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Jeremy Jastrzab
24 Nov, 2010

Kinect Joy Ride Review

360 Review | Controllers and plastic wheels are overrated.
Now here’s a title that has a strange history. In 2009, the E3 war between Sony and Microsoft seemed to boil down to who had the best customisable kart racing game. In Sony’s corner, Modnation Racers looked set to take up the challenge, with Joyride set to carry the flame for Microsoft. Sure, Modnation Racers came and went, but Joyride seemed to disappear off the face of the planet. However, it’s reappeared with the Kinect launch line up in the form of Kinect Joy Ride. Take that, Duke!

When the Wii was first launched, a lot of racing games tried to use the Wii Remote as a steering wheel. For some games such as Excite Truck and Mario Kart, this turned out pretty well. With the Kinect sensor, Kinect Joy Ride is taking things a step further; your entire body will be used to control the game. So how exactly are you meant to drive around in Kinect Joy Ride without any sort of controller implement? For starters, you don’t need to accelerate or brake. The game will control this for you. While this might come off as odd, in the context of how the game plays, it’s been implemented well enough. As you play, there aren’t any situations where you’d really need it.

The control centres on you holding your hands out in front of as if you were holding a steering wheel. From there, you’ve got a few simple motions that will get you through. Steering will take you a little bit of time to get used to. It works best once you’ve gotten used to the idea that you’re actually meant to be holding a steering wheel. So any motion that wouldn’t have been physically possible if you weren’t holding a steering wheel won’t work here either e.g. crossing your arms. From there, you’ll find that the various cars you can drive will all handle fairly similarly. They sometimes feel a little different due to their shape but the differences are only skin deep.

No rough landings here.

No rough landings here.
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Aside from this, you can also drift around corners by leaning in towards that corner. This works well once you’ve become used to how the game plays. Assuming that you’re holding your hands out in front of you, pulling them in towards you will start filling your boost. Steering can get a little difficult in this situation, but once it’s filled, thrusting forward will send you speeding towards the front of the pack. Unfortunately, this ‘mechanic’ is a little fiddly. You don’t always successfully start filling boost when you want to, and you’ll sometimes use boost unintentionally when you just want to get back into a comfortable position. Given the light-hearted nature of the game, this is more an annoyance than a deal breaker.

Lastly, you’ll be able to perform stunts while you’ve got airtime. There are three basic stunt moves: flips, spins and rolls. When in the air, leaning your whole body either back or forward will do a back or forward flip, and you have to hold it there for the stunt to continue. Similarly, twisting your body left or right will spin the car left or right, while leaning left or right will get you to do a barrel roll. Now, you can do combinations of two or three of these moves to make your ride really flip about. But why exactly would you be doing this?

Progression in Kinect Joy Ride revolves around collecting ‘fans’, a nominal measure for the feats that you perform throughout the various game modes. In each of the different game modes, you’ll start off with the one race/event available and the collection of fans will unlock more races/events, as well as more vehicles and vehicle variants (e.g. the muscle version of a particular car). You earn fans by winning races, completing events, beat times in races or high scores in events, doing a variety of crazy stunts and collecting the tokens on each course.

Seeing this brings the wonders of the Internet to mind...

Seeing this brings the wonders of the Internet to mind...
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There are seven modes in total: Pro Race, Battle Race, Xbox Live Race, Smash, Stunt, Dash and Trick. If it wasn’t blatantly obvious, Pro Race is your standard mode for racing, first past the post stuff. It’s a good way of learning how the game plays; which is a mix between kart racing and dodgem cars. Battle Race adds in a bunch of weapons, such as rockets, mines and boosts to your standard race. The ‘Deep Freeze’ one is pretty annoying (think the lightning from Mario Kart). This is all good and well for some unashamed chaos, but actually using the items are a bit cumbersome. You have to hold out your left hand over the bubble holding the item, though this will often throw your steering out of whack. If picking it was a little more lenient, it would be ok. Obviously, Xbox Live Races allow you to do the same, just online with up to eight players.

Smash is where things start to twist around. Your car is thrown into an arena where you need to crash through a bunch of statues, then knock over the ‘boss’ statue. Each arena has a bunch of smaller cronies that will be ‘point’ fodder, and your success is determined by the number of points you get. So basically, you drift around the arena, knocking over as many statues as you can. Stunt drops you into a half pipe arena, where you need to boost up the walls, collect the token goodies and get as many points as possible through stunts in the allotted time. This more can be a lot of fun as you watch your scores skyrocket, but there isn’t much distinct variety in the arenas.

Dash is a bit like a drag race, where you dash from start to finish while avoiding the obstacles, collecting fans and boosting as much as possible. Handily, you’re always following the lane, so the only steering you need to do is to choose your lane. Now Trick mode is where things are completely thrown out of whack. You car is flung above the clouds, and as you race across the skyline, you actually have to perform poses to match the on-screen silhouettes. Now up until this mode, the Kinect feature that takes your photos as you play is pretty irrelevant. It’s not until you play trick that you can get some kicks out of these photos. Furthermore, all of these modes support a second player as long as you get in before the race or event starts.

Stunt mode can actually be a lot of fun.

Stunt mode can actually be a lot of fun.
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As many have probably seen across the Internet, the automated acceleration makes for a bizarre gameplay possibility. You can finish races, and sometimes do reasonably well without moving at all. It’s true. Which is odd, as getting high scores/fast times and being precise with the game is more difficult than it should be. This in turn, is likely to dampen its long term appeal. Outside of the occasionally inconsistent driving controls, the interface controls can be best described as ‘sticky’. You’ll move the icon, but it will act like it’s on an elastic band. So you’ll move it a bit, and it will stay for a second before over-jumping the option you want. This makes getting through menus take longer than it needs to, such as simply picking the colour of your car, which is a shame how well some of the other Kinect titles have been handled.

Kinect Joy Ride continues the trend of cleanly presented Kinect titles. All of them seem to, in the very least, run smoothly and without a hitch. Kinect Joy Ride though, actually manages to convey some flair and personality, which some of the other launch titles don’t. Sure, it’s a cutesy style taking advantage of your avatars, but it actually suits the game well enough. There isn’t too much to be said about the sound and music in the game, as you’re barely likely to notice it. Everything sounds as it should, and it fits the overall mood.

Kinect Joy Ride is an odd title to rate. The controls aren’t quite as consistent as you’d like, though it’s mainly the boost that’s the culprit. However, they’re more an annoyance rather than a game breaker. Unfortunately though, this means gunning for high scores and fast times is more difficult than it should be, while it's possible to 'play' without moving at all. For all the style and interesting use of the Kinect sensor, without the ambitious yet surprisingly functional controls, you have a barebones racing game that lacks the long term appeal of the top arcade and kart racers.
The Score
A bizzare divide between the extremes of playing the game aside, Kinect Joy Ride plays well enough to justify use of the Kinect sensor, but there really isn't enough to it otherwise.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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3 Comments
3 years ago
IMO, this is pretty close to Mario Kart, but with Kinect. I don't think that's a bad thing for fun levels, though it does lose some points for lack of innovation.

Nevertheless, it's lots of fun if you can pick it up a little cheaper than RRP.
3 years ago
I wonder what movement is needed to change gear!! icon_biggrin.gif
3 years ago
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  18/11/2010 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Microsoft Game Studios
Year Made:
  2010
Players:
  8

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