Microsoft Studios’ JoyRide 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 JoyRide there would be opportunities to purchase downloadable extras. However, a change of plan saw the videogame developed into a launch title for the Xbox 360 Kinect. The videogame 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 too 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 recently released Joy Ride Turbo is a different experience, structured around the ideal of being 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.
In the Championship series 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 which is unlocked by completing the other three in order, collecting points for podium positions. There are ten maps to play through in total, including 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.
The gameplay offers much of what is expected from a kart racer these days; including an arsenal of weapons to trap and attack your opponents with, which are of course obtained by smashing into the infamous question marked 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, which sends out a powerful circular blast from your kart, pushing any cars in it’s radius flying. The Turbo power-up is also interesting, which as well as giving a huge speed boost, is couple 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 such as flips and barrel rolls when airborne in the car, which builds boost. As well as only a small variety of tricks, the execution of them is a bit slow to starts, and it seems harder to crash land on purpose than by accident. This being said it does add nice addition too the overall fast paced intensity of the racing; it just 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 being more weapons based to win and others 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 collectable car parts and trophies hidden on each, which increases the replayability of the videogame.
As well as the Championship series, there is the Stunt Park mode in which players get to choose from two large maps and are free to roam around and perform tricks. The laid out coins hint at paths to follow, which more often than not take you too interesting and challenging parts of the map with more trophies and car part crates to collect. This includes sending players zooming through loop de loops, rocketing out of canons into the sky and flying up skateboard style ramps to perform to tricks and stunts.
The graphics are adequate for that of the calibre of the videogame, and the styling and car designs can be compared to both the Hot Wheels and Crash Bandicoot videogames. The handling of the cars can feel a bit aggressive and sharp at first, however after taming the drift button you’ll find yourself drifting seamlessly between corner to corner without even a hint of the break.
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. Joy Ride Turbo is available for on the Xbox LIVE Arcade for 800 Microsoft Points, a price point which is undoubtedly more fitting of Microsoft Studios’ fledging kart racer series that Kinect JoyRide’s retail package.