Remember arcades? I only kind of do, as a kid who grew up right as they were on the way out. They were magical places, full of games that looked way more impressive than anything you had at home and offered graphical experiences that could make your mind melt out of your ears. Arcades are gone these days, for the most part, and we’ve got at-home experiences that put the arcade games of old to shame.
The Cruis’n games actually began life in arcades back when the N64 was still called the Ultra64, though it’s hard to find one of those these days. Still, sometimes a title comes along to try and capture the old arcade spirit – a title like Cruis’n Blast, the latest in the Cruis’n series of arcade racers.
Cruis’n USA was one of the earlier releases for the Nintendo 64, if you recall, and was followed up by Cruis’n World and Cruis’n Exotica. It had sequels on the N64! I had no idea! Kid me would have smacked me for not looking into this. Either way, Cruis’n Blast is the most modern rendition of the driving-really-fast concept on offer there. Slam the accelerator, hit the road and try your best not to run into anything. You’re being timed, after all.
The original arcade game boasted five tracks, while this Switch version features around thirty; it’s a feather in the game’s cap that they’re not just trying to run with an arcade game’s level of content on a home console. Driving really fast and making it through each race gets you paid and earns you some experience, allowing you to upgrade your vehicles and become better prepared for future races.
As for what you’ll be driving and where, well, you’re going to take a series of increasingly zany rides (there’s a hammerhead shark and a triceratops) through increasingly zany areas (you’ll have to deal with catastrophic lightning storms, UFOs and more) as you tour the world as quickly as possible.
Success means learning each track so you can easily navigate it at the breakneck speeds achieved by your shark. Moreover, though, you’ll want to give each track the once-over to look for hidden keys. That’s how you’ll unlock the shark in the first place, after all. It’s a nice touch that brings to mind N64 classic Beetle Adventure Racing. You’re meant to be reaching the finish line as quickly as possible, but there’s nothing wrong with scrounging around for goodies, right?
Really, the focus here seems to be living up to the heady days of the N64, where games were okay with being fun rather than striving to be art. There’s nothing wrong with the modern industry, but surely there’s other folks out there who remember the absolute insanity that would show up in older games. Remember playing as Mortal Kombat characters in NFL Blitz? Remember controlling a swarm of bugs in Turok: Rage Wars? Sure, those things might still exist today, but you’ll probably have to drop a couple bucks to unlock them as DLC. This entry of Cruis’n really is a Blast from the past.
Blast benefits from being on hardware that’s at least a couple steps ahead of the classic titles to which it pays homage. You’ll race at a pretty smooth 60FPS, though some hitches can occur if there’s too much mayhem happening onscreen. Likewise, you won’t have any issues controlling this one – and neither will your pals if you get some folks together for Cruis’n Blast’s multiplayer. There’s 4-player split-screen! In 2021!
If you’ve still got fond memories for the days where arcades still loomed large in the industry, you really ought to check out Cruis’n Blast. In fact, even if you’ve only got vague notions of what those days were like, this one’s still worth playing. It’s the right mix of high-octane action and goofy secret-hunting to really bring out what gaming in the late 1990s and early 2000s felt like.