TiPb GRAND PRIX: Crash Bandicoot vs. Cro-Mag

[This is a GRAND PRIX App vs. App Review! Comment on this post for your chance to win... the winning racer! Make sure you leave a valid email address in the comment form -- it won't be made public, but it will be used to contact you if you win! Check out the full contest details, then grab your iPhone and get ready race -- the GRAND PRIX starts now!]

Kicking off our TiPb GRAND PRIX and starting from the pole position, we give you Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 3D (available from iTunes for $9.99) versus Cro-Mag Rally (also available from iTunes for $1.99)! Who is going to get the checkered flag today? The wily Crash Bandicoot or those lovable Neanderthals? See how they compare and see who we choose as the winner of heat #1. As I've always wanted to say, "Gentlemen (and ladies), START YOUR ENGINES!" (and keep up with us after the break!)

First Impressions

Both contenders enjoy a previous following from their original release on different platforms (Crash from Sony Playstation and Cro-Mag from Mac OS X), and fortunately for all of us, they are now both available for the iPhone. Let's take a look at both games while the engines are warming up!

Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 3D, from Vivendi Games Mobile, is a 3D Kart racing game in the spirit of Mario Kart. Race against AI opponents, grab power-ups along the way to better your chances of winning, and enjoy iPhone accelerometer-based controls and fluid graphics.

Choose from different modes of play: Quick Race drops you right into racing action, Cup Mode is a tournament-style racing series, and Story Mode is available as a quick unlock that adds plot to your racing fun.

Cro-Mag Rally, from Pangea Software, Inc., is also a 3D racer that resembles Crash and Mario with AI opponents, power-ups for both offensive and defensive weapons and car enhancements, and similar iPhone accelerometer-based controls and comparable graphics.

Choose your driver, be it caveman or cavewoman, and select from several different tracks of increasing difficulty and cars with varying performance characteristics.

Graphics and Sound

Crash: takes full advantage of what the iPhone's impressive display has to offer. Rich colors, fluid movement, and even the nice touch of sunlight reflecting off the "lens" adds a little depth to this game. On-screen displays include a heads-up of the track and your location in proximity to your opponents, your racing time and position, and access to power-ups you pick up along the way. On occasion, the game loses a bit of fluid movement when things get really hairy, but only for a split second and registers very low on the annoyance index.

Cro-Mag: very comparable to Crash in that it is also very fluid and colorful. There is the occasional noticeable lag, but also like Crash, it is brief and doesn't meaningfully detract from the overall experience. On-screen displays include a heads-up track with racer's positions, a "forward" and "reverse" button, brake button, power-ups button, and your racing position.

Both games have nice sound with catchy tunes, although my preference leans a bit toward Cro-Mag for it's music. Otherwise, graphics are very comparable and it's difficult to give either game an edge here.

Graphics and Sound Results: TIE

Controls

Crash: driving your Kart is fairly straight-forward; hold your iPhone comfortably in front of you and "steer" left or right. The iPhone's accelerometer is nicely calibrated for good steering responsiveness. Interestingly enough, Crash removes the option of controlling your speed in the traditional sense. Instead of worrying about pressing on the gas pedal, your Kart accelerates to full speed and you can control your speed around corners in a "Tokyo Drift"-esque manner. Pressing your thumbs on each side of the screen will power-slide your Kart left or right for cornering. Just tap the screen lower right to use your power-ups and lower left to pause your game.

Cro-Mag: like Crash, hold your iPhone in like fashion and "steer" left and right and let your iPhone's accelerometer do the heavy lifting. Unlike Crash, Cro-Mag is more traditional in that there is an up/down arrow at bottom left for "forward" and "reverse", a wheel next to the arrow for braking, and a bone on the right side of your screen for activating power-ups and throwing objects either to your front or behind you. I never use the brake, but that's just how I roll.

Both games have easy controls that fit well with their respective style of game-play, so unless you have a particular bias toward one or the other, they are both very comparable.

Controls: TIE

Gameplay and Value

Crash: gameplay and value (replay value) factors heavily in giving Crash an edge here. There are multiple racing modes: Quick Race throws you straight into the racing action with your choice of unlocked vehicles; Cup Mode is a tournament-style race around four different tracks with points awarded based on your placement, the winner determined by total points after all four races; and Story Mode, which is unlocked early in the game, adding plot and automatically mixing up your vehicle selection, opponents and number of laps. Some other nice features are available unlocks as you progress through the game (like Story Mode and Time Trial Mode) and the storing of best times to measure your progress. Additionally, the game saves your progress and allows you to resume (handy if you are interrupted by a call or need to stop playing for something like eating, work, sleep, etc.). Crash is also reasonably priced at $9.99.

Cro-Mag: when this app was first introduced and sold in the iTunes App Store, it was $9.99. In the past few days, it has dropped all the way down to $1.99, making it a no-brainer to have on your iPhone. Cro-Mag offers up 9 tracks with increasing difficulty and landscapes that vary from desert and jungle to snow and underwater. Also, you have immediate access to 11 different vehicles with varying characteristics for speed, acceleration, traction and suspension. There are two game modes: Gather Mode requires collecting arrowheads along the way, then win the race; Race Mode pits you against three AI opponents and three laps to win. Having all the goods up front is fun, but also exposes a weakness in this game in that nothing is earned along the way. Each race is a race unto itself and there are no unlocks or merit for progression and improvement. With that aside, I am impressed with the ability to throw power-ups (like exploding bones, bottle rockets, and homing pigeons, to name a few) both forward and behind to delay your opponents. The lack of any kind of earned unlocks is offset by the current low price of $1.99, and the variety of cars and tracks give this game some replay value over the long haul.

Although I'm tempted to issue another "Tie" based on the features offered for price paid, I still give the edge to Crash for better gameplay and replay value. Although it's more expensive at $9.99, it still offers more replay value.

Gameplay and Value: CRASH

Conclusion

Both Crash and Cro-Mag are excellent racing games for the iPhone, but in the end, it's almost a photo-finish. Although a close match in almost every category, Crash pulls away at the end with better gameplay and replay value by offering more modes of play, a resume game feature, best times, and progressively unlocking better vehicles and additional modes of play. Fortunately, both are priced nicely and there should be room for both on your iPhone.

WINNER: Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 3D!

[Want a chance to win Crash? Leave your comment below. Winner announced next week along with the TiPb GRAND PRIX second heat!]

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There are 59 comments. Add yours.

SFGuy says:

I didn't know Cro-Mag was down to $1.99, for that price it's an easy buy!

Chris Vitek says:

Wow, $1.99. I paid $4.99 for it.
Both games are good, but I think Crash's graphics are slightly better. I do like the variety in the CroMag race tracks though.

Todd says:

I agree whole heartedly. I already have both. I got CroMag yesterday while on sale. I really enjoyed my first race and was really disappointed when it didn't save my time, or unlock anything or anything else you usually look for in a "racing" game. Still, for the price it will be fun for the occasional quick race, but I give the long term edge to Crash.

Z says:

I got cromag today. It's ok but is a tad clunky for me.
Ps: Cromag us on sale, $1.99 is a tempory price

Anthony says:

$1.99 is a pretty good price and I hope more big name developers follow suit.

velvetelvis says:

i have cro mag... meh. nothing really special. not at all worth the 9.99 i paid for it. 1.99, sure. its a time killer.

Martin says:

Nice review, been looking for some good reviews of paid iPhone apps. Hopefully you'll continue this for other game types/applications!

Dalekkiller says:

Great comparisons although I didn't see a mention of that great screeching of wheels that you get in Cro-Mag as well as the vibration when you corner too sharply. Not quite handbrake turns but still a great effect! I went for Cro-Mag because I already had PangeaVR so I trusted the makers!

jmleib says:

Didn't know about the price drop on Cro-Mag. Makes the value pretty strong!

Ed says:

Crash does look better, though.

Armin says:

wow, I kinds wanna buy both now :)
I'll think I'll def buy cro-mag, but crash is still on the expensive side for me.
Great review guys!!

William says:

I want the Crash Bandikoot so badly. I only have free applications on my iPhone which sucks. Thumbs up to you guys for comparing them. I was looking for one and stumbled upon you guys.

Patrickbballer says:

haha nice I got crash the other game makes my head hurt.

Sylvanus says:

Definitely Crash! I own it, but thanks for the heads up on Cro Mag...I didn't realize the price had dropped so low...I'm purchasing it as we speak.

eArTh says:

glad to see crash win. It looks rather fun.

Rene Ritchie says:

Awesome review, Brian! Downloaded Cro-mag, at $1.99, why not?
Can't wait to see what's next!

avt says:

I don't have either but I want to get Crash soon.

Femib says:

I think it would be a good idea if the developers released a free version of each game so you could try it first and see if you like it.

C Palm says:

Crash was a great game on PS1 and still is on iphone

Chris says:

Crash is definitely the better out of those two

jasonact says:

I used to be obsessed with the original Mario Kart for the SNES. I've gotten out of gaming, but a good iPhone racing game could change that. Crash definitely sounds like the better game, and best Mario Kart substitute, but I don't think I can pass up Cro-Mag for $1.99!

Alex says:

IMHO, racing game is not suitable for iphone

Jeff_R says:

Okay, I freely admit, I had no idea that Cro Mag was $1.99 I bought it, so here's hoping I win Crash to complete the set. ;-) And btw, thanks for the blog; great source of info.

Steven says:

$1.99 is very attempting on the Cro-Mag.

Prashast says:

looks like a steal for $1.99!

M. Scott says:

I actually already own both. Cro-mag has a better sense of speed, but the different play modes definitely do add a lot to Crash. For a $1.99 though, I'd definitely recommend Cro-mag. I bought it when it was $9.99. :P
Warning though...if you play either game in public, you will look like a total dork. Steering with your phone works well, but it doesn't exactly look cool.

klubbing says:

I think Crash is the better game!

mike says:

I hope Crash will be lowered in price, it Sounds am tiny bit better ! 9.99 is too much for a casual game.

icewing#IM says:

Just bought Cro-Mag today, haven't had a chance to play it much. The low price is great, wish Crash was cheaper, I loved it on other platform.

Noturno says:

I ask myself: "Self, why are you commenting if you already own both games?"
Self answers: "Shhh you eediot! Get the gift certificate and buy moar Britney Spears! They'll never know!"
In horror, I retort: "Shut up Self or I'll spill the beans about those 'work files' you have hidden in FileMagnet!"
Self: "..."
The review is spot-on, both games are similar in most aspects but Crash really pulls ahead due to its variety of play modes.
The question in my mind: is the $1.99 special intended to increase news coverage of the app (it really hasn't in my blogosystem, except for this posts where it was already being covered anyway) or is it something that developers feel they are forced to do in order to get on the "What's Hot" and "Top 25" pages? Given Apple's incredibly slow process for updating apps in the App Store, the latter would basically mean that you're at Apple's mercy as to when your fire-sale ends. That makes it hard to run a tight marketing campaign, especially if you want to quickly capitalize on the newly acquired status the sale price brings.
Apple needs to address this, not only for its developers' sakes but also because it only has to gain from providing developers with sound marketing options in the App Store.

Nilesh Patel says:

I dont think these are good enough games to spent money on , Asphalt is way too goood for $9.99, alos they are games meant for kids and those who use iTouch, I seriously doubt iPhone users have got that much time and patience to play such crude and stupid phone,well its my assumption that 60% of iPhone users are adults and working and wont be using this for leisure, I wud say thumbs down to croc-mag and no comments for nitro

Sinbad says:

The question: is Crash 5 times "better" than Cro-Mag? Probably not. Get Cro-Mag now, and wait on Crash. Just my 2¢

Guille says:

I've played crash nitro kart and finished some of it's game play modes. It's awesome but I miss a vs mode via infrastructure or adhoc.

Steven Slater says:

Have not got either yet but moght get crash and see what its like.

agus says:

Crash already won it, that's why Cro-mag drops its price significantly.

Jake says:

I've been waiting for extensive reviews like these for iPhone apps so a BIG thank you for that at least. I hope this review system keeps going for more and more items... What, you don't have time to review 6,000 apps?

The Reptile says:

As a professional driver on the worldwide hit TV show on the BBC known to you Yanks as Top Gear I am troubled with your decision. When Jeremy, Hamster and Capt. Slow review cars on our show we look at a number of criteria including price of the car, handling, acceleration, comfort, ability to drive the vehicle every day in real world driving conditions, fun and cool factors.
IMHO, CroMag is the better product. Why? Well, Crash allows for steering and Drifting. Beyond that what's a professional driver to do? In CroMag I have more options and feel like I'm actually driving a car. Your decision is sooooo North American. Put the car in gear and drive. We superior Brits feel that you need to actually shift gears in order to be driving. We control our cars and don't let our cars control us. Just try going around Gambon Corner at a clip of 160 with only the ability to drift and I'll be visiting you at one of our famous socialized hospitals.
So, take it from an unidentified professional driver when I say CroMag is the better game. Talk with you next week. Until then watch Top Gear on BBC America Monday night!

Manny says:

Well for only 2 dollars cro mag is a steal but i kinda prefer crash bandicoot just bc i grew up wiht that game and it runs smotther. Also it etertains me more then cro mag. keep up the the good works guys i love this webiste!

Deol says:

I was debating getting Crash. This was a great review.

Jennifer says:

Great review/comparison Brian! I think I'm going to get Cro-mag as the price is right. Sounds like fun to pick up arrowheads along the way too. ;-)

PEPs says:

Great review! I think crash wins, at least i prefer it.

Luca says:

I just love a game like Crash! The iPhone is the best platform ever for racing games and alike. The steering control is just so awesome, and the big bright screen make it a true joy to play...

iPhone3gman says:

i love cro-mag, like you said its music is very catchy and also the gameplay is nice. but it would b nice to try out crash sometime.

Ivan Grimaldo says:

the crash bandicut is the best for the graphics, the options, and teh sound, the history mode, the way you play, and the controls

thomas says:

Quick, give me a link to the nearest apple app store supercenter. I'm going to race to get cromag.

patrickbballer says:

i got crash. by the way the iphone blog rocks.

casey says:

nice. i really like this website. and racing games.

Abhishek says:

would give my vote to crash :) great review

SFGuy says:

I wish they'd set up racing racing over edge!

Terry says:

I should really pick one of these up.

Sayam says:

It's obvious that Crash Bandicoot won. Even the developer of Cro-Mag knew that Crash was better, so he reduced the price but still cannot give any competition...

pivale says:

Crash seems to be definitely the best between these two, although the price on Cro-Mag seems more attractive.
Having played both, I think I've enjoyed Crash best.

Kevin Erler says:

I've been stuck on blogger but might have to reconsider now.