Procrastigaming #2: Crash Team Racing
Edited by Natasha Hayes and Matthew “Retrograder” VanDeZande; artwork by Brianna Collins
You used to know a game series was successful when it finally got a Mario Kart-esque spin-off; the late 90s saw the release of Diddy Kong Racing, Mickey’s Speedway USA, and, apparently, a metric crapton of Hot Wheels games.
Mario Kart is fantastic, right? There’s no disputing that. The feeling of Blue Shell-ing someone just inches from the finish line is one of the most addictive sensations on the planet. Everyone either owns some version of Mario Kart, or they’re lying. It’s a great series. But you know what’s better?
Crash Team Racing.
The Crash Bandicoot spin-off was released in 1999, except for in Australia where it was released in 2000 (which comes as zero surprise to anyone who’s ever actually lived in Australia). It’s a pretty standard kart-racing game with power-ups, weapons, and speed boosts all available to help you utterly destroy your friend’s day, but extensive research (on Wikipedia) indicates that even IGN thought it was great back in the day. And it still is.
Crash Team Racing is probably in my Top 5 Games of All Time. It’s 2016 but I’ll still play through story-mode once every few months, or whenever I remember that my PS3 is still plugged in. Running the game through story mode isn’t hard, because you’re effectively just winning a race on each of the maps, and it won’t take you that long if you’re familiar with the tracks and know how to turbo boost in all the right places.
But even that only brings you to about 50% completion.
See, there are two other modes you have to complete if you want to actually finish the game. There are the Relic Races and the CTR Challenge on top of the standard adventure mode. Relic Races have items on the track that freeze time when you hit them, so the goal is to finish with the fastest time possible. The CTR Challenge makes you run through all the tracks again, but this time picking up the three titular letters along the way.
Oh, easy. Sure. No problem. I can beat the clock. It’s an original Playstation game, how hard can it be? That’s what I always think, at least until I load up the game and try again because every game was stupidly hard back in the day (I know, sit back down, Grandma). Relic Races are challenging because just when you think you’ve won, you hit a power slide the wrong way and careen into a wall, or you a miss a crate and suddenly you’ve lost by an eighth of a second and you’re left wondering why you’re still trying to beat this game in 2016.
Don’t even get me started on the locations of the CTR letters in Challenge mode. Most of them are next-to-impossible to collect while still completing the track in a reasonable time which, conveniently, is the entire goal. They’re always hidden at the top of jumps you can only reach by hitting a power slide just right or in places so out of the way you’d just never bother with otherwise.
I said it before and I’ll say it again: old games are hard. They had to be, because there was nowhere near as much variety as there is now, and you definitely couldn’t get anything free to play (except for shareware, but that’s an article in itself because boy do I have some stories). Crash Team Racing was the perfect combination of kart racing done well, with a good story mode and challenging side-modes that still infuriate me to this day. That’s the only reason I haven’t finished it, because it legitimately is a challenge I don’t have the patience to complete. I don’t think that’s a disadvantage, though. Not in this case. I genuinely enjoy Crash Team Racing a lot, and I think the Adventure mode is a brilliant way to spend a few hours on a weekend afternoon.
Besides, who needs 100% when you can get the same level of satisfaction out of beating the main story?
Thanks again for joining me on this journey into the depths of my game collection. I hope you’ll stick around, because next time I’m going to be completely honest about why I never got around to finishing Fallout 4.