Somewhere there’s a table, and on it are all the mechanics and systems of kart racing games. Joy Ride Turbo isn’t necessarily a kart racing game (there are no karts in it) but it definitely owes its existence to Mario Kart et al.
Two. Yes, just two sentences before the inevitable mention of Mario Kart. If you guessed that then come and collect your no-prize.
You see, it’s impossible to review Joy Ride Turbo without mentioning Mario Kart because everything in the game has its origins there. Short cuts, drifting, jump stunts, boosting, weapons, the championship structure, Joy Ride Turbo has hardly any original ideas of its own.
The “short cuts” are the biggest problem, because they’re short cuts in name alone; in practice they’re just alternative routes through tracks. They’ve been designed in such a way that navigating them takes exactly the same amount of time as just following the track would do, but yet they still retain that element of increased difficulty that all good short cuts contain. So all the risk, but with none of the reward. This means it won’t take long until the player just doesn’t bother with the short cuts at all and sticks to the track. There are hidden “car parts” on each track and the short cuts seem designed to hide these and nothing more; once the hidden item is found there’s no need to go back.
Then when you begin experimenting with the driving mechanics, it becomes apparent that they don’t really work either. There are two main systems, and both are used to build your boost bar, which can be activated with B (on a controller!) for a very short, well, boost. Of speed.
The first way to build it is by drifting, but drifts are very slow and cause you to take corners at such odd angles that the time you lose drifting is never made up for by the amount of boost you can earn. So it won’t take long before the player doesn’t bother with drifting, either. The second way to increase boost is jump stunts. When airborne, these are performed by holding either of the analogue sticks which spin and flip the car. The more stunts you do, the more boost you build. Jumping opportunities are usually found off-track in those short cuts, and the time spent in the air is often so slow that the boost you earn… well you can you see where this is going. Players will soon be ignoring any opportunity for jump stunts other than those that come in the normal course of the track.
The problem, then, is perhaps that despite its appearances and despite its mechanics, Joy Ride Turbo can’t be played like a kart racing game at all. In order to have the most success, players need to stay on track as much as possible and they need to ignore the temptation to build their boost bar. This means what you’re left with is not much more than a traditional racing game wearing the clothes of a kart racer.
Even if you’ve never played Joy Ride Turbo, you could still work out half the weapons in the game. Turbo? Check. Fake item box? Check. Shield? Check. Blue shell? Check. It’s not a blue shell, of course, but it certainly targets the leader, which is fine if you’re using it, but really annoying if you’re the leader. All the usual suspects are present and correct and it’s really these weapons which keep Joy Ride Turbo in the kart racing genre.
The Sir Mix-a-lot fans among you might be able to sense that there’s a `but` coming (or should that be `butt?) .
Joy Ride Turbo isn’t really a very good kart racer, but it is still a fun racing game regardless of all its faults. If you don’t try to play it as a kart racer, then the handling model makes the game very playable. Cars can handle quite erratically, but that’s no bad thing. It means that they’re always entertaining to drive, and you can never zone out because heading off track makes it very easy to lose control. Accept the game for what it is and there’s no reason why you can’t get a lot of enjoyment from its ten tracks and two stunt parks, especially when playing with friends.
The stunt parks are huge open areas, each full of ramps and half-pipes and hidden passages. They’re also full of trophies which hang in the air out in the open and you must work out how to collect them. Some of them are very well placed, requiring insane jumps from miles away and it’s almost a puzzle in of itself about how to reach them. Finally collecting one of these is very satisfying. Also present are crates full of “car parts,” and these are equally hard to obtain but as well as that, they’re often quite well hidden. More of these parks as DLC in the future would be very welcome indeed because the exploration aspect is unlike any other racing game.
These car parts must be collected in order to unlock the 40+ vehicles in the game. Each requires three parts to unlock, and then a number of coins to purchase. Coins are collected by winning championships, and the championships are split into different classes; 100, 200 and 300HP – this almost feels very familiar, for some reason. Who knows why. The same vehicles are usable in each class, though the later classes are faster and more difficult, of course. The AI is fairly stupid, unfortunately, so “more difficult” never actually means “difficult.”
Somewhere there’s a table, and on it are all the mechanics and systems of kart racing games. Joy Ride Turbo has waltzed up to the table but it’s forgotten to bring anything with it. Still, that’s not necessarily bad and for a service that’s been lacking a fun kart racer for seven years it’s almost welcome to have something try so hard to be traditional.
While it makes a whole load of missteps along the way it still manages to be enjoyable and, as with any kart racer, it can really shine in multiplayer.