Cruis’n Blast is one of the most shallow racing games I’ve played on a modern console, but it’s also an absolutely ridiculously good time.
Title: Cruis'n Blast
Release Date: September 14, 2021
Suggested Audience: Everyone 10+
Recommended for fans of: Burnout, Forza Horizon‘s more ridiculous events, and Hot Wheels Unleashed
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.
I grew up in the 90s, which meant that the Cruis'n brand was a staple of my childhood. Hopping behind the wheel of Cruis'n USA while out for pizza was some of the most fun you could have, then the game came to the N64 and we got to play its stupid, over-the-top levels at home! I haven't touched anything in the franchise since I was about 12 years old, but it's always held a warm spot in my heart.
With Cruis'n Blast, the franchise comes back to Nintendo consoles in a big way. It's just as ridiculous and over-the-top as it was before, which makes it an awesome nostalgic throwback for folks like me, and it's just as exciting for a new generation of young gamers.
Go go go go go!
I’ve always had a complicated relationship with racing games. Open-world designs like Forza Horizon 5 and Burnout Paradise have always been more engaging to me than “pick a race, do a race, pick another race” games. However, ever since Star Wars Episode I Racer, a game with an incredible sense of speed can pull me in deep.
Cruis’n Blast is fast. Stupidly fast. Beyond reasonably being able to navigate a course fast.
The controls are very arcadey and very simple. You’ve got gas and brake on the face buttons of the controller and drift and boost on the triggers. The game is built for you to blast forward as fast as you possibly can at all times, so braking is pretty optional.
Without slowing down, you will end up slamming into walls as you fly through the levels, but the game doesn’t really care. Hitting things hardly slows you down at all, and your car reorients to face forward on its own pretty frequently.
In fact, this game wants to you be driving forward as fast as possible at all times that you literally can’t go backward. If you try to stop and turn around, the game just resets you facing the right way.
Why would you want to go back when you can go forward at such incredible speeds?
The progression system in Cruis’n Blast is loaded with just as much insane forward momentum as the gameplay. There’s a series of different cups for you to race through, and doing well enough in a set of races unlocks the next cup. However, even if you don’t finish fast enough to get new courses, you’ll still find yourself making progress on the vehicle side of things.
Each course has three keys hidden somewhere in it. Well, I say “hidden”, but really you’re just going so fast that the challenge isn’t so much “finding” them as it is “spotting them so you can swerve to pick them up before you go flying past them and over a waterfall or something”. Most of the time, even if I wasn’t looking for these keys I’d end up snagging at least one of them through a race. Heck, when I set my little cousins down to play this they ended up finding a bunch for me too.
Once you’ve got enough keys, you can buy yourself a new car. Or vehicle. Or… whatever. I mean, yes, there’s a lot of cars to unlock, but you can also buy helicopters and UFOs and Sharks and Unicorns. The vehicle selection in this game might be my favorite thing about it.
You also get cash at the end of each race, depending on how well you did and how many ridiculous stunts you pulled off. That cash lets you purchase upgrades for any vehicles you have unlocked. You know, important upgrades… like adding neon stripes to your shark!
It’s probably pretty clear at this point that I love this game. I’m not going to pretend that Cruis’n Blast is perfect, but even its flaws are a delight to me because they feel like they fit right into the game.
For example, the visuals in this game aren’t spectacular. A lot of the models for the environments are kinda blocky and not very exciting. The cars have a weird reflective quality that is emulating a super metallic shine without actually being in any way reflective of the lighting around them. And don’t even get me started on the sense of scale in this game… I mean there are lions that must be thirty feet tall.
There are also a lot of places where you run into invisible walls. Like, instead of building some natural barricade to make sure you don’t drive off in the wrong direction your car will just bounce off of nothing. Sometimes there are even invisible roads, where if you go off a jump and don’t quite reach the landing on the other side your car just lands on thin air and you can keep driving like it’s nothing.
The thing about all of these issues is that it doesn’t matter. When you are playing the game everything is moving so fast and at such a consistent framerate that it looks great in motion. And when you bounce off a wall or find yourself hovering on an invisible road, it just feels like the game giving you a little bit of a nudge to keep the action going.
I don’t think that Cruis’n Blast is a great racing game. If you love the skill required to succeed in Gran Turismo or Forza Horizon 5 or even the Burnout series, you’re probably not going to pick this up as the new scratch for your racing itch. If, on the other hand, you grew up on the Cruis’n games or like ridiculous over the top spectacle or have kids in your life who will cackle with delight at the image of a Unicorn doing a backflip and then landing on top of a Firetruck and exploding it, then this is absolutely a game for you.
For all its flaws, Cruis’n Blast understands that it’s just a dumb, fun racing game, and absolutely excels at being dumb and fun.