Crash Tag Team Racing

Format: PS2
Vivendi Universal

3 348542 200289
Age Restrictions: 7+
04 November 2005

In Crash Tag Team Racing, players can combine their car with an opponent's mid-race to make a super-car equipped with a powerful turret gun. When clashed, players can either get behind the wheel and drive or fire an onboard weapon. Each character has his or her own uniquely deadly 360 rotating turret. Players can continue the action out of the car where they can explore the entire world on foot and collect upgrades for their cars and unlock bonus tracks...

I'm going to come clean here and admit to never really being a fan of Crash the Bandicoot. In his early days he looked like he was going to be the character to sell the Playstation when it first launched. Sega had Sonic and Nintendo had the Mario Brothers, and Playstation had Crash. And then along came Lara Croft and made Crash look like the dull, football mascot character that he was. All of a sudden platform games seemed so outdated, and Tomb Raider was the new, sexy format being pushed to sell the Playstation.

Over the years there have been several Crash games, but none really took my fancy. I've never been a huge fan of platform games, to be honest, and Crash brought nothing new to the genre. So, when Crash Tag Team Racing arrived in the office, I wasn't really impressed when the reviews editor slung it my way. First impressions were a little negative. Crash should have been put out to pasture years ago. It seemed that the bandicoot was doing a Mario Brothers (trying to move over to another genre - from platform to racing game), but about 5 years too late.

And to make matters worse we received no instructions with this game, and there's not really much in the way of on screen help. But, I persevered. And I have to say I'm glad I did, for this game has a lot to offer. You start off entering a huge theme park. This place is frequented by little chidlers, teenagers, adults, and strange creatures that look like Snorky (from the Banana Splits) wearing a sort of suit of armour. Only one of the various theme worlds is open to you in the theme park (you have to collect power gems in order to open other areas of the park). But before you venture off to your first world, it's worth examining the main park, as there are quite a few fun items and mini games that can be played.

As you stroll around the park, you'll bump into the rest of your opponents. All of them have a quest for you which, when completed, will unlock other parts of the game and extra vehicles. Also in the main park are some great mini games (including a clay pigeon style shooting range and a bowling alley game) and various comedy cut sequences (known as Die-O-Ramas) that you can access when you approach an object and see a small triangle or square appear on screen. Numerous Die-O-Rama sequences are also littered around the theme worlds too.

Once you enter the first theme world it's back to familiar territory - this is a Crash platform game, but with a bit more going on. The whole theme element keeps this section of the game feeling fresh, as you jump around the various themed environments. As you progress through each level you must collect Wumpa coins - which can be exchanged for things like gems or a a change of costume - which can be bought from those Snorky like characters that are dotted around the levels.

Once you've wandered around for a while you'll eventually stumble across the section of this game that is new to the Crash universe - the car racing stages. There are several modes to this section of the game. There is the straight forward racing mode (beat your opponents to the finish); Fast Lap (race against the clock to complete one lap); Crashinator (drive into the obstacles on the track to destroy as many as possible); Rolling Thunder (shoot and destroy as many of your opponents as possible during one lap); and Run and Gun (Shoot as many of the off track targets as you can). If you manage to come first, or destroy the required number of targets you will be rewarded with Wumpa coins and gems.

In the main race game you can merge your vehicle with another in the race. This gives you the added benefit of two guns. And you can also switch between driving and firing the weapons that you pick up around the track, and firing the car's other main weapon.

Also hidden around each theme world is a Destruction Derby style game where you have to drive around a large dome shooting at your opponents. Destroy a certain amount before your opponents, and you win another gem.

While I found this game to be fast and furious, I did have some problems with the controls. Firstly it's a little annoying that at the end of a race (after being asked to tap "X" to move to the score page, that if you then tap "X" again you get kicked out of the race mode and then have to re-enter the room to start again. If you are lucky you will see that you can retry the level by pressing the square button, but how many people will be caught out and have to spend wasted minutes waiting for the level to reload? Also I found the camera to be a little bit of a problem. Sometimes it's not easy to position it so that you can see where you need to go - jumping blind is the only solution here.

Another nice little touch are the belching and breaking wind noised that you can create by tapping "X" and triangle while you are waiting for a level to load - although be warned that you may accidentally start a race because you tapped "X" just as the loading screen finished.

At the end of the day, this game does manage to revitalise an old character in ways I never thought possible. Crash Tag Team Racing is fun, and there are so many fresh mini-games and different gaming styles crammed in here, that you'd have to be a bit of miserable bugger to not find something to keep you amused for hours.

Crash fans will no doubt love this, but it also has a wider appeal to gamers who don't usually go in for platform games.

Ray Thomspon

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