It’s like driving.
Joyride, from BigPark Inc., was originally announced quite a while back to be a kart racing game that used the Xbox Live Avatars. At the time it looked like it was going to be really good. But then it changed direction slightly and became the first Kinect enabled driving game, of sorts.
Joyride has taken an interesting approach to the Kinect control method, in that layers have no control over their acceleration or braking. All of this is controlled by the game, with the player being responsible only for the steering and a few other actions in the game. This one fact is the games biggest success, whilst also being it’s biggest fault. By removing the ability to choose speed and when to brake, the game takes away a lot of the control from the player and removes a certain amount of competitiveness. It also makes the idea of unlocking new vehicles, of which there are a few, slightly less appealing, as all of the vehicles within the game work exactly the same.
But the flip side of this is a game that is very easily accessible by even the most game-shy family relative. It means the game can be played pretty much on the same level, no matter how good they are at gaming. And it also allows for some very cool Kinect steering action.
Seriously, there is nothing cooler than grabbing hold of an imaginary steering wheel and then watching your car swerve from side to side as you twist your hands. Considering the number of different ways that people envisage their invisible wheel, Kinect does a great job of detecting what the player is trying to do and translating that in to the game. Everyone who I showed this to was more than impressed.
But there are another few moves that are needed for the game. Thrusting out your imaginary steering wheel will result in boost being activated, leaning in the direction of the corners will help with drift and bending or twisting whilst the car is in the air will pull off some impressive tricks. Most interesting is how the game deals with pick ups that the player can use during battles. These simply hover alongside the car and the player activates them by moving their hand over them.
When it comes to different game modes, Joyride has a fair few to offer. Should you fancy a straight forward race against either the AI or friends locally and online, setting decent times in the time trail, racking up the points with some gnarly tricks in the stunt challenge, or even a high speed dash to the finish through obstacle littered tracks, it’s all catered for. If your tastes run to a bit more of a destructive flavour, then the battles using your standard kart racing style pick ups or the satisfyingly destructive smash mode will see you fulfilling your destructive needs.
As players progress through the game, either as their own Avatar or using one of the likely characters provided, they will gather followers. These followers will allow the player to unlock new rides or tracks. Believe me, it will take a huge amount of racing to get everything that this game has to offer.
It is not all peaches and cream though. This game is casual in the extreme and would be best described as a party game that revolves around driving, rather than a driving game. A lot of gamers will be disappointed by this, but will just have to wait for a more serious offering to come along. Also, the game seems to spend far too long navigating the numerous menus. And, finally, the game suffers from something which affects most party games, in that after a short while they just become less interesting.
But, as with all of the Microsoft published Kinect launch titles, the game is finished to an incredibly high standard. The visuals in the game and accompanying sounds could all be straight out of a cartoon, giving a Nickelodeon feel that all but the most stone hearted gamer can appreciate. It should also be worth a mention that this game was the most forgiving of limited space in the living room, happily accommodating two players in the six foot I have available.
Kinect Joyride is not the karting game that most players hoped it would be, but rather a driving-based party game. But, once that fact has been accepted, it does make for a damn good party game that literally anyone can play. And there is something magical about holding your hands in front of you and grasping an imaginary steering wheel.