When Microsoft released Kinect Joy Ride a year and a half ago for its Xbox 360, it left audiences torn. While casual players and kids got a kick out of holding onto an imaginary steering wheel and performing tricks, others just didn’t get the “feel” of the game, and left it behind in favor of the more hardcore racing terrain of Forza MotorSport 3. With that, the company, in association with the development team at BigPark, opted to remake the game the way it was originally intended, as a downloadable release for Xbox Live Arcade. So, now that Joy Ride Turbo has returned to its roots, is it a better run around the block? Actually, yes.
The game is structured in the same manner as most racers usually go these days. You get to pick your driver and vehicle (most of the time you can associate your default Avatar character), then take on a number of modes where you prove your racing skills. As you compete, you can perform a number of stunts to help fill your boost meter, including drifts around corners and performing flips in the air, with you dangling from the steering wheel. It’s all the stuff you experienced from the previous Kinect game, but with much more practical controls.
In addition to Championship and Quick Race modes, you can also select the new Stunt Park, a place where you can go crazy jumping off cliffs and over ramps, flying in the air like a skateboarder as you prove your worth. Like the stunt park previously introduced in the Nintendo 64 version of San Francisco Rush, it has its moments of derring-do, but then you’ll be right back to the racing – which is the way to go.
The game also includes multiplayer. You can take on up to four friends in local split-screen mode, which runs fairly smooth and has numerous modes available; or you can log in to Xbox Live and challenge seven fellow drivers in events. Though the lobby wasn’t bursting with potential drivers, we found enough folks to cruise around with to make it worth our while.
I’ll be honest, Joy Ride Turbo isn’t a game to turn to when you look for originality. ModNation Racers, Mario Kart…this game is influenced by them, including power-ups (lock on missile, anyone?) and drifting techniques. But there’s still something engagingly fun about being able to use regular controls with it, rather than holding your arms up and trying to steer something you’re not gripping. It also makes linking stunts together and using boost a lot easier, something those players who passed on Joy Ride Kinect will appreciate.