Look Mom! No Kinect!
BigPark has teamed up with Microsoft Game Studios to create Joy Ride Turbo, the sequel to 2010’s Kinect Joy Ride. Or perhaps “spiritual successor” would be a more apt descriptor, as the second game in the series does away with Kinect support, opting solely for controller inputs. Give your avatar a break from hanging out on your dashboard and let him or her hop into a sweet ride to tackle a fun mix of tracks, battle other drivers in derby-style racing, and spend some quality time uncovering secret stashes of hidden goodies and unlockables in open-world Stunt Parks.
Joy Ride Turbo features single- and multiplayer kart racing with a colorful art style ideal for a family gaming night. With your avatar, compete in events of increasing difficulty. Each event – 100 HP, 200 HP, or 300 HP – includes different circuits for a variety of vehicle classes. Choose to take on your opponents in a sports car race, a muscle car showdown, or a truck face-off. Complete all three to proceed to the event’s grand prix challenge, which in turn will unlock the next event tier. Along the way, collect parts to construct new vehicles in each class, which you can then race, or simply go with the standard model.
Proceeding through an event unlocks access to Stunt Parks – open-world areas littered with collectible trophies and secret collectible crates. When racing against a smattering of opponents isn’t exactly what you’re in the mood for at the moment, cruising back and forth around a Stunt Park may be more your style. Finding hidden tunnels, shooting out of cannons, and speeding off ramps to catch some serious hangtime are all par for the course in your quest to explore the park and collect its myriad secrets. Contrary to the standard racing, the Stunt Park modes provide a stress-free environment away from competitive time limits and adversaries, and let you do as much or as little exploring as you want. Your progress is automatically saved, as it will probably take numerous return trips with varying vehicle types featuring unique properties to collect everything the courses have to offer.
A Little Friendly Competition
Back on the asphalt, all’s fair in love and war (and racing), and players can employ all manner of tricks to emerge victorious at the end of the third lap around a track. Drifting through tricky corners, pulling slide-jobs on other racers, and collecting offensive and defensive power-ups like rockets and freeze blasts will let you gain the upper hand. Fighting dirty can be a necessary evil, but it’s all in the name of good, clean fun. Becoming airborne lets you pull off spins, flips, and other tricks, building up your boost meters so you can bust out a surprise rocket jump to the front of the pack in the final moments of a race.
Burning rubber and trying to put other racers “into the wall” in single player is all well and good, but adjusting to real human reactions is where the fun is at. Joy Ride Turbo lets you take your vehicle of choice on the track against friends and neighbors in four-player local multiplayer, or against up to eight complete strangers via Xbox Live. Do well to become more renowned and attain fans, which in turn unlocks further game modes and tracks. BigPark has made sure that, even without Kinect integration, Joy Ride Turbo remains a favorite to break out during parties and friendly get-togethers.
The game’s graphics stay true to its light-hearted tone; environments are clean, bright, and resemble cartoon backdrops more often than not. In particular, the game’s canyon tracks and Stunt Park seemed to me to be heavily influenced by ’80s Warner Bros. Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons. While the focus is undoubtedly on the action on the track, the visuals make it easy to enjoy the racing in a relaxed manner as opposed to sweating bullets from frantically pounding on the accelerate button. In stark contrast to this is the sound design, which is overpowered by the constant revving of throttles and the rat-a-tat of souped up motors filling your ears every moment. During races, this is to be expected, but during the more laid-back exploration of Stunt Parks, I quickly found myself muting the game and opting for a personal selection of easy-on-the-ears music instead.
The Final Verdict
The kart racing genre hasn’t exactly set the world on fire lately. Joy Ride Turbo doesn’t do much to innovate existing ideas within the genre, but provides a competent title that’s easy to pick up and play for the whole family. With the novelty of Microsoft’s Kinect peripheral having worn off, it is perhaps easy to understand why BigPark opted to return to controller-based inputs, especially with local multiplayer matches in mind. With Nintendo’s seminal Mario Kart series securely tethered to its own consoles, Joy Ride Turbo is perhaps the best option for friendly racing this side of the console wars. And honestly – who doesn’t enjoy a little friendly derby-style kart racing every once in a while?