Microsoft and Sony can have their Forzas and Gran Turismos with hyper-realistic graphics, authentic engine noises, and true-to-life physics. The Nintendo Switch has Cruis’n Blast, in which your vaguely Nissan GT-R-shaped vehicle barrels off a cliff at breakneck speed toward a massive yeti which then cracks open a glacier revealing a hidden jungle paradise beneath the ice.
While its traditionally more powerful rivals use their consoles’ horsepower to accurately render real-world vehicles down to the cigarette lighter in the backseat ashtray, Nintendo’s consoles have played host to some of the most outrageously fun arcade racing games of all time. Remember Beetle Adventure Racing on the Nintendo 64? How about when the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 got the ho-hum Need for Speed: Shift and the Wii got the bright and colourful Need for Speed: Nitro? With less power comes less responsibility, and with less responsibility comes more fun.
When racing game developers like Cruis’n series creator Eugene Jarvis steer away from realism in favour of speed and spectacle, magic happens. Cruis’n Blast, the sixth game in the series that started way back in 1994 with the arcade classic Cruis’n USA, is an outrageously absurd racing game with absolutely no regard for reality. Impossibly shiny cars flip and fly through the air, dropping hundreds of feet while in a flat spin, landing completely unscathed. Tracks shatter into pieces mid-race, revealing completely different terrain somehow buried beneath the Earth’s crust. Sometimes there are dinosaurs.
In Cruis’n Blast a fire truck can outrace a Corvette Stingray. A classic 1959 Corvette can keep pace with a Nissan 370Z. It’s a wonder how the developers got licenses for some of the game’s two dozen or so vehicles, given how little what they are affects how they perform in the game. I’m just as happy racing generic vehicles like the police cruiser, fire truck, or death-defying superbike as I am cartoony versions of real Nissans, Chevys, and Cadillacs.
Again, Cruis’n Blast is all about the spectacle. Originally released in arcades in 2017, the game sported an RGB LED-bedecked nightmare of an arcade cabinet. Lights flashed, engines roared, and an outrageously catchy theme song blared from the speakers, luring unsuspecting theatergoers with time to kill before a movie to their four-wheeled doom. I assume the machine showed up in actual arcades as well, but I’ve not seen one of those in a while.
The Nintendo Switch port of the game adds a little more to the barebones arcade experience, but not much. You can earn cash during races to buy upgrades for your vehicles, mostly cosmetic things like undercarriage neon, decals, and body accessories. Each track contains a series of keys to collect that unlock more vehicles, so there’s some stuff to hunt for. There are four game modes, including a series of four-track tournaments that can be conquered on four different difficulty levels, along with time trials and single races. There is local split-screen multiplayer for up to four players, but no online play.
Cruis’n World is not a very robust, feature-rich game. Aside from the ability to toggle auto-acceleration, tilt controls, and rumble, there isn’t even an in-game option menu. What it does feature, however, keeps me smiling from ear-to-ear every time I play. It’s got breathtaking races that pack a whole lot of extravagant action into a relatively short amount of time. A run through any of the game’s 29 tracks takes under two minutes but still manages to leave me gasping for air. Just watch this ridiculous nonsense.
It’s a technicolor nightmare. It’s overly-shiny cars barreling through impossible places. The scenery is a little rough, but who cares when it’s crumbling all around your stupidly fast fire truck? It’s enough to make you run from giant doughnuts.
One would think this amount of spectacle would make the poor Nintendo Switch stutter, but no. Cruis’n Blast manages to render all of this chaos at a relatively steady 60fps, give or take. That’s another benefit of not worrying about buildings that look like painted cardboard boxes. It’s all about satiating the need for high velocity. You know, going fast and stuff.
While I do love games like Forza and their CPU-melting attention to detail, there is so much joy to be had in cutting loose in Cruis’n Blast’s chaotic racing wonderlands. To not worry about things like car damage, common sense, or the laws of physics — that’s true arcade racing freedom.