I've personally no idea just what a bandicoot is, or whether it's even legal for one to take to the road (presumably, in real life the only time you'd ever come across one when behind the wheel is in its 2D form, having been flattened – which reminds me, we've previously reviewed the standard version of Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart on mobile), but from this day forward, I'm going to be encouraging this odd union. If Nitro Kart 3D is anything to go by, this beast was born to drive.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the fact that Crash's car calamity is far from original. Anyone who has ever sampled any Mario Kart in any of its numerous iterations won't be surprised by what Polarbit has presented here. Nitro Kart 3D is an almost identical game – albeit dressed in the accoutrement of the Crash Bandicoot series – but the framework Nintendo's most famous karting franchise provides enables Nitro Kart to serve up an unfussy and entertaining package without getting wrapped up with trying to reinvent the wheel.
As such, there's very little that surprises in terms of Nitro Kart 3D's structure or style of play. Coming with a variety of cup challenges, a Time Attack mode and even a story tied in, the basic goal is to finish first. Each track comes with a bevvy of jumps, tight turns and obstacles to avoid, as well as power-ups that litter the track (enabling you to take down rivals with bombs, missiles and an assortment of other traps), plus shields and speed boosts to protect your own progress.
What that results in is a batch of fairly hectic races where you can zip from the front to the back (and, indeed, vice versa) in a matter of seconds. In the same spirit, it's perfectly possible to bumble your way to the front or find yourself lagging through almost no fault of your own. But this isn't a critcism – Crash Bandicoot, in any form, isn't a series with a great grip on realism. So, rather than being a punishment, finding yourself at the back is actually an invitation to bomb and barge your way back into the top spot.
That's not to say that skill isn't welcome at Nitro Kart 3D's party, however. With the game taking care of acceleration for you (this can be switched off), steering, jumping over obstacles and making use of power-ups fall under your control. There are two ways to steer your kart – either a standard left or right turn (using the '4' or '6' keys), or a drifting turn (using '1' or '3') that enables you to slide around major corners while keeping your speed up. Employing the two rather than just sticking with one can make the difference between extending a lead, or being pulled back into the dogfight.
However, while winning is always your priority, it does sometimes pay to remain in the mix until the last feasable moment. In Story mode, for instance, often it'll be your task to deal with other racers in one form or another (making sure they finish last, or blowing them up a certain number of times) before you reach the finish line, meaning simple streaking ahead of the pack is no good. Though played on the same tracks as featured in the standard cups, a slight altering of the goalposts does give them extra value, and it may be that many gamers spend more time plugging away on the Story mode than they do the 'main' game.
That's, perhaps, just as well, because Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 3D's one fault is that the tracks can be a little tame after a first or second ride. If a sequel is on the way – and there's plenty here to suggest it would be incredibly fruitful – then a slightly wilder approach to the courses would be welcome, as would a greater array of power-ups, with some being tied to particular characters. But, as it is, this is a packed package full of thrills and frenetic gameplay that will keep most entertained in the many months until a follow-up inevitably attempts to take the concept further along the track.