Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled brings back the PS1 kart racer in style, with lavish style and addictive racing gameplay with lots to unlock.
Nintendo has always been king of the kart racing genre. From the off, Mario Kart has been the go-to series for thrilling and fun cartoonish racing, down to both its well-known cast of racers and the sheer quality of the experience found within. As such, other console owners have been envious of Nintendo’s output, with very few other kart racing games coming close. One of the few that did was Crash Team Racing for the PS1, and now it has returned in the form of Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled.
Rather than just a direct remake of the original, Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled does introduce other elements. It’s a game that sticks closely to the Crash Team Racing model, but also picks out some of the more successful bits from other Crash racing games such as Crash Nitro Kart. It’s a vibrant, energetic racing game, and users who owned the original and are after a retro fix will do well to pick it up.
The core model of Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled is simple. Players choose their favorite character from the Crash Bandicoot franchise, deck them out in an appropriate skin or outfit, and head on out to the track. These levels are full of twists and turns, deliberate pitfalls, and just about the right amount of chaos, with the top three of each circuit capable of being mixed up at a moment’s notice.
The re-released trilogy of original platformers, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, proved that there was still ravenous appetite for the character in the gaming community. Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled doubles down on this with glee, and maintains that bright color palette and bizarre sense of humor that makes Crash such a beloved property. Not many series have the clout to pull off a kart racer, but this relaunch of Crash Team Racing proves that Crash works extremely well in this regard.
Just having a strong set of characters has not always been enough to get a kart racer over the finish line. One look at the sheer number of Sonic-themed racers that have released to mixed results over the years shows that a big name isn’t always enough, while cash grabs with major names such as Nickelodeon Kart Racers prove that quality definitely makes a difference. Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled follows in the footsteps of the original, and is – at long last – a very strong alternative to Mario Kart.
2019’s Crash Team Racing is still an awful lot of fun. The racing itself is not always the most compelling, but the varied power-ups - from Aku Aku and TNT boxes through to throwable bombs and homing rockets - mean that getting through a race unscathed in first place is practically impossible. Getting stuck in the midfield is also a constant bombardment of attacks from other racers, and in both cases players will need to pick up the mechanics of the game in order to get ahead of the pack – as well as giving as good as they get when it comes to sabotaging other racer’s attempts to take the top spot with a well-timed power up.
This means that actually improving as a racer and learning how to make the most of Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled is extremely important. Luck plays a factor in success in a game like this, but above all else getting skilled at the game is tantamount. Learning how to implement the game’s nitro mechanic will give that extra boost that makes all the difference between first and third, particularly given the tight timeframes involved to pull off the manoeuvre.
The nitro boosting is generally fun, providing a quick bump to speed that makes a tight victory ever more satisfying. However, it doesn’t feel quite as intuitive as similar systems used in Mario Kart, lacking versatility and the tactile nature of the Nintendo juggernaut’s speed boosts. It’s fiddlier, requiring more of a technical edge that is best used in specific circumstances, but when those circumstances come together it delivers a serious lifeline.
From a character design perspective, Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled hits the spot. Those classic characters are back, with great animation, snippets of voice work and a real sense of personality. Over the course of the game, players will unlock many extra characters, and the overall roster is pretty impressive – although plenty will no doubt stick to favorites like Crash and Neo Cortex.
As well as this, different skins are available to be unlocked, giving a new spin on characters. It’s a neat touch that really bumps up the longevity of the game, giving a reason to keep playing to hunt after that much-wanted skin. It’s the same for the karts, too, as well as other aspects such as decal stickers to unlock. Another lovable aspect is the inclusion of retro skins, rewarding players with character models that look as though they jumped right out of 1999.
Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled also gives a fair amount of variety when it comes to racing. The main mode is the Adventure Mode, which gives the player hub to explore and pop into different races. This is the meat and potatoes single player mode, but it may well not be where players spend the bulk of their time. It’s an enjoyable experience, but Crash Team Racing’s real allure comes in the multiplayer.
Kart racers always work best with other people, particularly in a local setting. Grabbing a second controller and playing through in local multiplayer is still a real kick, even if it doesn’t feel quite as in-depth as the single player Adventure. On top of that, there’s also online multiplayer – which is as over-the-top and messy as one might expect – alongside a selection of battle modes. There’s a lot to get through in Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled, although playing it with someone else locally is perhaps the best way to get enjoyment out of lengthy play sessions.
Indeed, having a partner to rip around these circuits with definitely makes things better. This is partly down to the occasional moment of frustration that can be found in Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled. Much like the Crash Bandicoot trilogy re-release, this game can be extremely tough, and the short and snippy races can lead to an awful lot of last minute defeats that a solo player may feel aggrieved about. A bit of extra challenge from its peers in the kart circuit genre is a nice bonus, but the random nature of some races can make some defeats feel like they couldn’t necessarily be avoided.
This comes down to the occasionally archaic track design, too. Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled doesn’t quite have modern ingenuity when it comes to its circuits, as expected from a recreation of the original game, and this means that those tight turns and odd cheap moments don’t quite resonate in the same way as they did in 1999. Kart racers have evolved a lot since the original Crash Team Racing released, and so a handful of moments feel less like a magical resurrection and more like a grim exhumation.
On the whole, though, Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled is going to bring a lot of joy to its players. Those after a concentrated dose of nostalgia will do no wrong here, and the majority of the game works incredibly well in the modern day – particularly when played with friends. It’s been a long time coming, but this generation finally has a suitable alternative to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, even if it doesn’t quite reach those heights.
Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled is out now for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Screen Rant was provided with a PS4 download code for the purposes of this review.