2010 saw the release of Microsoft’s Kinect, and one of the games that launched with it was Kinect Joy Ride, a controller-free kart racing game. It was not particularly well received, mostly due to imprecise motion controls and a general pervasive blandness. It didn’t help matters that it was a $40 retail game without a lot of content.
Seeking to address at least some of the concerns from the original game, developers BigPark and Microsoft Game Studios are back with Joy Ride Turbo, a Kinect-less sequel available on XBLA. Are improved controls and a lower price point enough to turn Joy Ride Turbo into an enjoyable experience?
At its core, Joy Ride Turbo is a pretty basic kart racing game. You’ve got nine tracks with themes like rocky canyons, Chinese architecture, and oceanside locations and a number of weapon pick ups scattered throughout them. Weapons are your standard Mario Kart-like fare, with mines, rockets, homing missiles, speed boosts, etc.
The game’s main mode of play is the Championship Series. It’s split up into three speed classes – 100HP, 200HP, and 300HP, representing easy, medium, and hard races respectively. Each series contains four sets of three races, one for each vehicle type (Sport, Muscle, and Truck) and a Grand Prix event in which all vehicle types compete against one another.
The problem with the Championship Series races is that once you begin a series, there is no option to restart individual races within that series. That means if you’re in the 3rd race of a series and you screw up badly enough to seriously hurt your overall standing, you can’t simply restart the race – you have to restart the entire series. It’s either an oversight or a deliberate limitation that lengthens the game’s play time by underhanded and artificial means. Either way, the lack of such a standard racing feature is keenly felt.
Stunt Mode, meanwhile, puts you in a large-ish open arena full of jumps and other obstacles. There’s no timer or pressure, so you’ve got all the time you’ll need to collect coins, trophies, and car parts in this mode. It’s generally pretty fun, and discovering driving lines that lead to rewards is satisfying. Sadly, there are only two stunt tracks to play on, and playing them at 100HP, 200HP, and 300HP seems to make no tangible difference. A few more of these tracks would have been most welcome.
There’s also a multiplayer component in Joy Ride Turbo, for up to four players locally, and up to eight players over Xbox Live. Local splitscreen seems to work well enough, and can be reasonably fun. The Xbox Live functionality is somewhat less successful, unfortunately. The matchmaking would often take upwards of 5 – 10 minutes to locate a game, and I never managed to get into a game with eight players. In fact, I doubt if I ever found one with more than two or three other players. It’s also strange that, rather than offering a handful of tracks for players to vote on, everyone just picks a track. I don’t know how the game decides whose choice to go with if every player picks something different, as there seemed to be no logic to it.
The game’s audio and visual presentation is something of a mixed bag. The graphics are bright, clean, and colorful, but lacking in any sort of personality or charm. The audio, likewise, is serviceable but forgettable, with music that sounds like a cross between elevator and 70’s porn music.
Joy Ride Turbo is interesting in the sense that it seems like a concession to the limitations of Kinect – as though Microsoft is admitting it’s not as fun for gaming as they had supposed. The original game, Kinect Joy Ride, used only motion controls. Joy Ride Turbo, meanwhile, tosses them out the window entirely in favor of more traditional, controller-based inputs, and is better for it. That having been said, it’s still very bland overall – not bad, but not especially memorable either. But if you simply must spend 800MS Points on something new, you could certainly do a lot worse.
Joy Ride Turbo was released on May 23rd, 2012 for Xbox 360.