PAX East 2019: Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled impressions

Watch out, Mario! There’s a new kart racer in town. Or rather an old kart racer has returned to fight for the crown yet again. Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is a comeback and celebration of the beloved franchise rolled into one pretty package. But what can Switch fans expect from this when wanting a break from Mario Kart?

Crashing to conclusions

As someone who is largely unfamiliar with the Crash Team Racing series, I always thought it played exactly like Mario Kart. Just swap Nintendo characters with marsupials, an evil genius, and his henchmen and call it a day. Franchise veterans know better, and no team is more adept with the nuance than developer Beenox. They are just as passionate about CTR as anyone, which was made clear from their gushing over the previous titles.

One major difference that separated Crash Team Racing from other kart racers is the double trigger mechanic. You can power slide with either bumper to handle turns, but the other bumper is then used in tandem for speed boosts. Hit the opposing bumper as your gauge gets red for a speed boost that can be done three times in total. It sounds simple enough but is truly difficult to master. If Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has gotten too easy, then this will certainly give you more of a challenge.

It was admittedly difficult at first for me to get into Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled. My Mario Kart-wired brain battled against my learning the more intricate kart racer mechanics needed to succeed. It was also more difficult than I thought it would be to make tight turns without careening into a wall or pit. However, I found myself slowly but surely learning the needed skills to do better. If you are not used to the way CTR plays already, expect a surprisingly harsh learning curve.

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PAX East 2019: Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled impressions

Lotsa Wumpa

The spirit of what made Crash Team Racing fun and unique remains here. Beenox was painstakingly clear that they are looking to make Nitro-Fueled the epitome of the franchise. That means adding tracks, battle modes, and kart customization introduced not only in the original but also its sequel, Crash Nitro Kart. In fact, there will be 31 tracks at launch made up of courses from the previous games and even new ones based on Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy.

Speaking of N. Sane Trilogy, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is also experiencing an extreme makeover for the wacky mascot. The crazy cast is given a breath of new life that injects this title with character. For example, the mafia rat Pinstripe throws out over-the-top tough guy mannerisms that make him undeniably lovable. That’s coupled with voice lines that raise the presentation tenfold in CTR.

Even the multiplayer is given a serious boost. Four-player split screen will be available to ravage friends next to you. There are even plans to bring 8 players together for online modes. It’s a great alternative for you and your buddies to get some kart racing done without a certain plumber stealing the show.

I was initially frustrated by Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled but came around to it once its particular brand of kart racing started to make sense. If given more time, I can see myself flying down tracks just as easily as I do in Mario Kart games. If you find yourself in a similar situation, keep at it for just a bit longer and your patience will be rewarded with a surprisingly deep and satisfying racing game.

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is coming to Nintendo Switch on June 21.

David Giltinan
David has been involved in games media since 2012 running his own blog, YouTube channel, being a founding member of RETRO Magazine, and now as host/producer of ARGcast - Another Retro Gaming Podcast. He also dabbles in voiceover and is occasionally a stunt double for Jude Law.

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