If you’ve played any sort of racing game in an arcade, chances are you’ve heard of the name Raw Thrills. They’re the minds behind such titles as The Fast and the Furious and Super Bikes, and they’ve made a name for themselves in plenty of entertainment centers. Now, for the first time in years, Raw Thrills is coming to home consoles with the release of Cruis’n Blast for the Nintendo Switch.
This is more than just a simple port of an arcade game. Featuring new tracks, new cars, and even new game modes, Cruis’n Blast aims to be the definitive arcade racing port. I’ve been interested in arcade racing games since I was a kid, so I jumped on the opportunity to review this game. Having played through each major race, I can safely say Cruis’n Blast delivers that experience incredibly well - though not without its flaws.
Cruis’n Blast is a classic arcade racer. You face off against AI-controlled opponents across numerous tracks to reach the top spot in a race. You can find shortcuts and alternate paths in many of the tracks, and pre-scripted events will occur to keep the visuals interesting. Cruis’n Blast even allows you to take down opponents by slamming into them, but their opportunities to do the same to you are lacking. The major challenge comes from trying to overtake your rivals, which can actually be quite difficult at higher skill levels.
The gameplay actually differs quite a bit from the arcade version. Originally, players could gain a speed boost by launching through the air, but such bonuses do not exist in the Switch version. Instead, each track has numerous jump pads that can shoot your car forward with great speed. Using these can be vital to winning races, and the AI-controlled cars don’t always go for them.
Winning races also doesn’t allow your car to be upgraded so quickly, too; instead of choosing a vehicle’s stats to increase after completing a single race, players need to win numerous races to “rank up” their ride. This automatically increases their stats, and will unlock further customization options for certain cars.
The game itself still very much feels like something from the arcade, though, especially with how a race is structured. You aren’t able to reverse during a race, and there’s no real reason to - all tracks are pretty much straight lines with wide turns.
Even when major events happen during each track, such as a massive Yeti shattering ice below you, there aren’t any hazards that directly interact with the drivers. The game’s Cruis’n Tour mode does offer more substantial threats, but nothing that will drastically change how you play - there isn’t much in terms of variety outside of the alternate layouts and visuals of each track.
Players will still have many opportunities to improve their skills as they start out with Cruis’n Blast. Timing the press of a button will give you a speed boost, as will drifting around turns for long enough.
Players can also double-tap the drift button to make their car perform a wheelie, which will increase its speed on straight roads and allow it to perform tricks when flying through the air. The skill ceiling isn’t very high, but it’s certainly there - even if you’re a pro at usual racing games, Cruis’n Blast will still test your abilities with each race you clear.
As a Switch game, Cruis’n Blast provides pleasant visuals while still maintaining a high 60 FPS. It’s refreshing to see third-party ports on the Switch that aim for a framerate higher than 30. Sadly, it’s not a perfect solution, as there’s still a fair amount of stuttering that happens during gameplay. This is most apparent when special effects are on screen, such as when you use your boost or take down other vehicles. The game manages to bounce back from those lowered framerates pretty well, but it’s still very noticeable when they take a dive.
The graphics themselves are perfectly serviceable. Outside of the color schemes and lighting on some of the vehicles, the game is appealing to look at and shows off some great scenery. This is mostly when the game is in motion, however; if you pause to take a closer look at some things, you can see how certain background models will glitch into other objects or disappear as soon as you pass them. I happened to notice an unmoving image of a zebra in one level, overlaid on top of a bush that was off in the distance.
You’re likely not to notice these graphical issues during normal gameplay; the game doesn’t often intend for you to stop, after all. But what is noticeable is how different the Switch port’s visuals are to the arcade version. In arcades, Cruis’n Blast has better textures, better lighting, and even more effects in each track. The Death Valley track in particular included cows that would explode into steaks when cars ran through them - something entirely absent on the Switch version. That particular addition might’ve been a little too violent for the port, but there are similar effects on other tracks that the Switch version sadly loses out on. Some of that classic arcade magic is lost with the removal of those effects, even if it was necessary to reach the port’s buttery-smooth framerate.
The sound design is probably the Switch port’s greatest shortcoming. There is no commentary during each track like there is throughout the arcade version. This, combined with the alternate UI and removal of checkpoints, does make for a much “cleaner” experience. But players lose out on some explanations as to what’s going on - including why a massive hole opens up during the Death Valley track (the commentator shouts “Earthquake!” as it happens). This is a minor complaint, to be fair, but it does tie with a major one - an issue that plagues even the arcade version.
Cruis’n Blast does not feature any audio balancing. Players are unable to change how loud the music or sound effects are by themselves. This is especially a problem due to how loud the sound for doing a wheelie is - it’s loud enough to drown out anything else going on in the game. There are some great pieces of music in the game, too, but it’s very difficult to even listen to them when it’s drowned out by the rev of your engine. This is something that can and probably will be changed in a future patch for the game, but I wish the developers focused a little more on that beforehand.
The incredible amount of content is where Cruis’n Blast truly shines. The game features a vast number of unlockable cars, each with their own set of stats and customization options. You can gain more cars by completing tours for the first time, or by finding hidden keys - there are three in each track, and it’ll be very difficult to get them all in a single run. This not only encourages players to replay tracks they haven’t fully explored, it also encourages them to replay their favorite ones - that way, they can rank up new vehicles in any way they please.
New tracks are also present in the game, and they can be unlocked by completing tours. Not all of these ‘new tracks’ are truly unique, however - many of them are simply older tracks with new visuals based on each tour’s theme, such as helicopters or UFOs. This does make the number of new tracks seem larger than it actually is, but there are still a few altered pathways and locations. It’s not the best way to bump up the content, but it doesn’t get stale as soon as you might think.
The game also features time trials, for those that want to get a feel for the tracks they’ve unlocked (or collect keys without worrying about any AI), and a multiplayer mode for playing with your friends. Sadly, the multiplayer only allows local play using different controllers or Switch consoles. No online play is available, and you can only race with up to four players at a time. Online play isn’t exactly a requirement, but it does hurt the game’s longevity. There is plenty of challenge when up against the game’s AI, but going up against a full team of real players would’ve made things even more fun.
Overall, I would recommend the Nintendo Switch port of Cruis’n Blast to any fans of arcade racing games, whether casual or die-hard. The gameplay is simplistic but easy to enjoy, and even its most major flaws are pretty superficial - you’ll still get a lot of fun out of the title. The price of $40 USD might seem steep to some, but when considering how much you’d spend at an arcade, it’s actually quite a steal.
Cruis’n Blast sets out to be the definitive arcade racing experience on consoles, and that’s exactly where it succeeds. It’s not a perfect game, but it’s a great first step by Raw Thrills into the console market, and I’m excited to see where it will take them in the future.
Arcade Version Gameplay:
Switch Version Store Page: