The Joy Ride name, which can now be considered a franchise title of sorts, had an interesting history prior to its first release. The first title was originally announced at Microsoft‘s 2009 E3 conference, with the initial plan for it to be a free title download over Xbox LIVE Arcade. However, the first announcement regarding Kinect caused the publisher to rethink its release strategy for the game. As a result, it was revamped into a full, disc-based retail title known as Kinect Joy Ride. That game required players to use the Kinect sensor to mimic holding and steering an invisible steering whistle, as there was no option to use a controller.
While an interesting concept, people had some trouble adjusting to the Kinect controls, which ultimately brought down the game’s fun factor and overall reception. Now, developer BigPark has brought the series back in the form of a downloadable, controller-only game, entitled Joy Ride Turbo. Although it’s not going to set the world of kart racing on fire, this second series release is a decent experience for what it offers.
As with the original Kinect Joy Ride, players are automatically given their Xbox Avatar as their character, with guest players without profiles playing as doppelgangers of the primary user. Gameplay is primarily divided into two separate modes, one focusing on traditional kart racing via several circuits made up of multiple races, and the other, the Stunt Park, being something else entirely.
Players are given a few large, open environments to drive around in within this mode. While there are several other racers driving around each one (whether or not they are actual players or AI is unclear), it’s generally a solo affair focusing on exploration and item collection. The tokens that make up the game’s currency for buying new cars can be earned in the traditional grand prix, but they can also be found strewn about the massive Stunt Park fields.
One common thread between both modes is the method for unlocking new cars. Strewn throughout each race course and stunt park are wooden crates. Driving into them unlocks one of three parts for a car. Once all three are found, the car becomes available to purchase with your collected tokens. This is a novel system in some ways, but it can also be frustrating. Some of the crates that are more tucked away in Stunt Park levels can be a real pain to find, which can become annoying if there’s one specific type of car you’re trying to unlock.
The traditional races function perfectly fine, at least for the most part. Unlike Mario Kart, you can build up a boost meter by drifting to the side on tight turns, as well as rotating the analog sticks during big jumps to perform stunts. The boost system works well, but drifting itself has a bit of a learning curve. Several races in, I still found myself either turning too sharp or too wide despite practice. Actual steering is a bit better, but the controls could still have been tweaked to feel a bit tighter overall.
The power-up system works like you would expect it to, with traditional missile and mine attacks and boosting items. Multiplayer runs fine both online and locally, though I couldn’t find an option to switch the screen splitting for 2 local players from vertical to horizontal, which probably would have worked better. The designs for the race tracks, both in terms of visuals and the track layouts, are also good, though I found the game’s desert motif feeling a bit overused at points.
Joy Ride Turbo gives you a good amount of content for your $10. There are a decent amount of race courses and a lot of ground to cover in the Stunt Parks. Some things, like the interesting but annoying unlock system, do drag it down and stop it from getting a very high recommendation. However, its core gameplay is still fun enough that fans of kart racers will want to check it out.
This article is based on a copy of the game which we received for review purposes.
Some things do drag Joy Ride Turbo down, preventing it from getting a very high recommendation, but its gameplay is still fun enough that fans of kart racers will want to check it out.