It is usually safe to say that games with genres in their titles contain a primary gameplay system somewhat reminiscent of said genre?usually. However, once in a blue moon, a game will be released with a very deceiving title. Needless to say from this point on, Crash Tag Team Racing isn?t exactly what one would originally conceive. CTTR is more accurately described as a platformer with racing elements. Like most kart racers in the gaming arena, one of the areas where the developers were least concerned with was the storyline. CTTR takes place in a large amusement park whose owner, a German-accented cyborg by the name of Von Clutch has had his power crystals stolen. Without his power crystals, Von Clutch cannot run the park, and therefore, Crash?s job to retrieve them (for some reason or another).
Crash will have to explore the amusement park, collecting coins and crystals, which allow Von Clutch to keep his park. However, his path is not all flowers and white fences. The road is paved with ninja penguins and environmental obstacles that Crash must platform around. Crash will have to feed five machines (each in a different area of the park) with the crystals he finds to acquire a big power crystal from each. To acquire the smaller crystals, Crash must collect coins found around the park which can be used to purchase crystals from park employees, win kart competitions, or just find them throughout the map.
CTTR has up to eight playable characters from the Crash Bandicoot universe, including Crash, Neo Cortex, Coco, N-Gin, Pasadena, Von Clutch, Crunch, and Nina. Each character has his/her own vehicles and weapons (both of which have multiple unlockable tiers). Each area of the park has three racing tracks and one ?special? track (stunt track or battle arena).
The racing tracks each have five different game modes: Race, Crashinator, Fast Lap, Rolling Thunder, and Run and Gun. Race is self-explanatory. Racers line up, the light turns green, and the first one to the finish line after a set number of laps wins. Crashinator is a mode in which the racer must hit as many targets on the track with his/her vehicle in a specified amount of time. Only one lap is allowed in this mode. Fast lap is, again, self-explanatory. Try to get around the track as quick as possible. Rolling Thunder is a mode in which the player must destroy as many opponents as possible. Lastly, Run and Gun consists of the player shooting targets on the track while being driven by the computer. Once again, only one lap is allowed in this mode. The only problem found with the extra game modes is the only real reason to visit them is to make money. Otherwise, they aren?t too necessary.
To keep up with the changes in the kart racing genre (i.e. like dual riders in Mario Kart Double Dash), CTTR sports a new feature known as ?clashing.? Though each character starts out in his/her own vehicle, the player can activate this ability which will fuse the player?s vehicle to another vehicle if he/she is close enough. This new super-car will be slightly slower, but will sprout a rotating turret that can be used to cause damage in any direction, with the weapon varying on the characters riding together. The player will have the option of either driving the kart or firing the turret. More intelligent players will find themselves in this mode during most of the game. As a matter of fact, there is actually no good reason to drive the kart. The A.I. is competent enough to avoid the obstacles on the track. Therefore, the player can sit back in the gunner?s seat and spend the whole game picking off opponents.
CTTR also includes many of the features found in most modern-day kart racers. Power sliding will not only help the player take corners easier, but will help build up a ?boost? meter, that once full, will sprout rockets on the back of the vehicle, allowing the player to use an immense burst of speed and gain a large amount of ground in a small amount of time. CTTR has an item system much like that seen in Mario Kart Double Dash The racer runs over an ?item box? that will assign the racer a particular weapon (i.e. exploding chicken, monkey with a stick of dynamite, etc.) which can be fired at opponents either in front or behind them.
As mentioned earlier, though this game has the obvious kart racing element, most of the time will be spent in platforming mode. This mode, unfortunately, can be quite annoying. It can be extremely difficult to position Crash correctly to make it around the level. Though Crash can?t technically ?die,? jumping, missing, going around and trying again gets old quite quickly. Five different levels will be available for exploration. These levels are filled with boxes of coins, employees who are more than happy to sell you items (crystals, costumes, etc.), mini-games, and ?Death-o-Ramas.? The mini-games, like the races, are a good way to earn cash. These games include an obstacle-filled bowling game, target shooting, and a game that resembles Missile Command?for you old school gamers out there. Death-o-Ramas really hold no purpose other than humor. Crash can interact with the environment within the game, resulting in his death or the death of one of the park employee?s. The game will keep track of which ones the player has found, and if you are interested (or bored), it has a list where you can check them off as you find them.
Like any other kart racer, CTTR features a multiplayer aspect. Disappointingly, this game does not feature any form of online gaming. Multiplayer gaming has to be done through split screen or a LAN connection. The multiplayer is not terribly exciting for one simple reason, which is obvious when one looks at the single-player: the developers didn?t concentrate hard enough on the racing aspect. The racing physics aren?t all that well developed, and it is entirely difficult to actually participate in a multiplayer game unless you hang out with 12-year-olds. They are the only people I know who would actually be interested in playing this game over the other kart racers in the genre.
The game?s graphics are nothing more than average. They are quite colorful and ?cartoony,? yet they hold a high degree of detail. The framerate seems to stay fairly consistent, and the cut scenes are just as good quality as the gameplay. The animations both on and off the track are subtle, yet entertaining.
The audio is on the same level as the graphics…nothing extraordinary. Most of the sounds and music tracks aren?t anything special, though the dialogue can be quite humorous at times (like when Crunch loses his teddy bear!). The voices are quite diverse, from the ?Igor? sound of N-Gin, to the Southern slang of Pasadena, some more annoying than others. A good addition in the audio is the two chicken announcers, who introduce each feature of the game to the player the first time it is accessed. This is a quality that needs to be incorporated into the each new kart racer. Hopefully, the ?play-by-play? feature found in Madden football games can be incorporated to future games, where the announcers can keep track of positions and points on the track during the race.
In terms of replayability, not much in this game is bringing the player back to play it again. There is multiplayer, but there is no online gameplay. There are unlockables and Death-o-Ramas to find, but they aren?t just worth the time and effort.
One word sums up CTTR? average. First off, a more appropriate title is in order, being as that most of the game is spent as a platformer. With average cartoony graphics, a mix of annoying and funny audio, and no online multiplayer, it is quite difficult to look generously upon CTTR. With other, more entertaining kart racers out in the market, CTTR just doesn?t stand out enough to make it a major contender. This game can only be recommended if you have young children who are fans of the series. Otherwise, stick with Mario Kart Double Dash.