An arcade racer, at home, in 2021?! Yep, and Cruis’n Blast says “stuff it!” to 11 and turns ALL the dials up to 12. It’s one louder again – and true to its name it really is a blast.
We’ve played a lot of car games on our consoles over the last 20 years or so, and many of them have been brilliant. But most of them have bolted on all manner of extras, ranging from lists of cars as long as the Carsales database to the sorts of things that you’d find in an RPG – sometimes with so many menus that finding your way around needs its very own satnav.
While there have been a couple of fun arcade-like experiences – most notably Hotshot Racing – nothing’s really gone for that jugular-crushing amusement park ride of full-on bonkers fun… until now. Everything about Cruis’n Blast is mad, and it’s a joy to behold.
If we can count properly then this is the fourth game in the arcade-bred Cruis’n series, which kicked off with the slightly more sedate Cruis’n USA back in the 1990s. Developed by a mob called Raw Thrills, all you need to know about them is that the director on this series has been none other than Eugene Jarvis, the creator of such arcade milestones as Robotron 2084, Defender and Smash TV. That’s some serious pedigree right there.
“That’s some serious pedigree right there.”
Jarvis knows all about playability, and it oozes from every polygon in Cruis’n Blast. There are no long and winding roads to putter down while admiring the scenery, it’s all about short, sharp races and grabbing that winner’s gold cup at the end.
Mind you, if you do look at the scenery while you’re racing then you’ll catch some truly wild sights – from dinosaurs roaming about and alien invasions, to giant donuts making good their escape and yetis trying to work out disagreements with each other in a civilised fashion (not!). All as you zoom right on by, never getting caught on any impediments, just racing through them or bouncing off them. Falling off the track? No matter how stupidly you drive, the game just doesn’t let you – pure arcade bliss.
The obligatory five-world arcade mode is present, but it’s the ‘Cruis’n Tour’ mode that delivers the most bang for buck. It eases players in with one unlocked series of four races, ‘Night Mode’, which, upon successful completion, unlocks another tour and so on until you have ten increasingly crazy sets of courses to navigate (and then you have four skill levels to conquer). We’re talking seriously crazy tracks at times, as landscapes break and send you careening about – always remaining on track – in similar style to the sinfully underrated Split/Second (but without the getting-hit-by-stuff penalties of that magnificent beastie).
A manageable list of cars includes real-world machines from the likes of Nissan (Godzilla!), Chevrolet and even Hummer, which bump up against such racing machines as a UFO, a chopper and, we kid you not, a triceratops… That you can upgrade with neon.
Single players also get to beat their previous bests in ‘Time Trials’, or just pluck out a favourite track for a ‘Single Race’. They’re all total arcade experiences, to the point that if you spend more than two minutes on any of the longer tracks then you’re really doing something wrong. Some races last for around 45 seconds, so you need to get to the front quick smart, no matter what the cost.
Not that there really is much cost, as you use nitrous bursts, wheelie and generally barrel through anything that gets in your way. As you would hope, cash (with which to buy stuff like upgrades and more vehicles) is rewarded for knocking out opponents and all manner of other stats that you ace in a race, while collectible car keys – three to a level – add up and unlock increasingly wilder vehicles.
It isn’t all about the single player though, for Cruis’n Blast allows up to four players to get busy at once, with options for multi-Switch play as well as split-screen.
Extras include stats on your tour progress, best times, how levelled-up each car is and which keys you’ve managed to plough through on your adventures in bonkers racing.
The only thing that drove us nuts is that somebody decided to put a completely superfluous (much like the brake button) horn on the left stick, and we’ll be damned if we could find a way to turn it off. Playing with the Pro Controller we were honking more often than we weren’t, and it got really bloody annoying really quickly. But seriously, that’s the biggest fault that we can name.
Ultimately Cruis’n Blast isn’t a deep experience. It’s blissfully aware of this, and leans into what it wants to be – a pure arcade rush of personality and thrills that those who miss the days of quick arcade car racing blasts can pick up for a few minutes to satiate that need for instant gratification. You may not pull an all-nighter on it, but you’re likely to keep returning for another blat. And another… And another…
Cruis’n Blast is available now on Switch.