Crash Nitro Kart
Crash and his friends hit the racing circuit on the N-Gage.
I was at Nokia's pre-E3 party a few months ago and was moderately enjoying myself, despite a press showing gone wrong and me being the only staffer who attended. Hey, the free beer was good, and I liked a couple of the Nokia girls, so it wasn't a complete waste of time. I found myself playing a few games on the floor, trying to figure out Ashen and sinking in to Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf. Then I ran across Crash Nitro Kart, a shrink-sized version of the cart console racing game that Vivendi Universal unleashed last year. That game didn't really appeal to me, as it lacked the certain elements that Crash Team Racing, Naughty Dog's PlayStation effort from long ago, possessed. So I'm playing the game for a few and notice that it's just chugging along, and I stop this guy to ask him how far the game's in development. He assures me that it's still in production and the final game will be, quote, "a ton of fun".
A ton of fun? More like a ton of irritation. Here it is, a few months later, and I managed to get my hands on a retail version of Crash Nitro Kart. Bad news, folks; little has changed. The game still feels like the flawed, choked-on slo-mo ride that it was months ago, and despite some graphical improvements and some decent mode offerings, it's about as fun as riding a horse with broken legs.
I think the main element that cramps Crash Nitro Kart from really succeeding would be the game's lack of competent gameplay. The N-Gage QD does have a better control set-up than the original system, I admit that, but it doesn't help here. Even when you're doing something like initiating a power drift or trying to perform a jump function, it feels like it's harder to do than it should be. Also, turning itself, just following the road and trying to run into some kind of speed-up icon is a bit of a chore, because the cart doesn't handle as finely as it should. Throw in the camera problems where you can barely see the road half of the time.
Sound is equally unimpressive, thanks to muted music and sound effects that are as generic as they come. For a cart-racing game, this is a big mistake, because part of the fun of a game of this stature is listening to characters taunt each other and listening to the zippy Saturday morning sound effects involved. None of that is included here. Oh well, it's not like the cast of characters is riding high on appeal anyway. It's just Crash, Coco, and a handful of villains from the previous games, all running on courses while being controlled by Emperor Velo on an intergalactic racing planet.
That's part of the game's Adventure mode, the least appealing mode in the game. Of course, if that's not your bag, you can just do some straight up single player racing, even timing yourself against ghost racers. But the real appeal here, what little there is, lies in the game's Battle Mode, where you can challenge three friends via Bluetooth and see who's number one. Of course, the real challenge will be trying to find three friends who want to engage in this game with you and put up with its lack of speed.
The game's graphics aren't that faulted. In fact, for the N-Gage, they look pretty good, emulating a decent amount of 3D courses with plenty of trackside detail. But, again, the in-game camera ruins the party. If only some kind of adjustments were made where we could see what was ahead of us instead of having to guess from a previous lap or follow the lead of an enemy you're so desperately trying to pass. Too bad his AI can be basic and then downright vicious.
Boy, I knew Crash Nitro Kart wouldn't be the party that Crash Team Racing was when I played it so many months ago, but I had no idea it would be released like this, being a minus in so many areas it should have been a plus. All of this from Vicarious Visions, no less... one of my favorite developers. Ah well, they'll be back. They'll find themselves another handheld project that will allow them to shine again, be it the Nintendo DS, the PSP, the N-Gage or wherever they're headed. They have a future, and I'm pretty sure that this poor edition of Crash Nitro Kart will be left in the dust.
What's Hot: Plenty of modes...
What's Not: ...but nothing to really make you want to delive into them.