Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 3D mixes the Crash Bandicoot characters with a Mario Kart style arcade racing game. Do the two go together well on N-Gage? Read our review to find out...
Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 3D plays very much like a clone of Mario Kart, with similar tracks, bonuses and scenery too (CBNK3D even has its own equivalent of the famous Rainbow Road levels).
For those who don't know, the game revolves around six cartoon characters racing across a 3D cartoon landscape full of corners, shortcuts, bonuses and other weirdness. The bonuses are floating boxes that can be picked up by driving through them, contain things like homing missiles, teleporters, oil slicks etc, and they're key to the game. They allow you to turn the tables on your opponents very quickly, so even people who fall far behind have a chance of getting back to the front. You can drive as any of the six different characters, each of which have different cars (new drivers are unlocked by collecting letter bonuses in the cups).
The tracks are also opponents, as they contain gaps for you to fall through, objects that squash you, laser beams that zap you and all kinds of other odd things. There are also rainbow-coloured strips that speed you up, and even rainbow tunnels that let you fly through space to the next section of track.
CBNK3D contains twelve tracks in total with four main themes. There are four game modes:
- Quick Race: Picks a random track and you have a one-off race around it. This is the best mode for short bursts of gameplay.
- Cup: There are three championships with four tracks each, and you get a cup for coming first, second or third in the points league table at the end of a championship. The secret to winning a cup is consistency, coming second in every race will probably win you overall first place in the league.
- Story: Eight mission-based levels, using tracks from the Cup mode and a cut scene before each mission explaining what you have to do.
- Time Trial: Race against the clock on any level which you have unlocked. You ghost race against your own previous best time on that track, which means you see your old car racing alongside your current one. The best times can be uploaded to N-Gage Arena and compared with global scores from other Arena members.
There's also a tutorial mode which teaches you how to operate the controls.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The tutorial says that you have to use the number keys even in horizontal mode, but this is NOT the case. The direction pad and A and B buttons actually let you control all aspects of the game, including drifting. Drifts can be done by using the jump key (gaming button A) and turning in the direction you want to drift with the direction pad. Objects can be used by pressing the B button.
CBNK3D has very nice cartoony graphics, and they suit this style of game much better than the realism of Asphalt 3. Cartoons have their own rules of physics (just watch some Road Runner) so it seems much more believable when your kart suddenly stops, or gets thrown off the course, or blown up etc.
The courses are graphically rather spectacular for a phone game, and contain the massive jumps familiar from many cartoon racers. There are some very nice touches such as sea monsters that try to eat you while jumping, and the level scenery generates a nice coherent atmosphere. The frame rate was adequate most of the time, better than Asphalt 3 but not as good as System Rush Evolution. Occasionally you wished the game could be smoother, but it didn't affect gameplay. (If you're having problems with frame rate, try exiting all currently running applications, which you can see by holding down the phone's swirly menu key. Multiple apps slow each other down.)
The game's music was a bit weird: the title screen tune is VERY VERY annoying, but music on the actual tracks is good, so don't switch the sound off just because of the titles. Effects are okay but nothing special, the usual engine noises and explosions, and this reviewer preferred to switch the effects off to just listen to the music.
No multiplayer. There's no shadowracing, no online, no Bluetooth, all you can do is compare scores on the Time Trial mode (and comparing scores doesn't mean much as hackers seem to always get to the top of every league table).
This is a huge disappointment, as a great deal of the fun in things like Mario Kart is playing against other humans. Obviously lag would cause problems trying to do real time racing through the phone network, but multiplayer would have been possible through Wi-Fi, and local multiplayer through Bluetooth would also have been an option. Even shadowracing would have been better than nothing.
Some N-Gage-compatible phones (e.g. Nokia N79, N82, N85, N95, N95 8GB, N96) have a TV Out feature which lets you connect the phone to a television set. This can be used for playing N-Gage games, or for any other phone function.
All N-Gage phones are compatible with Bluetooth keyboards that use the HID Bluetooth standard, and such a keyboard can be used to control games or any other phone function. You can also use Nintendo Wii controllers with N-Gage games by installing mobiPad on your phone.
Like most 3D games, the graphics look worse on a bigger screen: textures are pixellated and moments of frame rate loss seem worse too. However the game is still playable on a television.
CBNK3D looks nice, sounds nice and is good fun, but it's a bit short. This reviewer managed to win gold on the first cup, silver on the second cup and bronze on the third cup, all on the first attempt, and all without any drifting whatsoever. To be fair, there are also the time trial and mission modes, and the "quick races" are always good for killing time. But it's a real shame there's no proper multiplayer, it would have greatly extended the game's lifespan and possibly made this a must-buy title.
The controls on the game are easy to use, so it's very frustrating that the built-in tutorial doesn't explain them properly (as we mentioned earlier, despite what the game says you don't need to use the numerical keypad in horizontal mode). The controls, once you get to know them, suit being on a phone, and the game is particularly good in horizontal mode on a model with gaming buttons (N95, N85, N96, N81 etc).
In brief, if you're looking for Mario Kart on N-Gage, this is a good clone but it may be too easy for experienced gamers. People who are very familiar with driving games should probably rent CBNK3D for a day or a week instead of buying it permanently.
AAN Score: 75%