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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


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


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!]