The 5th March marked 19 years since the original release of the PlayStation 2 in Japan. While I owned one 2 years later, I still loved it: this console introduced me to the original Kingdom Hearts, a Nightmare Before Christmas game and Ratchet and Clank.
However, the game I’ve chosen to review for JumpCut’s PS2 flashback is Crash: Tag Team Racing from 2005. I am a huge Crash Bandicoot fan and was eager to find any Crash games for the (at the time) new console and I found this one in a triple pack, which also included Crash: Nitro Kart Racing and Crash: Twinsanity. Tag Team Racing is a racing and platforming hybrid. In the game, Crash and the gang discover a racing theme park that is in need of help: what was once a popular attraction, is now a location that is falling apart. What’s worse is that the park’s power crystals have been stolen. Therefore, Crash must win all of the races in the park to get the crystals back before his arch-nemesis, Dr Neo Cortex, does.
This game was met with average reviews, with a lot of the criticism coming from the mixture of racing and platforming, as well as the ‘uninspired’ tracks.
However, I’m going to be in the minority by saying Crash: Tag Team Racing is better than its previous racing entry, Crash Team Racing. While the latter is universally loved and seen as a classic, it is just a basic racing game. This particular game adds to the racing experience by giving players an opportunity to merge with another racer’s vehicle, letting one character drive while the other shoots the rest of the racers. This can lead to some crazy and chaotic racing and, while the merging can be seen as a form of cheating to win races easily, it remains unbiased towards each character: sometimes the unmerging will speed the player up and, sometimes, it’ll speed the other racer up.
The park is split into five areas, and these act as a form of ‘hub world’. In these areas, Crash can complete side missions to unlock new characters and vehicles, giving the player a different, but better, method in gaining unlockable content. The platforming in Tag Team Racing is a unique addition to the racing games, and one that was not replicated in the next entry Crash: Nitro Kart Racing. It makes the experience more fun and challenging as you explore each of the areas, and interact with other characters in the park.
Other highlights of the game are the visuals and soundtrack. The game has stood the test of time and still looks fantastic; the variety of appearances in the colourful areas make this game memorable. This game’s variation of Crash himself is also my favourite: his dopey appearance and movements suit him perfectly. And, while he doesn’t talk, the indistinguishable sounds he does make add to his personality. The soundtrack is more reflective of Twinsanity than the original games on the PlayStation One. However, it still fits within the game, and adds to the atmosphere of each area and track, even if it is, overall, forgettable.
Unfortunately, the race tracks themselves are quite simple and bland-looking. However, they’ve been built around the merging mechanic in order to make this easier, so it isn’t too much of an issue. The controls, especially jumping, are sometimes unresponsive, making some platforming areas unnecessarily harder and frustrating.
Overall, if you have PlayStation 2, I would highly recommend playing Crash: Tag Team Racing. It’s a unique Crash racing game with an interesting mechanic, fantastic visuals and fun platforming.