Home > Chronological Challenge > Chronological Challenge Reviews – Crash Team Racing / Rayman 2

Chronological Challenge Reviews – Crash Team Racing / Rayman 2

After the darkness of last week’s games, it’s time for something a little more colourful this week as I continue to play through 1999 in my game collection!

Crash Team Racing
Publisher: SCE/Universal | Developer: Naughty Dog | Year: 1999
Original System: PlayStation
Played on: PS3 (original PS1 disc)

Goal: Play through Adventure Mode and see how far I get

Actual Outcome: Made it to the race against Nitrous Oxide with none of the extra stuff

Mario Kart is always held up as the undisputed champion of cartoony, fun racing games to play with friends. And it’s hard not to see why, as pretty much every attempt to make a similar game seems to fall flat on its face. Does anybody remember Speed Freaks? Exactly.

But hang on! This game, I can already hear you typing. This game didn’t fall flat on its face, it’s not forgotten, etc. And shush, I’m getting to that. Because you are correct. If there has ever been a video game to give Mario Kart a run for its money, it’s Crash Team Racing. It’s Mario Kart in the Crash Bandicoot universe, and it’s every bit as fondly remembered as its Nintendo rival.

And do you know what? It holds up. A lot. I remember being horrendously addicted to Crash Team Racing when it came out, and when I picked it up again for the challenge, the only thing that tore me away from it was the fact that I still have a couple of hundred games left to play in my collection, and I couldn’t linger on this one, games that aren’t even beaten let alone played to death as this one was.

Crash Team Racing is a hugely responsive title with smooth driving mechanics, bouncy powersliding fun, and an interesting and enjoyable weapons system. On top of that, it’s surprisingly tactical too, allowing you to play with a few sneaky tricks to gain the upper hand on your opponents.

Speed boosts can be performed in a number of ways, from revving when powersliding to hopping off jumps at the right time, to the point where you can chain them indefinitely if you’re good enough (which I am thanks to all that playing it to death business). The weapons system has two levels, with Wumpa Fruit beefing up all weapons for you, causing you to contemplate chucking that potion out behind you right now or waiting until you have enough Wumpa Fruit to cause that potion to also poison your opponents and slow them down for a while. The weapons themselves are also incredibly varied and interesting, with all of them proving useful in different situations.

And my god, it’s fun. This game is addictive, easing you in with a few simple races and then keeping you there as the difficulty sneaks slowly upwards and the fun never stops.

It’s also surprisingly long. The game centres on an Adventure Mode, similar to the one seen in Diddy Kong Racing, but one that feels a lot more fun to play. As well as standard races, you have battle arenas, token-collecting challenges, time trials, boss races and tournaments to tackle, all with the intention of leading you to take down an alien who loves racing and wants to pave all of Earth (okay, the story’s rubbish, but you’re not here for that anyway).

There’s a surprising amount of stuff to do, and it stays varied, even when really you’re not doing much. The stages are inventive and unique, moving through a variety of locations from previous Crash titles, with devious shortcuts and traps awaiting you at every turn.

You know what? I simply can’t criticise Crash Team Racing. It’s still as fun as it was when it was first released, it still looks pretty good for a PS1 title, it keeps you occupied and keeps things fresh. I have no complaints whatsoever. This is a classic game, and one that really does keep up the pace with its plumber-based rival.

Rayman 2: The Great Escape
Publisher: Ubisoft | Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier | Year: 1999 (original N64 release)
Original System: Nintendo 64
Played on: PS2 (2000 Rayman Revolution release)

Goal: Defeat Admiral Razorbeard and save the Glade of Dreams

Actual Outcome: Razorbeard got dunked in lava

The original Rayman was a fun and interesting title marred by being unfairly difficult. It also didn’t seem to really know what to do with itself and its level design was often bizarre and nonsensical as a result. It seems that Michel Ancel and his team recognised those flaws in the sequel, as they rebuilt the whole game from the ground up to make a game that feels incredibly distant from its predecessor, but is all the better for it.

Rayman gained a third dimension, the design is more consistent with a harmonious magical world being threatened by pirates as its central theme, while Rayman himself seems to have been turned into a real character and not just a wacky sprite that yells “YEAH!” when he finishes a level. And it’s all a huge improvement, and I enjoyed this one a lot more.

Rayman 2 (or rather, Rayman Revolution, as I played it) is a fun, quirky little platformer that tries to shake up its core gameplay frequently with boat rides, gliding up air currents, and strange Space Invaders style mini-games. It controls fairly smoothly, and has plenty of genuinely likeable moments.

The problem I found, however, is that the whole experience feels a little average and forgettable. I played through the whole game but barely remember specifics of it as I write this. While it’s nice from a design perspective, the storyline is spotty and seems to act as if the world we inhabit is one we’re already well-acquainted with (it’s not – the first game didn’t establish this world at all). On top of this, navigation around the game’s world can sometimes feel frustrating, as paths don’t seem to ever go where you think they will and it’s very easy to get lost.

The core mechanics are very good, but there are some moments of frustration when it feels like the game doesn’t want to do what you’re asking of it. There were countless moments where Rayman burst into a run when I wanted him to move slowly, moments where a swing didn’t register and I fell to my death, and the missile riding sections frequently drove me nuts as the tight steering controls often led me to crashing into a wall.

Essentially, Rayman 2 is a game with plenty of charm and it’s hard not to appreciate the love that’s gone into it, but the charm doesn’t go far enough, and the gameplay isn’t as refined as it possibly could be. I’d love to say more about the game, but honestly, it didn’t leave a huge impression on me. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t feel it was the most amazing experience either. Fun but inoffensive.

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