Crash Team Racing – the original one – is my life-or-death game: the one I’d pick if some cartoon, alien villain came down to Earth and told me I had one chance to beat them in a video game to save the world, and one where I reckon I’d actually have a decent shot at pulling it off, too. I have played it quite a lot, basically – so much that I apparently can’t even describe it without referencing it’s race-to-save-the-world Adventure Mode – and it’s probably the only game I’d say I’m actually, genuinely good at. I’m equal parts relieved and delighted, then, to say that with Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled Activision and Beenox have absolutely nailed it. This is a lavish, fantastically polished remaster.
For the uninitiated (sort your lives out), Crash Team Racing is like Mario Kart only objectively loads better, firstly because it has lots of odd, Prongles-tier characters in it that signify everything great and awful about this era of ’90s brand nostalgia, and also because it actually introduced some great mechanics back in the day: namely an active power-slide function (similar to but I promise not exactly the same as Mario Kart’s) that not only let you drift around corners to stack up speed boosts, at the risk of fluffing your timing and spinning out, but also required you to actively hit the second shoulder button at the right time to actually get the bonus speed. The later you leave it the more chance of spinning out, but the higher the potential boost in speed. It added – and adds – a brilliant layer of complexity to the game’s already cracking, intuitive handling: rather than being just about a good line or good braking, cornering in CTR is about knowing when to hop, when to break and turn mid-air, when to power slide and whether or not to chance a chain of boosts.
Then there’s the other standout feature, Adventure Mode, which it borrowed from Diddy Kong Racing (a game I didn’t play and so will assume nobody cared about, because it definitely didn’t earn a world record for selling fast or anything). It’s the main “story” for Diddy Kong Racing and CTR alike, setting you up in a sort of 3D platformer cluster of consecutive hub worlds to pootle about in, each with a set of races and challenges within. Win the world’s four races and you can face that world’s boss on their home track, beat that boss and you’ll unlock time trials and collectable tasks in that world, and the right to proceed to more races in the next. Beat all the worlds’ bosses and you face the big boss, Nitrous Oxide, in a showdown for the fate of the planet.