Joy Ride Turbo review

When Joy Ride Kinect came out in late 2010, it offered mixed results.  To kids and casual players, it offered a different way to drive around, sticking your arms in front of you and twisting them around while you held an invisible steering wheel.  But to everyone else, the motion controls felt unnecessary, especially considering that Big Park first put the game together as a racing experience to use with a traditional controller.  Well, it turns out someone at Microsoft was listening, because now we got the Joy Ride game as it was originally intended — as a downloadable release for Xbox Live Arcade.

Joy Ride Turbo carries the same concept as its Kinect brethren, as you race around a series of tracks through championship and quick races, competing against other drivers by earning boost from tricks (aerial and drifting) and occasionally using power-ups and boost pads to get the jump on the opposition.  This includes the usual gamut of cart-racing tools, including mines and homing missiles.  While the game doesn’t exactly thrive on its originality, Joy Ride Turbo has energy to spare.

Perhaps it’s the way the game feels with regular controls.  Your arms can take a break this time around as you coast around turns and through shortcuts using the good ol’ analog stick and buttons.  It’s a good control scheme that’s fairly easy to get into, and you’ll be filling up the boost meter in no time.

The only problem here is that the game is a little too easy.  We were taking first place wins in the championship mode with very little opposition from the idiotic AI racers, though that’s a nice change of pace from the relentless AI that pounds you in Sony’s ModNation Racers… right?

On the bright side, there are other options available.  There’s a new Stunt Park added in to Turbo, where you can race up ramps and perform feats of derring-do as a way to kill some time.  The game also provides ample multiplayer options, both in local four-player split-screen (which runs wonderfully) and eight player online Xbox Live racing.  Though the lobby is hardly as full as we’d care for it to be, there are still more than enough racers to get involved.

The visuals are pleasant.  While there isn’t too much diversity in the track design, it’ll keep you on your toes as you go through loops and over ramps.  The frame rate is quite acceptable — even with split-screen — and the option to add your personal Avatar into the mix (what the game was originally conceived for) is great.  However, the music’s a little dry, with too many themes sounding like they came out of the Driver universe (I almost expected some CHiPs cops to show up) and not nearly enough good sound effects.  It could’ve been worse, though.  At least the tires won’t grate on your nerves as you go into a drift.

Perhaps Joy Ride Turbo’s finest benefit is its price.  Where the over-hyped Kinect version sold for $50, Joy Ride Turbo goes for a terrific $10.  And it doesn’t even take that much space on your Xbox hard drive, compared to most other driving games.

Sure, Joy Ride Turbo isn’t the go-to game for top-notch driving, but it’s a breezy little ride that’s well worth taking this time around, now that it’s more practical, not to mention affordable.  Stray yourself in and go for the Ride.