Some of my best memories of gaming with my friends revolved around a certain kart racing game that didn’t have the word “Mario” in the title. My friends and I would sit around for hours playing a little kart racer called Crash Team Racing for the original PlayStation. For some reason this game held a lot of appeal simply because it wasn’t Mario Kart and was available on a system that rivaled Nintendo at the time. Regardless of the reason we latched on to it so well, we loved that game back then. This is why it was a lot of fun being able to review Crash Bandicoot Nitro Cart 2 for the iPhone.
The question at this point should be – did this iPhone iteration of the franchise bring back the feeling of playing with my friends all those years ago? Unfortunately, it didn’t quite hit the mark in that regard, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun and isn’t a great title. Let’s talk about it for a bit.
From the beginning, the visuals do conform to that same aesthetic that I remember. The bright colors and animations. The tracks are varied and rather diverse, definitely not lacking in any appeal. There is some visible screen tearing in places, but it generally isn’t too bad. I’m not sure if this is just the “speed” at which your kart is usually moving or a limitation of the iPhone’s graphical capabilities, but certain things were rather hard to see in advance, such as signs and item boxes. Typically this isn’t a problem if you’re paying close enough attention to what is happening, which you are almost required to be, since this is a high-energy racing game.
The audio is great, from the sound effects to the music throughout the various tracks. One small issue that came up for me was that, even if the iPhone is on silent, the audio plays until you turn it off in the game’s settings. This is the only game I’ve come across to have that inconvenience. I play a lot of my iPhone games at work during lunch and breaks, and having the audio suddenly be there when I was expecting it not to be was a bit annoying. At least once you turn it off in the game’s settings it stays off until you want it back on.
I’ve always been leery of touch-screen controls, especially for games that require quick reflexes and precise adjustments. I once tried out an FPS-like title for the iPhone and it just didn’t work with the touch-screen controls. For a racing game like this I’m not quite sure it works, either. Acceleration is handled by the game, but you need to focus on steering, jumping and boosting. Steering is handled by a left or right swipe of the on-screen directional nob in the lower left. This works pretty well. But, when you’re required to jump or drift and boost around a corner, you have to tap or double tab, not just on the screen, but on your kart in particular. This gets a bit touch-and-go in the heat of the action. I almost would have preferred extra on-screen “buttons” on the right side to perform those actions instead.
The plus side is that jumping and drifting aren’t necessarily required, and I enjoyed much of the campaign mode without using them much. The AI seems to be fairly forgiving and the learning curve is pretty well designed. Just like any other game of its kind, there is always that element of luck involved that supersedes skill at many points. You’re left in the hands of fate as to which power-up you receive from any given item cube, what you get hit by from the AI drivers and all sorts of stuff. There is also some pretty significant rubber-banding going on. This, I suppose, isn’t a surprise, as every kart racer I’ve ever played has a problem with this – where you can be in first place one minute, get hit by a nasty bomb or something, and find yourself in last place in the blink of an eye. Typically, though, it isn’t too difficult to get yourself back into first place, assuming this isn’t the last part of the last lap.
I wasn’t sure to mention it here or in the graphical discussion above, but I think it is a big enough issue to deserve its own paragraph. There are parts of the game where there appear to be graphical issues that completely disrupt the race for you alone. On one track in particular, called Anarchy in Antarctica, there is a segment where you’re driving over ice and there are cracks in the ice. You see other racers jump over the cracks, but when I go to do it in certain spots, it is like I just hit a wall. My kart comes to a halt and I don’t have enough acceleration from that point to jump over the crack, but only to waste the time to go around. This is not the only place something like this happened, but it is one of the more prominent locations. I got so frustrated at one point on that track that I just stopped playing the game for a week.
In addition to that, there’s another issue I ran into on a couple different occasions that completely got rid of all the visible textures and obstacles on the track. They were still there, I just couldn’t see them, so there was no way for me to continue because I’d run into invisible walls and the entire course (sans the sky) was green.
However, what this game lacks in precision and polish, it makes up for in spades with content. There are many different modes, all with just the right bit of difference from each other to make things interesting. As usual, you have your “campaign” or cup mode, where you plow through various sets of tracks, and completing each set opens up a new one. You also have Mission, Eliminator, Time Attack, Collector, Arcade, Skill and Multiplayer modes to take advantage of. Some don’t unlock until you’ve completed certain tasks in others. I’m not a fan of this – I would just rather everything be available from the start. But, the content is there, and it doesn’t take too long to open up the whole game for the taking.
Overall this is a solid title, and definitely something for kart racing fans to pick up. There is definitely enough content to make the $4.99 price point palpable, although there are some concerns about the overall quality of the game, from my perspective, anyway. But, no game is perfect, and this one is a lot of fun once you get past all the quirks. The nostalgia factor doesn’t hurt, either.
- Game: Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 2
- Release Date: Available Now
- MSRP: $4.99 (iTunes Store)
- Developer: Polarbit
- Publisher: Activision
- Platform Reviewed: iOS
- Review Copy Info: A code for this title was provided to DualShockers Inc. by the publisher for purposes of this review.