Joy Ride Turbo Review (Xbox 360)
The people at BigPark released Kinect Joy Ride to little fanfare back at the November 2010 launch of the Kinect hardware. That title had a bit of fun to be had, but ultimately the Kinect interface hindered the actual act of racing. Maybe Microsoft realized this and now is just letting BigPark release a game without the contrivance of Kinect. I think Joy Ride Turbo is for the better in not having to carry all of that baggage. While it isn't the most original arcade racer out there by any means, what is here is a totally serviceable and fun drift-and-boost racing game.
The setup for the racing is fairly familiar, with the triggers handling acceleration and braking and with the left stick steering. There's a lot of drifting in Joy Ride Turbo, and you can swerve around corners to build up your boost meter, which is bigger or smaller depending on what type of car you pick. Trucks and the like will usually have a bigger boost meter and toughness, but they lack in acceleration. Muscle cars can fly out of the gate faster, but they'll lose out on top speed. Sports cars provide great top speed, but they sacrifice some boost in order to do so.
Whatever car you choose, everything on the track manages to feel pretty good. The action is fast and loose, with drifting happening naturally and fluidly as you tear around corners. Rarely do you need to hit the brakes, as the pace of most races really emphasizes constant motion and no hesitation. When the game just uses tracks that are meant for purely speed and drifting, it only somewhat hits the mark. I think the “battle race” courses provide far more entertaining sessions, as you have access to power-ups that are pretty much right out of Mario Kart or Blur. None of these are all that original — which is too bad, because the game could've innovated in this way — but you'll have access to all forms of destruction, distraction and defense, with rockets, shields, boosts, decoy item boxes and freeze traps.
I'd say the selection of cars and courses is fine, but it would've been nice to have more cars at the outset. There's a fairly neat unlock structure that makes you hunt down car parts that are hidden in various shortcuts and secret paths on the tracks (finding them unlocks more cars), but having the game only start you with one of each car type is kind of annoying.
Everything is colorful and splashy in Joy Ride Turbo, including your avatar jumping around in the front seat of the car. It's fun seeing your character throw up the peace sign as he fires a heat-seeking mine out the back of his sports car, and the effect of ice melting off your car from a freeze trap looks pretty snazzy. The courses all look good, visually speaking, but there isn't a whole lot of wild variety in the types of places you'll visit. There's probably something to be said for not going too crazy in these games with the course design, as a player has to be able to see visual cues for when to turn, etc., but I think there was latitude to get a bit wackier with where the races take place.
The music keeps things jaunty and bouncy, with the appropriate amount of twang and synth for certain canyon tracks and some more specific driving beats on some of the speed-based courses. The effects of powers-ups and collectibles all crash with impact as well, but it would've been nice to have some more personality in the drivers. Since your avatar is your racer by default, it would've been cool to see some colorful characters shouting at you from the other AI cars.
The single-player offerings are fairly standard, with 100 HP, 200 HP and 300 HP tiers dictating difficulty levels for each championship circuit. Within each circuit are four race series, and each series has three races. Some of these races are just speed and drifting races, but most are battle races with power-ups. The AI throughout the championships competes fairly well, and you'll actually be able to pull away if you're timing everything right. Still, there is a bit of rubber-banding present, and, like Mario Kart, you'll see certain racers staying near the top of the heap no matter what.
You can also just free race any available track at any time in the quick race mode, and you can attempt time trials against your own best times. There is also a stunt park mode, which is basically one big canyon stunt course that has no time limit. It's a neat feature because of its “free roam” element, and it would've be nice to see it blown out a bit more. Still, what's here is pretty fun, as you can jet around various jumps and ramps, collecting car parts, in-game currency and collectibles.
The multiplayer allows you to race on any of the courses in speed racing or battle mode, and you can also play the stunt park with other people as well. The action seems even more chaotic online, as you get lots of people crashing around corners and power-ups firing off at the same time. The net code for the game appears to be fairly stable, but there is a bit of teleporting and latency around corners occasionally. It's nice to see a cool voting system as well, since everyone picks a race option and then it randomly selects one. Also, I liked that the game makes you pick a car before you even enter a lobby, which creates more of an unpredictable element for the races and racers.
Joy Ride Turbo sets out to provide a simple and fun arcade racer, and it succeeds. I feel it could've gone a bit wackier and injected some more originality in the genre, but what is here is more than fair for $10 off the Xbox Live Marketplace.
Learning Curve: Really easy to pick up and play. You'll be drifting, boosting and rocketing people within minutes.
Control Scheme: The game keeps things familiar, and it benefits because of it. I did occasionally find myself going for the A button when wanting to turbo, but that fires off items. I think boosting is prominent, so maybe the A and B buttons should've been switched — or at least allow for a button swap in the options.
Visuals: Again, not a ton of originality in the courses, but everything looks clean, crisp and colorful. The effects on the power-ups look really good.
Audio: Music fits the scenes well, and the effects all have the appropriate amount of cartoon crash. I would've liked some rival racers to have more personality though, especially since the game apes a lot of other tropes from Mario Kart.
Value: At $10, it's hard to complain. The game won't have huge legs, and the online community will probably dwindle, but there's a good amount of circuits to race through, unlockable car parts, the stunt park, online modes and time trials.
Score: 7 (Good)