Joy Ride Turbo Review
Made2Game Joy Ride Turbo Review Score: 6/10
Format: Xbox 360
Developer: Big Park Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Reviewed by: James Bowden
There's a brilliant moment – well, track – not too far into Joy Ride Turbo that deserves kudos all on its own. Dubbed 'Badlands Motorplex' this is a Forza-like loop of tight turns and chicanes that offers something slightly different to Joy Ride Turbo's other, more typical 'foot to the floor' karting circuits. It also feels like the biggest metaphorical middle finger imaginable aimed squarely at the Kinect, a device that hamstrung the first Joy Ride into casually orientated obscurity a year and a half ago.
You can just imagine developers BigPark all gathered around a copy of Joy Ride shouting 'The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you!' in an attempt to excise Kinect's devilish possession of their game, and Joy Ride Turbo was what remained.
That's right, Kinect is gone. This is Joy Ride as we were introduced to it at E3 2009. With controller in hand Joy Ride Turbo re-instates your ability to brake and turn with subtlety. It's also able to realize the funky stunt parks it always wanted thanks to the advanced level of control offered by those wonderful, tangible buttons and sticks.
But hold on, wait a second, roll it back, I'm not for one minute trying to insinuate that Joy Ride Turbo is in any way a marvel of tight, focused control. Joy Ride Turbo is certainly no Outrun 2. It's skid-y, bouncy, chunky, and weapons seem to be fling you around the track with little thought given to logic or balance. But it's this riotous, weighty physics model combined with the copious amounts of fragile scenery that all feed into making Joy Ride Turbo a surprising laugh to play.
Flying in the face of sensibility, again, is the track design. Joy Ride Turbo's canyons, Chinese streets and dockyards present snaking webs of alternate paths. Small alleys lead to track leaping bounds, while a barnyard to the right might house a secret item box. But rarely are these alternate routes clear cut shortcuts, they normally serve to provide flow and giggles.
Example – I was racing happily along the main track when all of a sudden my friend jammed a rocket up my tailpipe, overtaking under my airborne vehicle. However my car landed on the raised road to the right, which I sped along, coming back into the race with a beautiful jump landing square next to my assailant. He thought he'd got away and was shocked to see me so close.
Weapons tend to do that a lot, hurling you off the main track. One shockwave weapon in particular leaves you in control and just rudely shifts you aside slightly. Well, quite a bit if you catch it right. But that's the beauty of Joy Ride Turbo's circuits, they're rarely confined to a basic track. Some may see this design as unfocused, but it's hard to ignore the joy and revelry of being launched off the track through a cacophony of splintering wood, suddenly correcting your course around an incoming rock and then veering back onto the track without losing your composure.
Joy Ride Turbo's karting seems to bottle the snap reactions, spontaneity and cruelty to inanimate objects commonly associated with a bar room brawl and apply them to the Kart racer, imbuing it with a sense of Loony Toons brand fun that is often missing from even the genre's best.
Unfortunately for Joy Ride Turbo, and in this case I find it hugely regrettable as the core racing is so brilliantly weighty and silly, it does come up short in numerous other areas.
The game is only ten tracks big for starters, ignoring the two collect-a-thon stunt parks. The problem with this is that all ten tracks are 'good enough', with none being particularly wow-some or memorable. The second issue is that unlocking anything is a long and laborious task – every new vehicle and paint job requires you to find three car parts, hidden in the races or stunt parks, and then cough up large sums of coins, also collected from races and stunt parks, to actually unlock them. This adds up to a game with lots to collect, but not much ground in which to collect them – repetition can set in unfortunately fast.
Yet that's not reason enough to dismiss Joy Ride Turbo. What developers BigPark have created is still a unique, chunky and brilliantly boistrous cousin to the karting genre that manages to entertain in spades, even with its slightly anaemic content spread. Joy Ride Turbo may be unspectacular in many ways but this is a great party racer for four offline or eight online that one can't help but just enjoy. The fact that it manages to excise the pesky ghost of Kinect in the process is just a delicious cherry on top.
Words by James Bowden (Twitter: @Dalagonash)