Kinect Joy RideESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Kinect Sensor Required
Activity Level: Standing-Active
2-8 Players Online
2 Player Cooperative (Online and Offline)
Hard Drive Required
I remember when I first saw the debut for Joy Ride at E3 2009. At that time the game was slated to be an Xbox LIVE Arcade title that was free to download and you would pay for further content. The game looked kinda cool and I thought it would make a pretty neat XBLA title. Well after that debut there was no more information about the game. Fast forward to E3 2010, and the Kinect was officially unveiled at a Cirque De Soleil themed event. It was during this same E3 that the world was to learn that Joy Ride had become a Kinect exclusive title. I did have a chance to play the game on the show floor during my tour of Microsoft’s booth. While I was definitely interested, I was not 100% sold it was a system seller. Well the Kinect is finally on store shelves and I had a chance to play the final retail version of the game.
Visually Joy Ride is a decent looking game. Sure, it is not a realistic looking driving title, but yet it still does not look like an over the top cartoony kart racer either. Regardless the in-game graphics engine is pretty solid. You’ll definitely find some nice scenery to keep your visual senses happy such as desert mountains, an oriental palace/castle, a Mexican inspired town, bright blue sky, and white fluffy clouds, not to mention a decent draw distance as well. I didn’t find too many technical issues either as there was little to no slow down and clipping was kept to a bare minimum. If I did find the latter, it was due to my ability to land my car in a strange spot on the track from a jump, or something like that. You’ll even find a nice smattering of special effects, such as a screen blur when you use the speed burst option. Overall most should be happy with the look of Joy Ride.
Overall there is some pretty solid, but not over the top, sound here. From the sounds of each vehicle, to the sound of the crowd cheering you on or the sound of grabbing a power up or token on the road, each beep, squeal or chime manages to fit in quite nicely as you play. As well, there is some nice music too. I can’t seem to put my finger on exactly what the inspiration for the music is; however what I can say is that is definitely suits the game that it is made for and it won’t get on your nerves as you play. Good for BigPark as games like this need music that won’t grate you.
The fact that Joy Ride is a Kinect exclusive title makes it interesting given that you do not use a traditional controller to play. You hold out your arms and hands in such a way that you are holding an imaginary steering wheel. You only need to move your hands left or right, as if you were holding said steering wheel, to turn the car in the direction of choice. You control your speed boost by pulling back your arms to ‘charge’ it, then push them forward to activate it. You also have the ability to use power ups (weapons), and this is accomplished by holding one of your hands out to the side as well as pulling off stunts by moving your body (e.g. spinning). All in all the Kinect sensor doesn’t do a bad job at all of recognizing these motions. There were a few times that the sensor didn’t recognize when I was trying to power up my turbo, but other than that there were rarely any sensor issues.
What somewhat surprised me with Joy Ride was the number of modes available to play. You’ll find some standard racing modes (Pro Race) as well as some competitive Battle Racing. These two modes can be played in multiplayer flavours both online and offline. Of note is that these two modes are the only online ones period. The main difference between the two is that Battle Races allows the use of power-ups such as freezing your opponent's wheels to the track or teleporting ahead of the player(s) in front of you. There is also a Stunt mode where you get to drive on courses more akin to a skate park than a traditional track. You will also find Smash events where you must smash statues in arenas and eventually take a shot at a giant boss statue. Finally, you have Dash and Trick modes. Dash mode is a time trial event where you collect items and avoid obstacles whereas Trick mode allows you to do do more wild tricks or whatnot.
The courses you race on are pretty fun. Each of the modes has tracks specific to their mode, and they really work quite well. Joy Ride is a light hearted affair, so the tracks themselves manage to treat you the same way. The computer AI puts up a good fight too, but not too good in the sense that they are not cheap or overly frustrating to race against. As well, the computer AI manages to fill spots in multiplayer racing populated with some other people, so if you don’t fill the track so to speak, you’ll have other cars on the track to race against.
What was really enjoyable here is that the game rewards you no matter what place you finish. As you manage to finish events, you gain fans, and the more fans you get the larger your fan base becomes, and the larger your fan base becomes the more vehicles and events you open, giving you more reason to play. If there is any complaint here, it is that the vehicles only look different, and don’t handle different; but hey, seeing your avatar in different looking rides is pretty cool.
For some added replayability, there is the challenge of beating the bronze, silver and gold medal times for every event on the disc. You also have leaderboards to challenge as well, and being able to best your friends' time on any given leaderboard gives you a sense of accomplishment and some bragging rights to boot. Add this to the fact that it will take you around 8-10 hours to open all the substantial stuff, the game is not too light on stuff to do.
If you are paying attention to all of this, you should notice two key things missing: accelerating and braking. Joy Ride handles this aspect of the game. I believe this occurs for two reasons, the first being to allow for the implementation of the motion controls and the second reason is to allow some simplicity for a wide audience to play (e.g. the young ones in the house). This is where some of the issues lie for Joy Ride. Racing games in general, even kart based or arcady type games, require some precision for control and the motion controls for Joy Ride do not offer that much precision. Turning in one direction or another is not the issue here, but turning just a hair one way or another is as you don’t have the ability to limit how far you turn. There were more than a few times during my gameplay that I wished for more precision as I missed an object or power up as I under or over compensated my turn(s). This is the only real negative that I can find toward the gameplay department, but it is somewhat of a big one given that precision is key here.
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