Crash Tag Team Racing Review / Preview for the GameCube (GC)

Crash Tag Team Racing Review / Preview for the GameCube (GC)

Cole Vaughn

I’m a little suspicious of kart racers…okay, I’m very suspicious of kart racer. Let me rephrase that. I hate kart racers. There. That’s more to the point. But let me rephrase that too. I hate crappy kart racers. Thankfully, Crash Tag Team Racing isn’t one.

The reason for my distaste of the genre is the advantage taken by the videogame companies to lump all their mascots, both popular and once-popular, into a generic style of gameplay with very little imagination or production values. It’s a cheap way to generate revenue and is of questionable business ethics since it tricks kids into buying games with their favorite characters on the box, assuming it’s a continuation of their favored series. Instead, what the kids get is an insert-your-character-here program that has facilitated every known group of characters with the possible exception of Hitler, Eichmann and Goering.

Let it be known that this game is not for hardcore Crash fans. It’s too easy and doesn’t further the challenge from where the platforming series left off. Consider this a big, long side quest. Although it does feature racing, it has enough platform elements to keep even myself interested. If driving were the only gameplay element I would be justified in throwing a verbal tantrum but with platforming, combat, exploration and collecting this game goes way beyond the generic.

Kart racing is relegated to combat racing. The action takes place in an amusement park. You pick up power-ups such as exploding chickens and attempt to eliminate all competition through means both fair and foul. Please excuse the puns, I couldn’t resist.

Von Clutch’s amusement park is the scene of the action. Unfortunately the power crystals that power the rides have been stolen. By racing and exploring the amusement park you will find smaller crystals that you can use to feed a large machine that will help you find bigger crystals. You will also collect coins, fight enemies and use your platform skills to navigate the various obstacles that you will encounter in the park.

Clashing is an original concept that keeps the kart racing interesting. It’s the ability to assimilate your vehicle with another to create a more powerful tandem hybrid. By activating your clash button all you have to do is slam into another kart and you will have a two-person vehicle in which the AI will drive allowing you to more accurately aim your weaponry which ranges from machineguns to grenade launchers. The weapon icons that you pick up when in this mode will allow you to launch incredibly ludicrous items such as grand pianos and submarines at your adversaries. You can instantly exit the clash mode when you have to and return to your own kart.

Plan on enjoying the single-player modes. There is no online component so you’ll have to play LAN (up to 8 players) or suffer with the split screen. Neither one is particularly compelling especially if you’re a skilled gamer but younger kids will certainly love it since it’s very straightforward.

Crash and his fellowship of wacky characters are all very colorful and well animated if not a little too cute for my liking. The voiceovers straddle the fence between funny and annoying. It’s great to watch the vehicles explode into numerous particles and would be so much more of a joy if the characters also exploded. With deep explosion sounds and zany cartoon sound effects you can expect a top notch performance from your surround sound.

The fact that there’s a lot more to do than racing a kart makes me want to recommend this as a rental to all gamers but it just might be a case of this game exceeding my original lowered expectations.

I’ve been waiting for a long time for some development team somewhere to infuse the kart racing genre with innovation and it appears that Radical (definitely on roll these days) has stepped up to the challenge.

My interest in Crash Tag Team Racing was picqued while I wrote the preview (below) for the game. It appeared that Radical really was attempting something new in the genre and thinking “outside the box”…or perhaps “outside the crate” would be more appropriate.

Certainly Crash Tag Team Racing is not targetted towards the same demographic that is shooting up the streets of Liberty City or blowing away demons with their BFG in Doom 3; this is one aimed squarely at younger gamers and it succeeds with flying colors on all fronts.

CTTR isn’t your average kart racer as it features a plot, platforming elements, exploration on foot and a healthy collection of entertaining mini-games…oh yeah and racing too. The game is littered with colorful characters and color commentary provided by a Howard Cossel sound-a-like chicken and his hip partner. Not only do they provide some entertaining dialogue but they also explain how to play the game which is often overlooked in many of todays kids games. Most young children can’t read, which means having someone explain how to play the game is extremely helpful. As a parent that’s definitely appreciated as I don’t have to hear “Dad! What does this say now?” Unfortunately spoken instructions of the mini-games was overlooked, but that’s a minor issue.

The game takes place in an amusement park hub “overworld” area where Crash can interact with the people, get instructions from other racers and locate numerous cool objects (which activate the “Die-O-Rama” machines which feature humorous death sequences of Crash biting the big one for the heck of it). Characters in the world can be talked to by walking up and pressing the talk button (triangle on the PS2). If anything I had a good laugh at the Andrew Dice Clay sound-a-like selling clothing.

The platforming and mini-games provide a few hours of entertainment which generally won’t frustrate young gamers because “dying” doesn’t mean being sent back to the beginning as you just pick up where you left off. Primarly you’ll be send on numerous missions to locate Power Crystals and other items which will have you traipsing all over the game in search of them which results in unlocking new characters, mini-games, races and worlds.

For a racing game, the platforming elements are extremely well done and capture the Crash Bandicoot school of platforming to a tee. Aside from the usual camera issues inherent in every 3D game ever created, the control is pretty much dead on. Tell yourself or your kids (or other game journalists for that matter) if you’re having trouble lining up jumps to floating platforms simply look for the circular shadow. That’ll do the trick.

When you get down to the racing elements of CTTR – there are 5 categories of races to choose from: Race. Crashinator, Rolling Thunder, Run and Gun and Fast Lap – you’ll soon realize that vehicular combat is what it’s all about. Familiar trappings of the kart genre are in full representation with floating powerups to be obtained, however CTTR adds one particularly interesting new element called Clashing. Clashing involves fusing your vehicle together with an opponents to become a mutant-hybrid of the two, granting you temporary incredible firepower. At this point you can either be the tailgunner or the driver (switch at the touch of a button). Since it’s more fun to take aim and shoot things and your AI driver is more than competent enough to steer, you’ll almost always find yourself attempting to blow up stuff. Since this raw power allows to you knock everyone out of the running, winning isn’t usually all that hard to accomplish.

While the game can be played on a LAN with up to 8 players, most likely you’ll settle for splitscreen. I’ve never been a fan of splitscreen, but my kids don’t know any better and they enjoy it without complaints, so who am I to knock it?

CTTR is a step in the right direction for the kart racing genre as it’s eclectic and unique and manages to teach an old dog new tricks. The colorful characters and environments will thrill young eye candy junkies while the ease of difficulty will give younger gamers a confidence boost because they’ll be able to see a lot of what this game has to offer. It’s definitely a rental for older gamers who are curious but youngsters might want this in their collection permanently.

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