The first Joy Ride was initially set to be a downloadable, free-to-play arcade racer made available through Xbox LIVE Arcade. The first of its kind for the digital platform; as you progressed through Joy Ride there would be opportunities to purchase downloadable extras. However, a change of plan saw the game developed into a launch title for the Xbox 360 Kinect. It made use of the new control system; allowing players to control the cars with their arm’s outstretched grabbing an imaginary steering wheel, leaning to drift, and thrusting your arms back then forward to boost. It did well in the sense of showing of the features of Kinect and having some fun with friends and family, but struggled to offer much of a reason for extended play. The sequel, Joy Ride Turbo, took a very different approach.
A traditional controller based kart racer. And it definitely benefits from the change. Joy Ride Turbo offers a fast paced, foot-too-the-floor racing experience. With the main gameplay mechanics and structure being not dissimilar to that of other, more popular kart racing series, Mario Kart, supporting one-to-four players locally and two-to-eight players in online mode.
Joy Ride Turbo – A Familiar Kart Racing Experience
The gameplay offers much of what is expected from a kart racer; including an arsenal of weapons to trap and attack your opponents with. These are of course obtained by smashing into question mark boxes. Most of the weapons are very similar to that of other kart racers, such as rockets, trick box’s, force fields, mines etc., although there are a few interesting takes on the ‘classics’ such as the Shockwave. This weapons sends out a powerful circular blast from your kart, pushing any cars in it’s radius flying. The Turbo power-up is also interesting: as well as giving a huge speed boost it’s coupled with a low gravity effect in which even the smallest of bumps will send you up into the air and over your opponents.
Players can also perform a small variety of tricks when airborne, which builds boost. Only a small variety of tricks are available, and the execution of them is a bit slow to start. It’s also harder to crash land on purpose than by accident. The system adds some flavour to the overall fast paced intensity of the racing; but it could have been a much more prominent feature.
The different track locations, such as the dessert, beach, canyon, mountains etc. offer a fair amount of variety between them. Some are more weapons-based while others are more about speed and precision cornering. Most of the tracks make great use of shortcuts, boost pads, canons and ramps/jumps to keep them interesting, as well as hiding collectable car parts and trophies in each, which increases the replayability of the game.
Championships, Stunt Parks and Multiplayer
In the Championship mode there are three progressively ranked series based on horsepower. Four race events are held inside each, one of which is the grand prix series. This is unlocked by completing the other three in order, collecting points for podium positions. There are 10 maps to play through in total. This includes seven of the original maps from Kinect JoyRide and three brand new ones. Players can unlock forty two different quirky cars, which also have customised skins and colours.
As well as the Championship series there is the Stunt Park mode. Here, players get to choose from two large maps and are free to roam around and perform tricks. The coins hint at paths to follow, which more often than not take you to interesting and challenging parts of the map with more trophies and car part crates to collect. This includes zooming through loop de loops, rocketing out of canons and flying up skateboard style ramps performing tricks.
The graphics are adequate for that of the calibre of the game. The styling and car designs can be compared to both the Hot Wheels and Crash Nitro Kart games. The handling of the cars can feel a bit aggressive and sharp at first. However, after taming the drift button you’ll soon be sliding seamlessly between corners without even a hint of braking.
Joy Ride without Kinect was a Sign of Things to Come
Joy Ride Turbo is definitely worth a play for fans of the more popular kart racers as well as those in search of a fun, family friendly arcade racing experience. Providing plenty of content – all accessible with multiple players or as a solo experience – and a pick-up-and-play design there’ll always be a good time to opt for Joy Ride Turbo as the entertainment. The lack of Kinect compatibility in this sequel was telling. Despite Microsoft’s best efforts to convince gamers to adopt the technology, Xbox Game Studios itself clearly didn’t have faith in the device. 10 years on from the launch of Joy Ride Turbo, we can still enjoying it’s racing thrills. But the Xbox Kinect, in both of its forms, is long behind us.