A Look Back: Cruis’n World
Cruisin’ World really was a mixed bag for me. Against popular opinion, I was a big fan of the first game: Cruisin’ USA. Dated it was, but it was plain, simple, fun. My first and most impressionable experience with this game was in its arcade form. I remember they had a full arcade cabinet in the Dodge City mall movie theater. Any time we happened to end up there I pumped that thing full of quarters. Something about it was just too fun. Maybe it was the way the wheel jumped around and pushed back against you in the corners, or double tapping the gas pedal to do some sweet jumps.
My anticipation for the N64 version was long and drawn out. I enjoyed the game at the mall, but longed for my own copy I could pick up and play whenever I wanted. Putting Cruis’n World on a cartridge seemed like a no brainer to me, but business executives must have seen it differently. I couldn’t tell you how long it was, but it seemed like years from when I first sat in that hard plastic chair in the arcade, to the day I read Cruisin’ World was to be released on the N64.
Unfortunately the long wait for the game had somewhat diluted my fanaticism for the game. I’d already played it quite thoroughly. That didn’t stop me though from being at the store the day it was released to pick it up. Rather than delirious excitement, I felt more relieved that it was finally out, and I finally had it. The kind of relief you get when you loan a game to a friend and finally get it back after asking for it for months.
When I plugged this one back into the Nintendo 64 today, all the cheezy 20 second loops of music came back like it’d been a couple days since I last played. At least the music was of much better quality than Cruis’n USA in just about every way music can be quantified. The car models (which weren’t too impressive, even at the time) are reminiscent of the kinds of cars you cut out of the side of a Happy Meal box and fold together. Given the “not serious at all” attitude of the game though, they’re easily dismissed. The learning curve is very gentle. Maybe two races in, I was pulling off all the turboslides and jumps without much difficulty. I’d forgotten a lot, but it’s all so close to the surface, it doesn’t take long to discover it again. Considering the nature of the game was to be played maybe 5 minutes a day in an arcade, it’s not too surprising that there isn’t much depth here.
It seems easier to compare Cruis’n World and USA more objectively now. World is far and away a better game in just about every aspect. Better graphics, sound, and controls. But a few of the things that were definitive to the series I noticed were missing. Namely extremely low resolution scantly clad women. No bikini waving flag girls. No double D breasted small t-shirt wearing ladies. Not that those five frame animated females do anything for me, but it’s just one of those over the top cheezy touches that really completes the Cruis’n experience.
As much as my anticipation had waned over the months of waiting, I could tell by the data still saved on the cartridge, that I still put a relevant amount of time into this game. All the cars were unlocked and some reasonably impressive times were posted. I can’t imagine now spending much more than a good 30 minutes with this game…but looking at the release dates for the time, Cruisin’ World came out during a pretty good gaming drought. From Top Gear Rally in October 1997 until Zelda over a year later, there wasn’t much new worth playing. For lack of anything better to play, I must have poured a decent amount of free time into this. While it was fun to sit down and cruise the world…I don’t see myself seriously picking up this game for quite some time again.