Cruis'n World (N64)
For years, the Cruis'n series has utterly confounded videogame critics (who are admittedly an easily confoundable bunch). Despite generally mediocre reviews, Cruis'n USA was a huge bestseller for the N64. Of course, it probably didn't hurt sales that Cruis'n USA was released during the Great N64 Game Shortage of 1996.
Cruis'n World is the sequel to that highly successful title. By any means an excellent translation of its arcade cousin, Cruis'n World nevertheless probably won't win over any critics. But the game is certain to please fans of the Cruis'n series (and you know who you are).
Cruis'n World is in many ways the archetypal arcade racer. Gameplay is mind- numbingly simple, and that simplicity is probably the core explanation for its appeal. After choosing one's vehicle (which cannot be customized) from assorted possible cars, players race in one of 14 different global tracks.
The cars are mostly straightforward, with the occasional oddball (ie. a British doubledecker bus) thrown into the mix.
Naturally, the tracks of Cruis'n World are set in different parts of the world: Japan, Germany, Kenya, Hawaii, etc. But don't expect any San Francisco Rush style replication of real-life roadways. Other than changing scenery, there's no real difference between these tracks.
Many of the tracks include a few architechtural absurdities, like a giant underwater glass tunnel. But like much of the game, these absurdities are simply not original or impressive enough to warrant long term attention.
The racing action is about as simple as racing action gets. You accelerate. You steer left and right. If you really want to get complicated, you can honk the horn. That's about it.
While navigating the assorted tracks of Cruis'n World, gamers will race against a variety of other cars. The ultimate goal becomes simply to accelerate while avoiding collisions with the other cars (kind of like my daily commute routine). But if you do happen to smash into another vehicle head-on doing 150 mph, the worst that can happen is that your car will tumble about the screen and you will waste precious time. There are no explosions in Cruis'n World, and the cars do not even retain damage; it's just not that kind of game.
The graphics in Cruis'n World are crisp and closely resemble their arcade counterpart. Unfortunately, the engine is dated and plagued by excessive graphic pop-in. Entire buildings magically appear in front of your eyes. It's annoying, and evidence of a gameplay engine that is none too advanced.
On the plus side, control is precise and intuitive. Cruis'n World nicely takes advantage of the analog joystick for smooth control. And the horn button works well.
Audio is fairly unremarkable, although there is a decent selection of catchy musical tunes. None of the songs are nearly as maddening as the classic cuts from San Francisco Rush.
In a sad testimony to political correctness, elements of Cruis'n World have been toned down for the N64 version. The most notable change concerns what we'll call the roadkill feature. Certain tracks in Cruis'n World are populated with animals. The Australian track, for example, has kangaroos scampering about. In the arcade version, it's possible to plow one's car Carmaggeddon- style right through the furry little critters. Of course, it's nasty and unnecessary, and that's what makes it fun. And it adds an offbeat dose of personality to an otherwise bland game. Another victim of Nintendo PC bluenoses are the bikini-clad babes who greet you at the end of every race. Oh, the babes are still here, but they are joined by a couple of bathing suit clad guys. I guess this was the creative compromise they made.
There have been a few positive changes made to the N64 version, and these mostly concern multiplay. Cruis'n World allows from two to four-players to compete in split screen multiplay action. Unfortunately, this does not add as much life to the title as one might expect. After all, this game isn't exactly Mario Kart. Here's my theory regarding the popularity of Cruis'n World. Appropriately, it relates to Deer Hunter. The runaway success of that low-tech PC title shocked the 'cultural elite' of the gaming industry. By catering to good folks who shop at Wal-Mart, the deer hunting sim was a huge bestseller. Now, it's probably no coincidence that many Wal-Marts contain a Cruis'n World arcade machine in their entranceway. Wal- Mart shoppers already familiar with Cruis'n World will be likely to pick up a copy of the N64 game.
Cruis'n World is exactly the kind of game you might want to play in an arcade, or in a Wal-Mart. It is easy to learn and play, and delivers an experience well worth a quarter. But the title is otherwise unremarkable, and its simplistic gameplay and mediocre graphical engine quickly grow tiresome. It's well worth renting, but there are many other N64 racing games that make better purchases.
Graphics 7.3 out of 10
Music and Sound 8.1 out of 10
Game Challenge 7.5 out of 10
Game Play-Fun 6.1 out of 10
Rumble Pak 6.7 out of 10
Replayability 3.4 out of 10
Game Value 2.5 out of 10
Overall 5.8 out of 100