Game Rant’s Jeff Schille reviews Joy Ride Turbo.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the kart racer, as measured from the launch of Super Mario Kart in 1992. Since that game’s introduction, kart racing has become a gaming staple, and nearly every successful console has been home to a signature example of the genre. Microsoft’s Xbox 360, however, stands as a notable exception to the rule. The company’s last stab at a kart racer, Kinect Joy Ride, fell flat — and understandably so. Kart racing and motion control, it turns out, do not make good bedfellows.
But, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again — and so Microsoft has. Joy Ride Turbo, from Kinect Joy Ride and Kinect Sports: Season Two developer BigPark, ditches the previous game’s motion control and boxed retail release in favor of standard Xbox 360 controllers and Xbox Live Arcade. Does the game finally give Microsoft a marquee kart racer to call its own? Read on for Game Rant’s full review of Joy Ride Turbo.
The recipe for a successful kart racer was all but written in stone by Super Mario Kart. Tight, twisting tracks, nimble, speedy vehicles, and a varied assortment of weapons and power-ups are all must-have elements. On paper, Joy Ride Turbo delivers on every single count, and even ups the ante by including a wealth of shortcuts and a clever system for unlocking new vehicles. Why, then, isn’t the game more fun?
Joy Ride Turbo certainly doesn’t fail on any technical levels. It’s a fine looking game with a fast, steady frame rate, and offers novel environments to race through, neatly avoiding such overused settings as The Snow Level and The Lava World. Instead, many of JRT’s courses are set in a stylized version of the American South West — The Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote would feel right at home. Verdant, fanciful Chinese landscapes offer a respite from the red, orange, and yellow hues of the South Western tracks.
With ten standard courses and two Stunt Parks, Joy Ride Turbo offers a solid, though manageable, number of venues for its three race types: Battle Races (which include weapons and power ups), Pro Races (which don’t) and Time Trials (just the player against the clock).
The real issue with Joy Ride Turbo is its stiff, overly mechanical control, which is likely a consequence of the game’s unusually large vehicles. In most kart racers, the karts themselves are a trifle – they are, after all, supposed to be inspired by go-karts. In Joy Ride Turbo, the vehicles are full sized cars and trucks, big enough for a player’s Xbox 360 Avatar to climb right in.
While still exceedingly maneuverable, JRT’s large vehicles are just not as lithe as the karts gamers have grown used to. To be fair, the game’s control is not in any way broken or unresponsive; steering, boosting, drifting and pulling off stunts (which both award boost), and using power-ups are all a cinch. It’s just… uninspired. Dull, really. Like a drum machine accompanying a big band, it just doesn’t swing.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of tasks for willing players to accomplish in Joy Ride Turbo. There are crates of Car Parts parts littered around the courses, including the Stunt Parks, which must be collected in order to unlock new, more powerful vehicles. Time Trials are perfect for this purpose, though beating the game’s tiered Championship Series is easy enough with the default rides.
Mulitplayer is supported both online (up to eight players) and off (up to four players in split-screen), and the wide open Stunt Parks offer unlimited time to drive around, pulling off risky maneuvers and collecting Car Part crates, Trophies (which are all over the place) and Stars (the game’s currency, used to buy new vehicles once they’ve been unlocked). The Stunt Parks play like free-form, vehicular platformers. Nabbing a particularly hard-to-reach Trophy offers some fleeting gratification, but most players will lose interest long before they’ve collected every item in either Park, much less both of them.
Joy Ride Turbo, taken all together, is a serviceable kart racer — and nothing more. The necessary pieces are in place, the game is competently executed, and at 800 MS Points, the price is right. But it’s bland, and uninvolving — it may not have any unforgivable faults, but it doesn’t earn any commendations either.
Players willing to settle for an unremarkable, but inoffensive, kart racer will find that Joy Ride Turbo is exactly that. The wait for Xbox 360′s definitive kart racer, however, continues.
Joy Ride Turbo is available now from the Xbox Marketplace.
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