Genre : Racing
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Release Date: November 11, 2003
As we already know, the Nintendo Gamecube has and always will reign supreme as a party gamers' console, but slowly, party games have been released on other consoles, something that I have been eagerly awaiting on the PS2. Off the top of my head, there are only a handful of PS2 games that can be considered party games: "Pac-man Fever," an extremely fun board game and "Cookies and Cream," a co-op game where two players work together to finish puzzles. To add to the list and appease the PS2 audience, Vicarious Visions has created a Mario Kart clone using Sony's failed mascot, Crash Bandicoot to bring us Crash Nitro Kart.
The objective of the racing game is very simple: to be #1. The game is fairly easy but complex at the same time. If you have played Mario Kart and really wanted to be a top-notch player, you would need to implement the drift or "power slide" move. CNK uses the same ideal but rather than it being optional, you need to master it in this game, or you may never win the more complex levels. I definitely feel that forcing gamers to implement this move is much more enjoyable, although gamers who want the easy win might not agree.
CNK offers quite a few modes of play. Within single player mode, there are: Adventure, Quick Race, Team Race, Cup Tournament, Race Time Trial, and Lap Time Trial. The first task is to beat the game in Adventure mode because it then unlocks all racecourses and characters. In multiplayer, there are Race and Battle modes, both of which have even more play options (more on that later).
For single players, the main mode to play is Adventure because this is where you unlock items for the game. The main objective as mentioned is to win, but you don't always have to take first place in order to do so because your teammate can win it for you. Yes, you can be in last place and still win if you have a really skilled teammate. Like the new Mario Kart, CNK has also implemented team racing, but rather than being in the same kart, you are in two separate vehicles, yours and that of a teammate's. You may choose any of the three members from your team before the race. Depending on how skilled of a driver you are, you should choose the team member who has the stats that complement your skill level. Each character has its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, the lowest character has ease on taking corners but almost no max speed, while the hardest has almost no turning power but insanely high max speed. Choose your character wisely. Good teamwork is the key to success, which is quite noticeable with the Team Frenzy option, where you and your partner keep relatively close to each other and build up the Frenzy meter. Once this meter is completely filled, you can activate Team Frenzy, where you and your teammate receive a frenzy of power-ups for a short amount of time. You will truly appreciate this feature when you completely turn around a match and speed from last place all the way to first!
Multiplayer is where the heart of this party game lies. The game plays in split screen, much like Mario Kart, but instead of having only two battle options, CNK has several different ones. Within Battle modes are: Limit Battle, Last Kart Driving, Crystal Grab, Capture the flag, and Steal the Bacon. Last Kart driving is pretty much identical to Mario Kart's battle system, where you go around and pick up items, but rather than having bubbles determine how many lives you have, you can tell by looking at your head's up display. You can even play together in a team to beat the other set of opponents. As for Team Frenzy, I have not been able to execute this yet so at this time, I can only say that it's not available in multiplayer mode. It would have been a great feature to have since I would have enjoyed bashing on the other opponents because my teammate and I work so well together. If you do get bored of Last Kart Driving mode, you can always jump over to the other multiplayer modes. Limit Battle is much like Last Kart Driving, but you gain points for hitting the opponent; Crystal Grab, where you fight against your opponents to collect all of the crystals in an area; and Capture the Flag and Steal the Bacon, modes which should be self-explanatory.
Each mode has its own layout, and while the design might not be the best, the courses are quite enjoyable because they are loaded with turns, holes, and even jumps. You can also enjoy the background scenery, but let me warn you that it isn't supremely awing because it wasn't meant to be realistic. The background is filled with comical equipment that you would see in cartoons. I mean, when was the last time you saw a worm gobble you up and spit you out? Also, beware of the surroundings for you will never know when some unknown monster will attack you, or the opponents trigger a trap door underneath you! If you watch the background closely enough, you may even be able to find the shortcut paths.
The graphics are pretty much all focused on the course which I mentioned above but at times there will be small cut sequences. They aren't FFX-caliber sequences, but they get the job done and set up the story fairly nicely by introducing each character and explaining how your team got involved in this fiasco. The characters are what you would expect from a cartoon, but their voices are what impress me the most.
The voice acting for the characters is great to listen to. The appearance and voices match almost perfectly, a pleasure when considering that we gamers have seen some of the worst anime dubs done. When the voices match it just makes the game that much more enjoyable. The only downside is that if you let the intro run forever, you may start getting sick of it, but during the course of the game, it is quite enjoyable. The only thing I don't get is why Crash doesn't speak. His facial expressions show everything and are just great to watch, but when others talk, he just replies with gestures and expressions, which seemed kind of funny to me. However, if the developers had added a voice to him, it may have wrecked his character so let's not fix what isn't broken. The music in the game isn't my cup of tea, but it does match the course well. This game's main focus is more on your character's voice and the kart's sounds. The only sound that you may really get annoyed with is the voice of Aku Aku, the guy who gives you a tutorial and other information.
Overall, this game is quite fun and definitely worth a rental. If you are looking for a party game, I would definitely suggest this title. It may not be the best single player game but is extremely enjoyable when facing off against fellow opponents. It does seem fairly close to Mario Kart with several added features, but for the gamers who do not have a Gamecube, this game is a definite keeper. With a slightly higher difficulty than most games in this genre, the game's weapons and course layout are well done. While the gaming is really focused on appealing to the younger audiences, it is also enjoyable for an older crowd. We may have finally found a game that can give Mario Kart a run for its money!
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