Cruis'n Blast (Arcade) Review

October 16, 2017

You know how I’m always complaining about how Cruis’n Blast wasn’t the sequel that it should have been? Well, on Tuesday, I went to Chuck-E-Cheese’s, and they just so happened to have—you guessed it—Cruis’n Blast! So, like, my opinion’s valid now. I guess.

            With that in mind, though, is my opinion still as negative as was before? That, my friends, will have to be determined by reading this review. (This also happens to be my most up-to-date review yet, because Cruis’n Blast came out in December! I’m topical!)

            But before we get to that, let’s talk a little about good ol’ Chuck Cheesert’s. First of all, I’d like to say that I enjoyed their pizza, even if most people think that it’s pretty garbage. Also, I’d like to say that what WAS garbage was their game floor. Seriously, like 85 percent of the games are cruddy redemption pieces. The only actual video games they had were Deadstorm Pirates, two Batman cabs, and two Cruis’n Blast cabs. Oh, and they had the always amazing After Burner Climax, which I will be reviewing either this Thursday or next Monday.

            Oh, Chuck Cheesert. If only you gave video the same care that you give to redemption. Even if you are a major player in supporting modern arcade releases (if only barely), you still could do with some improvement.

But anyway, let’s get on with that review. I’m sure you folks didn’t come here to read about Chuck-E-Cheese’s.

 

Cruis’n Blast

Developer: Raw Thrills

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date: 2016

 

Gameplay

For all my criticism of Cruis’n Blast, I cannot in any way deny that it is a heckuva lotta fun. The races are fast and frenetic, the rubberbanding isn’t ridiculous, and the game really just makes you laugh. It’s good old-fashioned arcade racing action!

            Besides bringing MUCH higher speeds to the table, this installment of Cruis’n innovates by mapping a bunch of commands to the accelerator. You can double-pump the gas to do a wheelie, double-pump to do a backflip off of ledges, double-pump into another car to flip over it, double-pump while turning to do a side wheelie, side wheelie over a jump for a barrel roll, or drift over a ledge to do a helicopter (which I believe entails more double-pumping). It’s a lot of double-pumping the accelerator, which is probably okay. I mean, you can do a lot of cool stuff if you want to. It’s just the tricks from Cruis’n World on gotdern steroids, mixed with a FnF: DRIFT for good measure.

            Other than that, this is a very fun yet fairly standard arcade racer. My only complaints are the lack of brake pedal and four-speed shifter, which can hinder the gameplay experience for some. (More on that in the Controls section.) There’s also the issue of the steering being a little…unresponsive. It’s not that the steering doesn’t work; it’s that it has a lot of resistance to it, like a real vehicle’s steering wheel. For me, I didn’t think it was great for an arcade racer. I mean, think of the old Cruis’n games and the FnF games: they had extremely sensitive steering, which I found to be very useful for tight turns at high speeds. Cruis’n Blast is kind of the opposite.

            So yes, the gameplay is a load of fun, and I don’t think you’ll find yourself bored any time soon. With the exception of a few minor control quirks, I’d say that Cruis’n Blast provides one of the most solid arcade racing experiences that we’ve seen in a while.

 

Content

You know how I’ve been complaining since February about Cruis’n Blast being devoid of content? Yeah, I was totally right. Cruis’n Blast is content-dry beyond belief. There are only four customization options, only five tracks, no “Cruise the Whatever” mode, no Bill Clinton ending sequence, no character selection screen…no nothing! (Dang, what a preposterous double-negative that was.) This honestly disappoints me—a lot.

            Now if I can say one thing for Cruis’n Blast, it’s that the vehicle selection is absolutely spectacular. In total, there are 16 vehicles to choose from, eight of which can be accessed by holding down the Music button. (And you best be holding that Music button down, because the bonus car selection is something that has to be seen to be believed.)

            For lack of a better section to write this in (highly considering adding a “Miscellaneous Content” section), I’d also like to bring up the use of QR codes in Cruis’n Blast. While this may have been pioneered by Jurassic Park, Cruis’n Blast also allows players to upload high scores to social media by scanning a QR code. I don’t know about you, but I think that that’s pretty awesome.

            Hey, I know what could fix Cruis’n Blast’s lack of content—an update! Why isn’t Raw Thrills already on this?

 

Controls

Like I briefly mentioned in the Gameplay section, three major flaws jump out at me when playing Cruis’n Blast: 1) It doesn’t have a brake pedal, 2) there’s no four-speed shifter, and 3) the steering is a bit…off.

            While I’m sure that hardly anyone uses the brake and that many players these days don’t really bother with manual transmission, these are genuine control issues in a racing game like this. I know that I personally would have most certainly appreciated a brake pedal, though I don’t really mind not having the shifter. (I never use manual anyway.) However, the lack of these controls is very much a problem for more “hardcore” arcade racing fanatics. (I’m looking at you, UKArcadeRacers.com. Probably. They don’t post anything anymore.)

            Besides, I think a lot of the controls that we’re missing out on have actually been rerouted to the accelerator. Now, you drift and do tricks by double-tapping the gas pedal. There’s almost too much that you can do with the gas pedal, heh-heh. (Unfortunately, I forgot to try out these features while playing. Oops.)

            What I’d really like to focus on is the steering. The steering wheel feels a lot more constricted and not as responsive in this game than it has in previous Raw Thrills games. And while this might work in a driving simulator, it doesn’t work very well in an arcade racer like Cruis’n Blast. The steering takes a bit of getting used to, and unfortunately, it’s the only low-point in the whole controls/gameplay union thing. Beyond that and the “missing” controls, everything works just fine.

 

Graphics

If there’s one thing Cruis’n Blast does right, it’s graphics. This game is by far the single-most beautiful Raw Thrills game to date. It’s honestly hard not to be astonished by the intricate track and car designs, the high polygon count, the eye-popping colors, and the slick high-definition, and the butter-smooth 60-FPS framerate. Cruis’n Blast shows us that maybe—just maybe—modern arcade developers still care about beating out consoles on the hardware side of things, because this game is most certainly cutting-edge.

            While there are some egregious "low-poly" moments, for the most part, Cruis’n Blast’s Nvidia GTX 750ti SuperComputer does its stuff, and it does it real nice-like. The only real problems are just a few poorly rendered, low-poly background models that look like they were ripped out of The Fast and the Furious: Super Cars. Also, those dudes in the convertible totally look like cruddy Golden Tee characters, which is a little jarring, considering how slick the cars themselves look. Despite these minor qualms, overall, Cruis’n Blast has pretty good graphics—‘nuff said!

 

Cabinet

Hoo-boy, Cruis’n Blast sure does have a nice cabinet. The design is beautiful, the artwork is beautiful—it’s a genuine attraction piece! The cabinet itself is an absolute behemoth sit-down cockpit with a 42” HD LCD monitor, a beautiful marquee, and over 1000 color-changing LEDs. While the LEDs are, in reality, quite useless, they REALLY catch your eye when you’re not playing. Seriously, those LEDs are hypnotic.  (It must be how Raw Thrills got me to pump some money in their machine. Spooky, isn’t it?)

            And not only is Cruis’n Blast flashy, but it FEELS substantial. The classic Raw Thrills over-the-top force-feedback you know and love is back, and it’s crazier than ever. The steering wheel and seat rumble like a gotdern earthquake, and it is truly is an incredible feeling. Cruis’n Blast really does have a “Driving Simulator Cabinet,” as their website says.

            Something else to note is the camera that Raw Thrills has added to cabinet. As far as I know, this is the first or second Raw Thrills racing game to make use of a camera (the first might be Moto GP), and believe it or not, it actually greatly enhanced my gameplay experience. Seeing dumb pictures while playing is certainly fun for both you and the other player.

            (We all know that I had WAY too much fun setting Hank Hill as my profile pic.)

            And while Raw Thrills may have moved into the future by outfitting Cruis’n Blast with a camera, they kinda stuck around in the past by including a keypad for saving profiles. If you can remember way back to Cruis’n Blast was in early development, it was called “Cruis’n Redline” or “Cruis’n Adventure” and had a card system, as opposed to a pin code system. Honestly, I’m a bit conflicted on this. On one hand, card systems are a bit expensive for operators and may have resulted in upping the price per credit slightly for us players. On the other hand, with cards, I’m pretty sure we would have been able to take our profile data to any Cruis’n Blast cabinet in the country and been able to pick up right where we left off. If that had been true, would I be rating this game a bit more highly right now?

            We may never know.

            Anyway, before we move on, I’d like to address the aforementioned artwork. Like I said, it’s gosh darned beautiful, and you’ve have to be soulless not to agree. Honestly, it’s hard to find cabinet art this intricate in today’s arcade market. Raw Thrills has really gone the extra mile to ensure that the marquee and side art together create a feeling of stepping into the 90’s and playing some classic Cruis’n. I tell ya what, people: Cruis’n Blast is the flipping definition of an attraction piece, people. It’s an FEC operator’s dream game.

            You know what? Just look at the picture. It speaks for itself. Heck, go look at it in person—it is truly eye-popping.

 

Sound

Man, I sure do love these newfangled Thrill-D Blaster™ sound systems that Raw Thrills equips their games with these days. (Note: The trademark symbol was added for the sake of facetiousness.) I’m sure it’s at least partially a load of hullaballoo (because Raw Thrills has been known for some rather…misleading marketing), but it sure does sound nice. Seriously, it’s like some kind of crazy surround sound nonsense that totally immerses you in noise. It’s wicked cool.

             Now, the speaker positioning itself is what we have come to expect from arcade racers: two in seat near your head, and one on either side of the monitor. As always, this configuration definitely does what it sets out to do—make you feel like you’re in a vehicle. Does it drown out music? Unfortunately, yes it does.

            Speaking of music, you wanna what Cruis’n Blast’s sound problem is? The lack of killer music tracks. What kind of Cruis’n game doesn’t have a bunch of awesome Vince Pontarelli compositions? The only audible song in the game is the main theme that plays throughout the menus, and even that song is just sort of…okay? (I’m not sure if I dig its ultra Pop-y vibe.) But regardless of whether I like it or not, where is my gotdern Vince Pontarelli music? That’s one of the main reasons that I like the Cruis’n series! Raw Thrills, why did you do this to me? Put more emphasis on the music in your games! For crying out loud, Eugene Jarvis used to be a flipping pinball sound engineer! (No pun intended.)

            I’m sorry, folks; I shouldn’t have abused exclamation points like that. I’ll survive. Let’s just move on. You know, keeping in mind that Thrill-D is awesome but the music might not be.

 

Consensus

Listen, people: Despite all of its flaws, Cruis’n Blast isn’t really a “bad” game, per se. Is it lacking severely in content? Heck yes. Is it lacking in the controls department? Yeah, a little bit. But even if Cruis’n Blast is probably a token example of “flash over substance,” it’s still a lot of fun, and I somewhat recommend it. Though to be honest, it says a lot about this game’s substance (or lack thereof) when one of the longest sections is the Cabinet section.

            I’m sorry, Raw Thrills. I always have appreciated your many incredible contributions to the arcade industry, but this game isn’t really what it should have been. At the end of the day, I think we can all agree that Cruis'n Blast is a fine arcade racer, but as a Cruis'n game, it's just kind of...meh. We sat through all those Fast and the Furious games hoping that Eugene Jarvis would one day be reunited with his beloved racing property, but when he was, the result was just okay at best. Not really true to form, so to speak.

            But hey, that's what online updates are for.

            Thanks for reading. See ya next week, homeslices.

 

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