Whoever thought of putting Nintendo characters into little karts had the mind of a genius. The first thing most people ask when Nintendo announces a new consoles is when is Mario Kart going to be released. It's become a Nintendo institution so it's no wonder that many companies are trying to imitate its fantastic gameplay and addictive qualities. The latest is Crash Nitro Kart and while it has a few nice features, overall it fails in comparison to most other kart games on the market already.
Crash Nitro Kart offers two main game modes; Adventure and Single Player. Single Player is what you come to expect from a kart game. Quick races, where you pick a kart and track and go for it, a cup tournament mode where you can compete in four cups each comprised of three races each and team play. In team play you team up with a partner to try and win the race. Staying close will charge up a meter, and when this meter is full Crash Frenzy will occur which helps to win your team the race. Unfortunately this is single player only which is an interesting decision given that it would be perfect for multiplayer gaming.
The main game mode however is the Adventure mode. It must be said that we enjoyed the single player portion of the game more then the adventure mode despite the fact there is somewhat of a storyline involved. In adventure mode you travel around an area winning races to earn the right to take on the current champion. Defeat that champion and you move onto the next section so as you can see its more of a glorified cup mode then being completely different. One difference is that each race has various goals which must be completed. For instance you may have to win a certain number of trophies before you can access a race.
As expected the characters you can choose are from the Crash Bandicoot universe. The characters are also divided into two teams; the Bandicoot team and a team made up of Dr Neo Cortex and his cohorts. The characters don't have individual karts but each team has a certain make of kart. However the attributes for each character are different and are divided into three categories; speed, acceleration and handling. Obviously the faster characters are going to find it harder to turn, whilst the more nimble characters have a lower top speed.
You will also find powerups by crashing through certain brown crates layed out around each level. Powerups include TNT (which is dropped), a bomb which can be thrown, a bubble which protects your character, a speed boost and others. The AI characters are not afraid to use them either, but you will receiving a warning when an incoming projectile is coming you're way, jump at the right time and you can avoid it.
There is three difficulty levels for players to tackle and the AI is quite good. There are times when you will see a succession of them going into an area where they will be hit by a train etc but most of the time they offer a decent challenge. On the easiest difficulty level most gamers will find it a breeze and be able to get through most of the cups in single player quite easily. Crank it up a notch and the challenge increases however. One problem with Crash Nitro Kart is the lack of speed of the karts, but this can be deceiving. Sometimes they are impressively fast, other times they look like snails. There is only one class of kart, no differing speeds as in Mario Kart which hurts the replayability somewhat as once you have mastered the default kart you've pretty much finished the game, just need to complete the tracks etc.
One impressive feature of Crash Nitro Kart is the level design. Some are extremely long and take a few minutes to do a lap whilst others end up being quick, short races, but that is not what is impressive. The tracks are highly detailed and vary greatly from Cup to Cup. Sometimes you will be racing on a beach, other times in snow conditions which can adversely affect your kart, in a clock tower and others. The draw distance is also impressive. There is an arena editor featured in the game, and it has been implemented in quite a novel way despite the fact it isn't very powerful. You select a pre-built arena and drive around laying pick ups and other options. You don't actually design the track.
Another impressive aspect of the Xbox version is the graphics. Whilst the characters themselves have minimal animations, as do the karts the environments look fantastic. Highly detailed with vibrant colours and the aforementioned great variety. The individual characters look great, but it would have been nice for them to have individual karts. The game features a typical soundtrack for a kart racing game and characters do offer wisecracks such as "like taking candy from a baby".
Multiplayer is only offered on the same console which is unfortunate. The first game to take arcade kart racing online is likely to be hugely popular. Multiplayer options include racing and battle with modes such as capture the flag and capture the bacon.
There is nothing overly wrong with Crash Nitro Kart other then the fact that it has been done better before. At the full retail price, the game really isn't of great value but once it hits a lower price point then Crash Nitro Kart could be a good pick up, especially if you're after a game which can be enjoyed by both adults and kids.