Crash Team Racing on the original Playstation was released at the height of Crash Bandicoot’s critical acclaim and commercial success, and added to it. It was the last Crash game by original developers Naughty Dog. This is a game I loved as a kid, and recently had the opportunity to play it again thanks to a friend.
Nintendo started and to this day continues to dominate the kart racing genre with Mario Kart, although I believe that series is starting to stagnate. Crash Team Racing came along to compete with this juggernaut and they did a stellar job.
The similarities of Crash Team Racing and Mario Kart 64 are there for all to see. Both involve characters from a popular game series racing in karts and items are picked up along the way to make the games feel like party games rather than a proper racer.
Many of the items are similar to Mario Kart’s. The bomb is like an exploding green shell, the rocket is a less accurate red shell, and the potion is a sci-fi banana. The clock is similar to the lightning bolt, as it slows down all the other players at once. Probably the most obvious one ripped off from Mario Kart is the Aku Aku/Uka Uka mask that increases your speed and makes you invulnerable for a period of time…exactly like the star in Mario Kart. There are some original ideas here too. Driving into a TNT crate dropped by another player will cause the crate to fall on your head, where you have the opportunity to make your kart hop enough times for it to fall off – otherwise it will explode. The bubble acts as a shield, but can also be fired.
Wumpa Fruit act like coins in Super Mario Kart; collecting them increases your speed. Ten is the maximum you can collect, and getting hit makes you drop the fruit. Having the maximum “juices up” your racer. Your speed is at maximum and the items are powered up. Some items become subtly more effective, while others are upgraded. The TNT becomes a Nitro crate, which blows up players the moment they hit it. The upgraded potion spins out the victim like usual and also slows them down afterwards. I like this system as it rewards skilful players for collecting all the wumpa fruit.
The controls in the game are spot on. They feel natural, meaning a lot less fighting with the controls and more focus on the racing. The drifting system is challenging but highly rewarding. While drifting around turns, a meter fills up, and if you hit the other drift button at the right time you get a boost and the meter rests and you do it again. Nail it three times at once and the resulting boost is powerful. You also get boosts for hopping off ledges and jumps, with bigger boosts being rewarded for longer jumps. It’s extremely satisfying pulling off both these techniques.
Like Diddy Kong Racing, Crash Team Racing has an adventure mode. The story goes that some alien named Nitrous Oxide wants to take over Earth or something. It wasn’t really explained clearly. You drive around a hub entering races. When you come first in a race you earn a trophy, which is how you unlock more races and the door to the boss. Winning the boss race gives you a key, allowing you to access the next section of the hub world.
The hub world is a lot smaller and linear than the one in Diddy Kong Racing’s adventure mode. There are almost no surprises, which is a shame. DKR’s hub wasn’t very large but it didn’t feel restricted. When you unlock a new area in CTR, you unlock portals to the next four races, but three of them will need a required amount of trophies to enter. In DKR you could go to the other worlds and complete the racers in a non-linear fashion.
There are a lot of collectibles after you finish a race, such as relics for doing well in time trials and tokens for completing the CTR challenge (collect C, T and R tokens during a regular race and finish first).
The multiplayer racing is just as fun as Mario Kart, and there are battle mode options as well with up to four players.
Crash Team Racing is a fun alternative to Mario Kart, filling a void for Playstation owners. The adventure mode is a little basic, but is still a fun way to get through the tracks without having to repeat them multiple times in CC’s ala every single bloody Mario Kart. The controls and the weapon selection is top notch, the track design is pretty good. The game ticks all the boxes a Crash Bandicoot fan would expect for this game. I had a rush of nostalgia playing this game, and also genuine joy because it is such a good game. Crash Nitro Kart on the Gamecube, Ps2 and Xbox is very similar to CTR, so getting your hands on either game will suffice. Crash Team Racing is still a great game today and is given new life on the PSN store, so I would recommend it (or its sequel) if you want a great kart racing experience a little different to Mario Kart.