Cruis'n USA (Nintendo 64) review
"Cruisin' USA is essentially Rad Racer in actual 3D. That might not sound so bad at first, after all Rad Racer is a beloved classic by many, but unfortunately the days in which a game could appeal to people just by being a racing game have long since passed, and players have grown to expect some semblance of aptitude and originality in the titles they purchase. "
Cruisin' USA is essentially Rad Racer in actual 3D. That might not sound so bad at first, after all Rad Racer is a beloved classic by many, but unfortunately the days in which a game could appeal to people just by being a racing game have long since passed, and players have grown to expect some semblance of aptitude and originality in the titles they purchase.
In Cruisn USA, the player holds down the gas button, uses the control stick to move, and avoids cars. While this paraphrase might sound unfair – after all, it could be applied equally to almost any racing game – there is literally no other subtlety to be found here. There's no drifting, no secret paths, negligible difference between vehicles, and nothing else that might potentially contaminate the aforementioned formula with skill. You need to get to each check point before time runs out, then come in first place. The difficulty of this task can vary considerably due to a tightly wound rubber band connecting the AI controlled vehicles to your rear bumper.
Playing through the Cruisin' mode will take you through all ten courses consecutively, which is supposed to represent a trip from one side of the United States to the other. Now, being an American myself I am partly familiar with some of the source material, and I would like to let potential tourists know that our country does not look this stupid. You will not see cardboard trees, distant land features popping up in front of you, and repeating scenery if you stop by our country for a visit. On one course I actually counted how many times I passed a specific house: five times. In that same level I also crossed the same bridge three times and went through the same toll booth twice.
All of the levels feel pretty much the same, with the only major differences being the width of the roads and the type of scenery that will repeat itself. The pop-up of distant objects can be a real nuisance, since some of those objects are cars that happen to be in your way. If one recalls the rubber band AI, it should be apparent that crashing into a car that appeared out of thin air and dropping from first to fifth place in front of the finish line is an entirely common occurrence.
If you do happen to win a race, you will be rewarded with a pixellated woman dancing with a trophy; if you win every race, you will unlock
new cars palette swaps of the four cars you already have that go slightly faster. If that doesn't sound like much of an incentive to keep playing, that's because it isn't. You could always race by yourself, just in case driving through freaking Iowa was so exciting that you simply need to experience it again.
I would be remiss to review Cruisn' USA without a word about its soundtrack: atrocious.
This is the type of game you pick up for $1 at a flea market, play for five minutes, then shelve in favor of something fun, like pretty much anything else. I can think of at least half a dozen racing games just for the N64 that are leagues ahead of Cruisn' USA, and many more if other platforms are included. While this game might have been a launch title, that doesn't really excuse its half-assed and obviously lazy design. I haven't played the original arcade version, so I cannot say if this game is a bad port of a mediocre game or a mediocre port of a bad game, but it is worth pointing out that any developer that thinks that it would be a good idea to make a game that involves driving through Iowa is clearly incompetent.
Community review by dagoss (August 15, 2008)
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