Kinect Joy Ride started life as an Xbox Live Arcade title before Microsoft reworked it for Kinect and sent it to retail. As such it’s simplistic, accessible and entertaining, but whether it’s worth the money is debatable.
Control in Joy Ride is as simple as can be: hold out your hands and turn them to steer. Acceleration and braking is done for you, leaving you to focus on three key skills: drifting, boosting and executing stunts.
Drifting is a matter of leaning into turns, letting you maintain your speed whilst sliding around corners, with rewards for holding longer drifts. Boosts are generated by pulling your hands closer to your body, building a meter before pushing your hands forward to unleash a speed increase, and stunts are easily executed by bending, leaning or twisting your body when your car is airborne.
The removal of all control over acceleration, plus the lack of anything physical in your hands, means your first race is likely to bewilder as much as entertain. The initial pace isn’t too fast, so you’ll never feel your car is racing away from you, but learning to negotiate the courses without anything in your hands is an odd experience to say the least. Whilst the wide and lazy corners of the opening circuits should be handled with ease, once you take on the last few courses you’ll find it tougher to make it around. It’s as if the steering wheel on your in-game car only turns by so many degrees, making tight turns trickier than they should be.
Masking the game’s XBLA roots is a decent amount of content, steadily drip-fed through to you as you accumulate fans of your racing prowess. There’s the choice of racing with or without weapons, both of which are playable online with up to seven others, or any combination of players and AI bots to make the numbers up to eight racers. Online play is smooth and lag-free, and worth dropping into if you can’t rustle up any players offline.
It’s not all straightforward racing though, with a range of other driving minigames to dabble in. Probably the best is the stunt mode which puts your car in a half-pipe and challenges you to execute as many stunts as possible within the time limit, racking up points along the way. The extremely physical nature of this mode makes it a lot of fun, and the score attack element will hold your interest as improved scores unlock medals and more. It’s also a mode that doesn’t rely on tight handling and full control over acceleration and braking, a definite advantage.
Smash mode is the opposite in many ways, asking you to crash into statues of various sizes to accumulate points. It’s an odd mode that relies on tighter steering than the game is often able to offer, as you need to execute donuts to achieve high scores but the turning circles never feel quite tight enough to fit right.
Playing Dash mode is another control method altogether: racing down a track separated into lanes, you slide between lanes to avoid obstacles and attempt to set the best time possible. Removing the need for any kind of steering simplifies the game even further, quite an achievement in itself, but there’s some fun to be had in these quick rushes to the finish line.
The final mode is also the strangest as it has nothing to do with racing or steering at all. Trick mode sees your car take to the skies, your avatar perched on a wing, and you must mimic poses display on screen for reasons that are never fully explained. The body detection for this is picky to put it politely, often requiring you to lift an elbow slightly or gently bend a knee, but as some poses require you to stand parallel to the screen it’s often impossible to tell where your pose is going wrong.
Kinect Joy Ride is simple in every way, from its inoffensive cartoony presentation to the music that’ll make your head bop. There’s a few nice touches along the way – you can paint your car the same colour as any item you hold up to Kinect – and there’s a wealth of courses, cars and styles to unlock if you’re persistent. Some modes are certainly better than others, playing next to a friend is always more fun, but once the initial novelty of driving a car with only your hands has worn off you’ll realise this isn’t worth the full asking price.