Should a guy named 'Crash' really be driving?
Crash Bandicoot has always struck me as a bit of a Sonic poser. In addition to the fact that Sonic came first (plus he had a better hairstyle), there's just something freaky about Crash's perma-grin. However, there are people out there who love the little dude and his dance - love enough to spawn three action games. And what happens after three action games? Why, the mandatory mascot racing game, of course...Crash Team Racing (CTR).
The plot serves as nothing more than an excuse to race. Nitros Oxide, an alien from some far-off galaxy, wants to prove his speed and issues a challenge to Earth: beat him, or else the world will be turned into a concrete parking lot. Crash and all the other zanies from his action games must race one another for the chance to fight Nitros Oxide. Geeez...wouldn't it be easier to haul Nitros and his little space pod into some back alley and beat him with heavy wooden boards?
The Adventure game pits you in hub-like areas that connect you to four different tracks. You must earn first place in each track to win a trophy. After four trophies, you go one on one against the area's boss. Beating the boss lets you move to the next area. Once you've taken care of all four areas, you go up against Nitros. In order to extend the game's play time, each track has two additional objectives: CTR Tokens races and Relic races.
CTR Token races entail looking for the letters C, T, and (surprise, surprise) R. You must collect the scattered letters and finish in first place to get a CTR Token. One letter always happens to be especially well-hidden, making the task a worthy challenge.
Relic races are basically time trials with "time boxes" scattered around the track. Time boxes grant you extra seconds on the clock. In order to earn a relic, you must beat a set time. There are different relics depending on how fast your time is. Other single player modes include Time Trials and Arcade, which lets you pick a track or set of tracks and race without having to go through the adventure process.
Multiplayer-wise, there's a Versus Race and a Battle mode. Each allow up to four players. While the battle arenas seem eerily familiar to Mario Kart, they play really well. Nothing beats launching a few heat-seeking missiles and rolling a few bombs into your friends.
CTR follows the standard kart game control scheme. There's a turbo boost that you can make on sharp turns. Or the 'start' boost you get when you hit the acceleration at the right time before a race. CTR adds a jump boost; when the jump is hit at the right time coming off a ramp, a boost is added upon landing. Overall, the controls feel very natural, with an emphasis on maintaining speed rather than fighting lousy controls. The CPU racers put up a good fight - stealing boxes, rolling bombs at you... what bastards.
The graphics fit the fast gameplay. They are smooth and seem to push the Playstation's limits. Each of the characters and karts look like they were done with minimal polygons, but since you spend most of the time looking at their backs, it isn't a big deal.
Most of the tracks' mirrored levels are from the Crash action games. As in every kart game, you'll find the same old themes: grass, sky, rocky, ice, etc. Some added variety here would have been nice.
The music is your standard kitschy fare - by itself it can be annoying, but masked by the game's noises, it is tolerable. The sound effects add to the cartoon quality of the game, but not all of the voices seem right. Crash's voice sounds somewhat...effeminate. They ought to have lowered it down a little. And Dr. N. Gin's "Why you!" comment mixed with a heavy accent and a little bit of blurriness sounds like something quite a bit more profane.
By beating every race, collecting all the CTR tokens, and just about every other possible challenge, you'll earn a 100% rating and get...well, a pretty disappointing ending. No disrespect to the programmers and developers, but I'm not that interested in your photo collection. While they could have added some extras to unlock, it's arguable that there's already a generous amount of options. They should have added the guy in the Crash suit from the commercials as an extra character.
I was really ready to pass this game off as just another cheap rip-off, but it turns out that CTR is a solid kart racing game. Though it doesn't add much to the tired genre, it manages to do everything well. If you're a Playstation owner that's fed up of those other sorry Playstation kart games (Chocobo Racing, Bomberman Race), CTR is your answer.