With the launch of any new gaming machine there’s got to be a number of genres covered such as shooter, action, sports and racing game. Well considering Kinect isn’t a new console not all bases are needed to be covered, and yet here we are with the absence of a number of genres and an abundance of sports, fitness, and dance based games. Of all the Kinect launch games Joyride seems to stand out offering controller free arcade like kart racing thrills. However, is there much joy in holding out your arms using an imaginary steering wheel, or should kart style racing be left firmly in the grasp of more conventional control methods? The game was originally intended as a free download only game using the avatars we’re all used to, but it evolved and now spearheads the launch of Kinect, alongside a hefty price compared to the free offering it was going to be.
Joyride is easy to get into simply because the barriers have been removed and all you’ve got to do is stand and turn an air steering wheel. There is a little more to it than that, but this is the basic premise of the game. Early demos of racing games using Kinect had you step forwards to accelerate and step back to brake except it seems this action is deemed too much to take in for the the new wave of casual Kinect adopters. This means the speed of your chosen vehicle (of which there are many), is handled by the game and you simply steer around corners as best you can. It’s novel and surprisingly intuitive, which leaves you free to lean backwards to charge up your boost and then push forwards to hurtle forwards and get the edge on the other racers. When getting air, you’re also able to perform stunts by leaning, ducking or turning to one side, which is also very easy and might help you gain a few places. Having to worry about speed as well might have proven too much for some, so the decision to take this aspect of racing away seems like a sensible one.
Joyride’s progression is built around gaining fans by winning and partaking in the various modes on offer. Accumulate enough fans and you’ll unlock a new track, vehicle or even extra skins for your cars. It’s simple, but can, and will take a while to amass the fans needed for the better stuff. The two main racing modes of play are probably the best places to gain fans with the ‘pro mode’ simply being a straight up 3 lap race with no distractions and the ‘battle mode’ more like the kart racers we all know and love. The battle mode has you racing and collecting power ups to unleash on your opponents, but due to the rubber band AI means that races are always close where only the truly skilled will gain any sizeable lead.
There are some other modes where you’ll be performing stunts using basic body movements with the aim of amassing a set number of points. A solo dash mini game where boosting speed is key whilst avoiding obstacles littered about the track. A smash mode where you’ll be tasked with driving around arenas smashing into objects and thus gaining points. Lastly a trick mode where you’ll be required to mimic the moves of your avatar as you soar through the air in your vehicle which has sprouted wings. It’s bizarre but also very entertaining especially as you get to view photos of yourselves looking silly afterwards.
Joyride’s racing is frantic and pretty engaging, but there are a few cracks using Kinect. The fact that you’ve got this loss of basic control of your vehicle means that you’ll lose a major element of control when cornering, which results in hitting the track edges. The AI is also pretty aggressive and on occasion will knock you off course or block your pathway. For a game that’s steeped in simplicity, these actions do mar the overall enjoyment you’ll receive as they come across as annoying rather than acts of intelligent AI behaviour. That said, with practice you can clear the pack, possibly find a secret route and avoid the pitfalls.
Joyride features functional graphics that you’d expect for a game which has avatars galore. There’s no realism here as it’s strictly a cartoon like appearance throughout. The menus are easy to navigate and everything on offer is highly accessible within a few hand gestures. Once very neat feature is being able to paint your vehicle using the Kinect camera. Simply scan your clothes, skin, hair or even a picture and the colour will be placed on your chosen vehicle. It’s clever and means you can add a personal touch to your racing.
Controlling your vehicle seems to be pretty much spot on, however, you’ll possibly notice on occasion some auto steering which can be a little intrusive when aiming for the more selective routes on the tracks making you hit barriers and then losing your position. The tracking feels pretty natural overall as you perform moves and lean around corners but the sheer nature of no manual speed control will possibly grate for some players.
The music is rather subdued and not something you’ll think about outside of the menus. It’s all about the racing and in this regard the game delivers expect sound effects to suit. There’s really not a lot that can be said as the audio is functional, nothing more, nothing less.
Joyride features several modes of play for the lone player to rack up fans and move on to the next race or mini-game. It will take a while to get to the cooler stuff, and perhaps only the most dedicated will spend the time holding that imaginary wheel to get them in one sitting. However, over time, you’ll find that there’s always something to strive for and in this regard you’ll keep playing. Even once you’ve unlocked everything, you can still continue playing for the fun of it.
If solo play isn’t your thing then naturally friends and family can jump in and heat things up in the living room with some competitive play. If that’s too much then you can take to Xbox Live and race other players around the world.
Despite a few hiccups with the tracking and an unorthodox handling of the vehicles, Joyride is a solid racing game at heart. The basic race modes are fun to play and when you’ve got some practice you’ll easily nail the tougher corners and boost your way to victory. It’s not the most challenging of racers, but still a very engaging one. The extra mini-games do feel a bit like filler content, but are welcome additions all the same especially if you’ve got several players huddled around the TV. It’s easy to recommend Joyride simply because as of now there’s nothing else like it for Kinect. However, if you’re after a more serious take on racing using Kinect, then you might want to hold out for a while. As it stands, if it’s good clean family fun you’re after, then this is a great place to start your engines.