I’ve never managed a true photo-finish draw in a kart racer before Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled. My eyes strained from squinting at my paltry half of the undocked Switch screen, I wiped my sweaty palms, and struggled to contend with the melancholy result of all that exertion.
This cocktail of mixed emotions came to define my experience with Beenox’s exhilarating but brutal remake.
There’s still something inexplicably satisfying about Crash Team Racing’s Adventure Mode 20 years on. At a glance, it’s unnecessary to gate your progress in such a way, but then the feedback loop starts to dig in.
Unlocking giant doors and dealing with snarky, carefully animated world bosses… It’s those elements that cemented this game’s legacy in 1999, and you’ll be pleased to know the same charm still lingers. Nitro-Fueled’s courses are lathered in details, but sadly, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to slow down enough to appreciate them.
Beenox’s dedication to the source material borders on psychotic and, as such, the original game’s systems have been replicated in uncanny fashion. The crushing difficulty and abrasive boost system of Crash Team Racing is still very much present in Nitro-Fueled, as are the visually inspired but whiplash-inducing tracks.
Oxide Station veterans will no doubt delight in this eye-popping reimagining – but if you’re a newcomer who hugs the wall to get around tight corners in Mario Kart, you will struggle to enjoy Nitro-Fueled. It’s far from fun for the whole family, unless they have the muscle memory to contend with its razor-sharp controls.
You can even tinker with the UI and swap out the fantastic new soundtrack for the grainy tunes of yore to achieve the true classic experience – yet, I found myself rejecting the sentimental options so I could switch between different characters throughout the course of the campaign.
In doing so, you can play with the customisation options unlocked via Nitro-Fueled’s ‘Pit Stop’, the game’s coin-driven marketplace. It’s all cosmetic, but its mere existence feels sinister – as if it could be monetised at any moment (update: it has been! Jordan is prescient). That and the pittance of coins you receive lead to a monotonous, unnatural grind for items which made me long for the cosy infrastructure of Nintendo’s kingpin kart racer.
You’ll long for the thud of the green shell when a grinning cabal of half-cyborg reprobates unload a salvo of homing rockets into your bumper in quick succession, wasting three minutes of your time and forcing out a race restart. Catch-up mechanics? Who needs them, says Beenox.
All in all, it’s a few steps away from the overbearing shadow of Mario Kart, asserting its own sense of identity in a dominated genre. Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is an uncompromising remake for masochistic grown-ups – the seasoned few with calluses where the PSone bumper buttons rubbed against their aged fingers.
Nitro-Fueled offers a solid number of modes to keep local players busy during nostalgic game nights, with everything from fully-fledged grands prix to explosive battle arenas. One mode that always ends in tears is Last Kart Driving, where players have to survive an endless onslaught of rockets to claim victory.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is a careful remake of a uniquely caustic kart racer.
Format: Switch (tested) / PS4 / XBO
Release: Out now