The brains behind the Crash Bandicoot series have set their wheels in motion once again, and after some arduous collective labor they have finally figured out justwhat the world desperately needed: another arcade. So they set about conquering yet another blade of grass, this time the highest on the pasture, and their supreme effort was a success greater than their wildest expectations... they almost made it.
Crash Tag Team Racing takes place in a massive amusement park run by a mad scientist cyborg with a German accent named Von Clutch. His power crystals are stolen and hidden within the confines of the park, thus putting it in jeopardy, so he decides to hold a series of kart races for some obscure reasons... blah, blah. Actually the only thing you really need to know is it's a kart-racer-platformer-hybrid freak that features eight of the Crash characters and a number of different race and track types. But to actually get to any of those races and tracks you'll have to wander around the amusement park on foot, platforming your way around various obstacles and collecting copious amounts of coinage.
For a "racing" game there's an awful lot of on foot exploration. You will actually be on foot so much that you'll begin to wonder if this isn't primarily a Crash platformer and secondarily a racing game. The theme park acts as a hub to the game, split into five different themed stages a la Disneyland, which include Mystery Island, Tomb Town, Happily Ever Faster, Tyrannosaurus Wrecks and Astro Land, with a variety of easy challenges in each for you to complete and with a number of race gates scattered around. Crash can spin like a tornado in Taz fashion (Taz from Looney Tunes), jump and double jump onto platforms, dangle and crawl across ledges, the basic premise being to collect mountains of coins in order to unlock new costumes, cars and all sorts of banalities.
An alternate way to gather coins is through the mini-games that are spread throughout the levels and by racing. The mini-games include duck hunting, animal skeet shooting and the now seemingly obligatory "penguin bowling", which make for a nice five minute diversion despite being instantly forgettable.
When you actually find the racing venues, you get a choice of a few types of races. Besides the traditional race there's "Crashinator", where you're the only car on the track and have to hit a certain number of targets within a time limit.There is "Fast Lap" which requires you to complete a circuit perfectly, with no room for error whatsoever. And of course, "Rolling Thunder" in which the sole purpose is to blow up as many opponents as possible, not worrying about who's in the first place. Finally there's "Run and Gun", target-shooting at objects while racing.
The most interesting aspect of racing (of the entire game actually) is a manoeuvre called "clashing" which you can perform at any time. With the pressof a button, your car will turn a semitransparent blue and crackle with electricity, colliding with another car in this state causing both to merge together and become one single tank of car, where one person drives and the other wreaks havoc on your opponents by manning a newly created turret on the back of the vehicle that can fire in any direction. The two can switch jobs at your command, and a nice touch is how the A.I.-controlled drivers react. If you're controlling Crash and you join up with one of the good guys they'll be very helpful (and since driving is straightforward enough, the A.I. can usually do a good enough job), but if you initiate a "clash" with one of Cortex's crew, they'll slam into walls and try to shake your aim all the time.
Each character has an individual "clashed" weapon, such as Crash's Wumpa Gun or Neo Cortex's Chargeable Energy Beam, and damage increases dramatically when in this mode. If you're driving around by yourself you'll pick up explosive chickens and dynamite strapped monkeys, but in "clash" mode you'll get pianos, submarines, cows and homing dolphins that are capable of taking out several enemies at once since their explosions persist for several seconds, forming a temporary barrier where the item is dropped.
By blowing opponents, your boost meter slowly fills up, and when it's full you'll get a temporary speed boost. You move a little slower when "clashed", but considering the rate at which the boost meter fills when in this mode, the disadvantage all but disappears.
Dying carries no real negative consequences aside from retracing your steps tediously, and the whole game is very easy overall. From time to time, you're actually rewarded with short, silly scenes called die-o-ramas which you can collect if you're so inclined, scenes that show Crash or other random characters demising in cartoonish ways, such as falling into toxic goo, eaten by yetis, or getting squashed by huge anvils or pianos that appear out of nowhere. All humor in the game is juvenile and will most likely appeal to the young crowd, with the exception of the fart sounds you get by pressing any button during the exasperatingly long loading times that are nowhere near amusing, only stupid.
The biggest irritation however is the plummeting camera from the free-roaming portions of the game, which deserves a prize for being one of the worst I've encountered. Most of the time it did the exact opposite of what I wanted it to do, as if it could read my mind and hated me with passion.
Video and audio
The graphics are vibrant and colorful, and while you can't exactly call them impressive they get the job done. The character designs are appropriately cartoonish and well animated but its being quite low on the polygon side is hard not to notice.
Most of the voice acting is quite funny, although some of it is kind of annoying, and the rest of the audio is the usual batch of goofy sound effects and quirky music. Nothing really stands out, but I've seen worse.
After you're done the single-player racing and platforming after about six hours, all the tracks will be available for multiplayer purposes. The game supports both split-screen and LAN play for a maximum of eight players, but the experience is forgettable, much like the entire game.
Young children may enjoy this game for its cartoonish characters and fairly easy gameplay, as will arcade freaks despite the loading times that will continually test their patience. The rest, keep away. There's a million much better things to do with your time.