A cherry-red Corvette Stingray crosses a street race in Los Angeles, when, with little warning and a lot of noise, a hail of missiles pulverizes the freeway, obscuring the air with dust and fire. The vapor trail leads to a squadron of attack helicopters floating in front of the California sun. It’s an ambush. The Corvette swerves to escape its pursuers, but the road is congested by a trio of 18 wheels carrying huge platinum tanks full of – what else – gasoline.
Click on! A missile exits a helicopter, then heads for the nearest semi-trailer. The driver of the Stingray presses the gas, opens a box of nitrous and – defiantly physics – throws the vehicle into the air, rolling a few inches above the explosion and to safety.
Thank you for witnessing my dramatic re-creation of my first 20 seconds of an early race in Cruis’n Blast, one of the most charming and messy games released on Nintendo Switch this year.
If you’ve ever visited a small town musk bar or Holiday Inn game room, you’ve probably stumbled upon the first entry in the Cruis’n franchise, the 1994 arcade classic. Cruise to the United States. Affinity for the series plummeted with each subsequent entry, before fading into obscurity with 2001 Cruising speed. Despite the shutdown of arcade publisher Midway and the death of almost every arcade in America, the creators of Cruis’n have never let go of the accelerator. Creator of the Eugene Jarvis series (Defender, Robotron: 2084) founded Raw Thrills, a direct-named arcade game developer who has quietly been producing about one game a year since 2004. He’s responsible for familiar things, like the Big Buck Hunter series entries, and not-so-familiar things , like arcade adaptations of movies like Cars and Alien: Alliance. And in 2017, alongside sequels and marketing links, the studio managed to produce the first Cruis’n game in over a decade, Cruis’n Blast.
OK, let’s stop for a moment because you should watch me win a race before we go any further. Here’s a quick video:
As you can see, Destroy is almost identical in structure to its predecessors. The goal is to be the first to cross the finish line at the end of a straight track that weaves its way through increasingly comical settings. Besides throttle and pauses, Blast adds the ability to drift and boost to the Mario Kart. You can upgrade your car, buy nitrogen, and run over enemies, but the only real challenge is staying on the road.
Now you can play Destroy without shoveling tokens in a flashy arcade machine, thanks to a beefy port for the Nintendo Switch. The good news is that the port is cheaper than buying an arcade machine and includes new cars, modes, and tracks. The bad news: It’ll set you back $ 39.99 for a racing game with just five locations and graphics that would have looked state-of-the-art during the Clinton presidency. I completed the entire campaign and unlocked most of the vehicles on my flight from Los Angeles to Detroit with a stopover in Dallas.
For one thing, it’s a short time to see most of what any racing game has to offer. On the other hand, I experienced the greatest day of air travel in human history. Reader, this video game rules.
If my intro sounded like a synopsis of a setting from Fast and Furious, it’s because developer Raw Thrills produced four Fast and Furious arcade games. They clearly learned from the experience. The first half of the game plays out as an unofficial spin-off from the films, filled with nightly street races in international cities and police chases in tropical islands.
And yet, these introductory lessons are rather sober compared to the second half of the game. After my Stingray escaped LA, it led to earthquakes, under UFOs, and away from dinosaurs. By the end of the credits, I got the freedom to drive said UFOs and dinosaurs. So far I have unlocked a number of cars, trucks, and motorcycles, as well as a helicopter, flying saucer, triceratops, and unicorn.
Does a helicopter look silly as it performs a nitrous backflip while racing cars through an ice cave passed by Statue of Liberty-sized yetis? Yes! That’s the point! If this game had been produced by a small indie game maker as a love ode to a dead series, I sincerely believe we would be praising the borderline DIY visuals as bold, weird, and psychedelic. I think Raw Thrills, even with its pedigree, deserves the same benefit of the doubt, that the rough edges of the game are in some ways an intentional choice. An ambiance.
Cruis’n Blast borrows a lot from movies like the Fast and Furious franchise. But as these movies get higher budgets and more polished visual effects, their creators could learn from a game like Cruis’n Blast: Too much polish can hide all the fun.
Cruis’n Blast released on September 14 for Nintendo Switch. The game has been tested on Switch using a download code provided by Raw Thrills. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find more information on Polygon’s ethics policy here.