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Cruis’n Blast Review

cruisn blast

Have you ever seen an arcade game cabinet: with all its fancy lights, sounds and buttons, you cannot help but walk towards it and plant yourself right in front of it. Whether holding a light gun, turning the steering wheel or gripping the joystick, there is a catharsis in physically being present to play it. You pop in a few coins, hit start and lock in for the next 2 to 5 minutes. As soon as the game over screen comes up, you load in a few more coins and keep playing. Your experience inevitably ends when you run out of coins and realise you probably wasted both your time and money. This pretty much sums up my feelings towards Cruis’n Blast for the Nintendo Switch.

Chrome and Neon

I will admit I have always had an appreciation for arcade cabinet racers converted into console games. They owe their charm to how flashy and eye-catching they are designed to be. All the neon lights and coloured smoke effects are so over the top, that sometimes instead of playing a racing game I feel like I am watching one of those insane gender reveal videos. In the beginning, I was quite excited with the car roster and the crazy fast speeds. Even the frenetic gameplay initially hooked me in. It even came with a progression system - you play races with the selected car and gain XP for that car to level it up, which in turn unlocks optional cosmetics that you can purchase with money earned from winning races. Each car has its own XP unlocks, so the game incentivises you to spend some time racing a select few cars to reap the rewards of the cosmetics. However, I found it weird that even though it explicitly tells you what cosmetics you have unlocked, there is no mention of performance upgrades. It is strange because I find that the stats on the car increase as it levels up, but unless you are observant, you are led to believe that it is purely cosmetic.

A Sudden U-Turn

But that brings me to my first paradox and issue with this game: the hidden performance upgrades do not matter in the game. No matter how well you race, the AI racers act in such a way that almost all races play the same. At the start of the race, once the lights hit green, all the cars magically speed up miles ahead of you and leave you in the dust, regardless of whether you hit the starting boost. Once you inevitably understand how to win, each race feels robotic, as though it is feeding you the illusion that you are a great driver as you slowly climb positions. And I hate to say this, but even the boosting seemingly has no effect, because I found that if you hit the boost as you are going toe to toe with a rival racer, they will be glued to you even though they are not boosting.

The above holds as long as you play on the easy and normal difficulties. On the hard and insane difficulties, it is nigh impossible to win. Despite employing all the available tricks in the book: boosting, drifting, performing barrel rolls and spin jumps off ramps, the speed rewards feel negligible because the AI aggressively rubberbands ahead of you.

Running On Fumes

Replayability is encouraged by finding keys hidden throughout the tracks which you can use to pay for new cars in the roster. This is by far the best part of the game because some of the cars feel like they are catering to my inner 5-year-old. Spoiler alert: these ‘vehicles’ range anywhere from a quad bike, to a double-decker bus to …. a hammerhead shark, a unicorn and a triceratops?? It gets more bizarre and goofier than this, believe me. Unfortunately, all the vehicles in Cruis’n Blast handle the exact same. There is no strategy involved in the car selection because it is more or less an auto-racer and all races are just sprints.

At the Crossroads

And that brings me to my concluding thoughts on Cruise N Blast. For the first few hours it all seems so exciting and fun, and unlocking new cars and upgrades might make you feel hopeful for some added depth and replayability. But you inevitably realise that the tracks are often reused in a lot of the cups and the weather effects and dinosaurs rampaging through the tracks do not pose as road hazards or threats to your race. It’s just set dressing. If you are picking up a copy of Cruis’n Blast, then this is a perfect gift for any children in your life as it will definitely keep them entertained for hours on end.