappointed with all the tracks-- CTR has four cups with four tracks each, plus some extrasThere are plenty of places to race.
CTR is a big game that is packed with lots of extras. There are five main modes of gameplay: arcade, time trial, adventure, versus, and battle. Arcade mode offers a quick game anytime and winning all the tracks means extra tracks in battle mode. In arcade you race against the computer on three levels of difficulty. Time trial is just that, racing the clock or the track ghost of the best time.
The adventure mode is were it gets interesting; basically you try to take first place in a race against eight computer competitors in order to unlock the more tracks. Once a track has been beaten you can reenter and race the relic race or the CTR challenge. In the relic race you race alone for the lowest time possible. There are "time crates" along the way giving you much need extra time. The CTR challenge reminds me of trying to find S-K-A-T-E on Tony Hawk Pro Skater; basically you have to get first and find the hidden letters C-T-R (the hard part isn't finding the letters, it's managing to get them). I found the adventure mode a refreshing way of playing by myself, but I'd still rather have company. The only thing that I didn't like was the "map" that connects the warps to the tracks. It was hard to navigate and a waste of my time. I would have preferred a menu like the rest of the modes use.
One of the most important features of CTR has to be the four player option (using the multi-tap). This feature alone is enough to make me give it a hard look. Four players at once is a wonderful thing when it works out, and novelty cart games and first person shooters are the most likely to have this option. Nothing quite unifies a room better than shooting at one another, whether it is turtle shells and chemistry beakers or rail guns and cerebral bores. CTR has looks great (a little small) and plays great during the most furious of four player games. There is also a battle mode that allows for four player warfare. There are four original tracks and a few more hidden ones. Battle mode has more options than you really need, but I enjoyed them anyway. You can fine tune battles by changing scoring, time limit, weapons available; but the coolest would have to be teams, 2 on 2, 1 on 2, 2 on 3. All this makes CTR one of the best multi-player games for the PlayStation this year.
All the cool options would mean nothing if the control wasn't good. And CTR's control isn't good-- it's great. The control seemed natural, but it also has plenty of nuances to master. Slide turns are essential as is the slide turn boost. Adding to the fun is the jump boost; if you jump at the climax of a large jump you will land with a speed boost. The weapons are pretty good, too. I thought the warp orbs and the TNT boxes were the most clever. Warp orbs hunt the first place player and, when powered up, they zap everyone. If you run over a box of TNT it will land on your head giving you enough time to try and struggle free (read-- jump around franticly). If you know you fate is sealed you can take another racer with you by getting close before the explosion.
The graphics are probably some of the best I've seen from Sony, and they are a lot cleaner then Ape Escape's graphics. Firing weapons was a special treat. They are just about as exciting as they can get without being distracting. The characters look pretty good in action, but the environments are so dense that things could get confusing on the very small screen during a four player game. I especially enjoyed the background sounds and the characters' catch phrases. The songs (I assume there was more than one, but I really couldn't tell the difference) got old fast, but then there's always the home stereo. As far as games go, CTR is pretty polished.
CTR is definitely a game to put on your Christmas list, but make sure someone is getting you that multi-tap too. It is the one of the best games in a fun and growing genre; if you get it for Christmas you'll still be playing it into Easter. As a die hard Mario Kart fan it pains me to admit that Crash is as good as my old friend Mario. Mario Kart will always rule my heart, it was my first true kart love, but Crash can rule my PlayStation.