Cruis'n' Blast is a 2017 arcade only game that was given a port to the Nintendo Switch in 2021, and what we get is a great port of a decent arcade title.
When Cruis'n' USA came out on the Nintendo 64, it was one of the few launch window titles that grabbed my attention. Not only because of the graphics that at the time looked amazing (I was 11) but it also seemed more mature because of the girls handing out trophies to you along with it being also in the arcade, so it felt like having the arcade at home…. (again, I was 11, so cut me a bit of slack). Since then, a few other Cruis'n'’ titles have always meant something a bit special to me, and while the games themselves have never been all that great in terms of quality, they still hold a special place in my heart.
That’s why I was both puzzled and surprised when Cruis'n' Blast showed up on the Switch in mid September, as the Cruis'n' series doesn’t mean a whole lot to most people, but it was a welcomed surprise to say the least. But… When I learned that it was actually just a port of the 2017 Arcade title, I left feeling quite deflated. On one hand, it’s good that an unknown Arcade game gets a new lease on life (at this point, I honestly don’t know why games have Arcade exclusivity to them, as Arcades are basically dead). But on the other hand, a port of a 4 year old game isn’t something I really want either, I’d much rather have a full blown new game that takes advantage of the hardware and landscape of what modern gaming is.
To actually speak to the game, it’s mostly what I expected out of a true Arcade racing title ported to the Switch. With more additions to the port than what is offered in the obscure Arcade game.
The campaign is simple and straightforward enough, but does allow for unlocking not only cars, but upgrades and cosmetic changes to your cars, and even tracks too. I am always looking for racing games to provide a bit more of a linear path of progression, as opposed to the sandbox nature of an exhibition single race mode; so having a set number of courses that allow me to progress through the game from beginning and having a clear end point really helps.
Track progression is a bit like Mario Kart, where you have a themed circuit of maps, or levels collected together in a set of 4 courses. And as you play more and get silvers and golds in the races, you unlock more circuits. Each circuit is also themed, one being all races taking place at night time, or all are being set in snowy locations… it just provides a bit of a collection of the same type of themes together.
Once the Circuit has been selected, you have a choice of cars to select. All the beginning ones have a really awful or gaudy look to them, but this is nothing new for the series. With car games, I always try to select a car that I own in real life to drive, but sadly that is rarely the case… But one car that does show up a lot in games is the Hummer H2… Which I actually do own, so I ended up picking that. While all the cars have different stats, I didn’t notice much difference between them.
Once the race starts, it's basically a very straightforward and simple racing structure. One thing I love is when games allow for multiple shortcuts or different paths to take, and there is plenty on the surface of these tracks. Sadly, most don’t provide much and because of the fast-paced nature of the game, it doesn’t end up making much of a difference. Which is also the case for the boosting that can be done throughout the race. Double-tapping the accelerator will pop your front up and make your car do a wheelie and provide a bit of a boost, and can be done over and over again, repeatedly. While the game adds visual flair and effects to the boost, it doesn’t help all that much in the grand scheme of things. Watching others boost that are in front of you shows how much they actually get ahead… which isn’t all that much.
The car’s physics are also something that doesn’t feel very good. Each boost or flip or jump feels weightless, and cars always land on their wheels, and never lose any speed. It just feels very basic and once you are aware of just how much this game holds your hand, it makes it a lot less fun. A Hummer H2 should feel heavy like a tank, not like a Honda Civic.
Each course does have 3 keys that can be collected to unlock more cars, and each level also features random pieces of money floating in mid-air to collect. At the car select screen you can spend your money on cosmetic items or even upgrades to make your car better. Even purchasing more boosts to give you that bit of extra edge, which the NOS boosts to help a lot during a race, which only has a finite amount.
The tracks are all very simplistic in actual layout, but there is a bunch of crazy stuff happening on the outside edges that are much more interesting. Sadly, it’s a lot of style over substance. Everything you see can’t be really interacted with much; except a few parts with traffic, and a single level where a big rig causes chaos and destruction. A massive dinosaur battle, or even a huge Yeti fight don’t do much for the actual gameplay and it’s like riding the Universal Backlot Tour. King Kong is there and awesome to look at, but you just look at it. There is no way to do anything other than that. It just ends up making the whole experience very hollow.
The tracks are also insanely short, with most taking around a minute and a half to complete. You blaze through as fast as possible, and then you’re off to the next one, without allowing yourself to really encompass what you just experienced. Along with the speed, the back half of the campaign just puts you on the same courses with a different theme…. Dinosaurs now run along the track, or UFO ships are destroying the surrounding landscapes… It’s all a lot of filler.
While I did enjoy my time with Cruis'n' Blast, it just doesn’t have enough substance for the game to feel really worth it to continue to play. The courses are easy, the tracks are too short, and the cars all feel weightless and the same. Unlocks are only for those who want to continue playing the same tracks over and over again, with silly things like Dinosaurs or Fire Trucks that move around 170 miles per hour and really don’t feel different than a customized racing car. It’s just a very basic game, something I am glad exists, but maybe making it a $15 game feels like it would make it a better deal.