Crash is back!
Now, for those of you actually reading my reviews, you'll remember that I recently said that the rather shody Crash: Twinsanity
was by far the worst Crash game ever developed. I even went as far as to say that "I may never trust another Crash game as long as I live."
Well, after much bravery on my part, I 'borrowed' a copy of Crash Tag Team Racing
off of my brother, and gave that a try. Now, I find that my faith in the Crash line has been restored.Crash Tag Team Racing
is a rather unusual blend of classic Crash platforming and kart racing. The game kicks off with a small video. Apparently there has been a robbery at Von Clutch's Motor Park, and 6 power gems have been stolen. 5 of these gems keep sections of the park running whilst the 6th gem keeps Von Clutch himself alive and well. Crash and company find themselves tasked with the job of retrieving the gems by racing.
OK, so the plot's weaker than a bottle of flat, watered down soft drink, but that's OK, when the game offers this much fun.
First off, you find the Midway. From here you can enter any of the 5 other park areas you have unlocked in order to race for crystals. You use these crystals to unlock jump pads in each area which take you to where you get the next power gem. In these park areas you can find 3 races where you race for crystals, and a Special Arena, where you either battle opponents for crystals or you pull off stunts for crystals. As you can see, finding the crystals is the easy bit, it's winning them that's hard.
The races are pretty straight forward, mostly. You drive through the course. If you win, you get two crystals. Where things deviate from the norm is how you race. At any point during the race, you can hit the Triangle button to initiate Clashing mode. In Clashing mode, your car turns bluish and transparent. If an opponent is close enough, your Clashing car and theirs will fuse together to create a bigger car. The one who was in Clashing mode at the start of the merger will be operating a turret, which is dependant on the two characters who merged. To unmerge, all you need to do is hit Triangle again. The one who initiates the unmerging will receive a large speed boost.
Sounds complicated? It's a lot easier in practice.
You'll notice that I said that the turret is dependant on the two characters. Before you start a race, you can choose your character and car from the ones you've unlocked. You can unlock characters and/or cars by completing tasks for them that they give you in the Midway. Each character has their own turret they can use whilst merged. Crash has a turret variant on his trusty Crash 3 Wumpa Bazooka, for example. If you run out of ammo for your character's turret, you can hit Square whilst still merged to change to the turret of the other person you merged with. You can also hit R1 to change seats with the other character involved in the merge, so that you're driving and they're shooting, or vice versa.
You can also take part in other tasks instead of your normal races. You can partake in Fast Lap challenges (a 1 lap time trial), a Run 'n Gun challenge (You're given a preset character and weapon, and told to shoot floating targets while being driven for 1 lap around the course), a Rolling Thunder challenge (1 lap of the course, whilst shooting and destroying as many other characters as possible) and a Crashinator challenge (Drive and ram as many targets as you can in a lap, whilst finishing within a certain time).
Where the game truly proves it's worth in the Crash line is the platforming sections though. Not only does this platforming help to break up the monotony of racing, but it helps to cheer you up after a particularly bad run. Littered throughout the Mainland and the 5 park areas are special scenes, called Die-O-Ramas. These are like the many funny death animations Crash had in the earlier PSone days, and are alway s funny to watch. There are also minigames to enjoy, such as Skeet shooting, bowling and other such tasks, where you play for, you guessed it, crystals.
You also play for coins. These coins are used to buy some of the unlockables in the game, or to buy more crystals. The majority of the coins you spend will be done on costumes for each character. Each character (aside from Crash) has 1 default costume and 1 bonus costume you can buy for them. Crash has multiple bonus costumes though. These serve no practical purpose, aside from some costumes that you buy to give characters in exchange for something else. Oh, and before you ask, yes you do get a chance to exchange a costume for a crystal. Fortunately, you get to use both after you have done so.
The visuals of the game are really dressed up as well. Each area looks like it really is a shoddy attempt at recreating a theme in an amusement park, and adds to the atmosphere. The characters aren't that shabby either.
The sound is also rather well done. Even the Midway music, which is the same style as the music in Twinsanity
. It just seems to fit with the cheesy amusement park atmosphere of Tag Team Racing
. All 8 characters have their own unique voicework, from Coco's intelligent speechs which have a smidgen of Nina-rivalry to them, to Crunch's 'Mr T-ified' mannerisms, it all adds to the humor.
All in all, I'd say that Crash Tag Team Racing
is a true return for Crash, making it the best Crash game ever developed by someone who isn't Naughty Dog. My hope for the Crash future has been restored.
For that, I commend you.