Porting a game from the arcade to home consoles has been a daunting task. It doesn’t happen as often as it used to when games would usually make their debut in an arcade setting before heading to a home console. It’s a much rarer occasion these days. Capturing a game’s essence while also having to dial back on things like visuals in order to make something run properly is rough. And unfortunately, in the case of Raw Thrills’ interpretation of their arcade hit Cruis’n Blast for the Nintendo Switch, it would seem they weren’t quite up to the task.
It’s been a long, long time since a Cruis’n game has been released for a Nintendo console. The last one came out in 2007 on the Wii, a full decade before Cruis’n Blast would make its debut in arcades across the globe. Now, four years after that, Blast has made its way onto the Switch. This console version contains several tracks from the arcade game as well as several variations of them that switch up the background and a few mechanics, so some dinosaurs might show up in Rio or perhaps you’ll be chased by police vehicles.
Players will be able to play through a handful of tours, but they’ll need to get a lot of gold medals in order to open them all up. Alternatively, there’s a mode where you can just race through each arcade course one-by-one, or head over to the Time Trials section to try and outdo your best race time.
As players progress, they’ll earn cash and collect keys hidden throughout each track. They’ll then be able to use cash on cosmetic upgrades or unlocking news cars, although some cars will require keys for purchase instead, so you may not be able to get that goofy ride of your dreams. Cosmetic upgrades are also locked behind a leveling system, meaning you’ll have to do a lot of grinding to get everything you want unlocked and then you’ll need enough cash to purchase it. There’s really not a lot to the game itself, so the idea of having to do the same races over and over to unlock the gear and rides you want becomes a gruelling process quickly. By the time I had unlocked the Triceratops and tricked it out, I was basically over it.
Part of what makes the Cruis’n games so much fun is their zaniness, and most of that is locked behind a grind that gets old quickly. I can understand why, I mean you want replay value in a game, especially one with as little content on offer as Blast, but you will be done with the game by the time you get it.
Cruis’n Blast claims to have 29 tracks available in-game that include the arcade version’s original 5 tracks. What that really means is there’s the 5 original tracks and several variations of them that don’t really change anything but the background visuals. For the most part the tracks are the same as they were in the arcade, but they have lost a painfully noticeable amount of their shine. I mean, we’re talking about something that would’ve looked dated on consoles from two generations ago. All the jagged edges and phoned-in animations and skins would make you think this was being ported from the N64. I mean, I know stuff has to be downgraded in order to function properly on the Switch, but the system is still capable of more than is shown off here.
I’d be able to forgive a lot of the graphical issues if I felt like that gameplay had some decent value, but even for an arcade-style racer, Cruis’n Blast leaves much to be desired. For starters, the game does not do a good job of explaining what you should be doing to win races. Sure, it tells you that you can double-tap your gas button to do a wheelie and flip over cars, or drift to gain boost, but you’d have to pick those tips up in the loading screen or know that the “how to play” is actually in the “Extras” section. And it hardly answers any questions one might have about strategy, like do wheelies help boost you, or will they slow you down. A quick tutorial race would have resolved a lot of ambiguity for new and old players alike. With that said, the more I played, the better I got at racing, but by that time I’d seen most of what Blast had to offer.
Mediocrity may be the theme of Cruis’n Blast as it definitely carried over to the gameplay aspects. I was expecting loose, arcade-style, racing out of Blast, but this was a bit much. It feels like your car is just floating around as it slides towards the finish line. There’s a drift feature when taking turns and for the life of me I could not tell the difference between just taking a turn and doing it while drifting beyond the fact that I’d hit a button to bring up the drift boost meter. Doing a wheelie into a booster on the track makes your car do an aerial flip and more often than not the game would over-flip the car, causing the front or back of it to hit the track and slow me down instead of giving me a blast of speed. It just felt glitchy and really drove home just how unpolished this game feels for me.
Coming in last place
All things considered, it took me a little over an hour or so to see just about everything that Cruis’n Blast has to offer. The Nintendo Switch racing scene has been dominated by Mario Kart and I feel like Cruis’n Blast had a chance to make a real case for bringing other classic Nintendo racers back into the scene. But if lackluster graphics and mediocre racing mechanics are all we’d get it might be better to leave our precious memories in the past. Cruis’n Blast isn’t unplayable though and would probably make an enjoyable experience for someone with kids or younger siblings. Everyone else should probably head to the arcade and hope they have a much more enjoyable arcade experience available to try out.
This review is based on a Nintendo Switch digital code provided by the publisher. Cruis'n Blast is available now on the Nintendo eShop for $39.99 USD. The game is rated E10+.
- You can drive a Triceratops
- Whimsical backdrops
- Wonky driving mechanics
- Too much grinding to unlock each car's cosmetics
- Graphics lack polish
- Not much content