Kinect Joy Ride may not be my favorite game on Kinect (very far from it, in fact), but I’ve got to give it kudos for at least one thing: you can play it while sitting. Holy moly! Glory Hallelujah! I don’t have to stand uncomfortably during loading screens anymore! However, that jovial celebration wore off quickly as I realized Kinect Joy Ride was one of the more vapid and frustrating games to be released at the Kinect launch.
As gamers we all tend to go a little softer on launch software than we do on games that come out a year or more down the line. There are a number of reasons for this. We’re excited about the new hardware, and we’re also understanding of the fact that games are hard to make on new systems. There are all sorts of lessons developers need to learn over the course of several games developed on a system, and that takes time.
Kinect Joy Ride will be afforded that courtesy, but it still won’t be enough to excuse this game’s terrible controls and complete lack of depth. Joy Ride could have served as an interesting tech demo at Microsoft’s booth at an industry trade show or something similar, but that’s about all. The fact that they’ve released this anemic package to the retail market and, worse yet, they’re charging $50 for it, is an insult to gamers.
Within a half-hour of gameplay, Joy Ride has essentially shown all of its cards. You’re very unlikely to encounter anything after that point that will completely take you by surprise. During race events you slowly (and I mean slowly) gain fans that will allow you to unlock new cars and race tracks. The problem is that the huge majority of both of these things are extremely similar. Each track is generally pretty wel- rendered, but in substance it’s almost exactly the same as the track that came before it.
The story is exactly the same with all of the unlockable cars. Many of them look good, but they drive similarly. It’s hard to tell the difference between even the most disparate varieties of cars. That’s all due to the downright awful controls.
As with many other games released at Kinect’s launch, we really don’t know yet whether Kinect is to blame or if the individual games are to blame for poor controls. But what we do know is that Joy Ride is the poster child for what Kinect is not capable of, and it will be a substantial hit to the entire racing genre on Kinect. Gamers who spend their money on this game will not be likely to reinvest in another racing game when it comes around.
The Kinect controls have you holding out your hands in mid-air pretending to hold a steering wheel. This is the first problem. As everybody knows, hovering your arms out in front of you for more than sixty seconds is bound to lead to sore arms. It’s not a pleasant experience. But even while you’re doing that, Joy Ride isn’t doing a good job of interpreting your movements anyway. One moment you’ll be gently twisting your wrists to do a slight turn, and Kinect will completely ignore you. Then move your hands just slightly more and you’ll go careening into a wall. And that’s only if you’re lucky enough to have all of that picked up by the sensor. Far too often you’ll just be ignored entirely.
Joy Ride isn’t a completely awful game. At the very least, the graphical presentation is actually quite nice. All the cars are modeled well, and the tracks have a great cartoonish vibe to them. The desert tracks have a distinct Roadrunner vs Wile E. Coyote feeling to them, which I really enjoyed. If only traveling through them to see more wasn’t such a hassle.
The game also supports a decent amount of game modes, although in this case it’s quantity over quality. Only a couple of these modes are actually worth playing more than once. Others are like “Smash,” which tasks you with smashing wooden statues, and “Trick” which is…well…out of place. In Trick, your car sprouts wings and you need to do poses on the wings. Yeah, I don’t really know why.
The only really decent games are the racing modes. You can either play a straightforward race or a race with missiles and other destructive things added in. But, again, if you’re playing that then you’re subjecting yourself to the spotty control system that will make you want to drive off a cliff more than once.
The other problem with these game modes is that there’s no sense of speed or control. Arcade racers like Mario Kart and Burnout succeed because they give you that edge-of-control sensation that causes you to get excited and feel the competition. Kinect Joy Ride has none of that, and the game suffers badly for it. In comparison to marquis arcade racers, or even just average arcade racers, Joy Ride gets left in the dust. If only they had allowed for the use of a control pad. Maybe then it could have salvaged just a bit of fun.
I hate to say it, but Joy Ride may be bad for the entire genre, and it’s certainly bad for the Kinect system. Microsoft should consider it a loss every time they sell a copy of Joy Ride because that’s one more customer who will likely be turned off to the entire idea of racing on Kinect.
There are so many things that Kinect Joy Ride needs fixed before it could even be considered close to worth its full retail value of $50. Even if all of the control problems were fixed, you’d still be left with a boring racing game full of identical tracks, indistinguishable cars, and pointless game modes.
There aren’t any other options for racing game fans in the Kinect launch line-up, and that’s a shame. There aren’t even any mini-game collections that feature racing. If you’re one of the gamers who is intrigued by the idea of using motion control to pilot a vehicle, just stay away. This game just isn’t worth your time, and it’s certainly not worth your money. We hope one day we’ll see some of this game’s transgressions corrected, but until then we’re just going to try to forget that this one even happened. As a much cheaper experience, Joy Ride might have had some merit, but the price they are asking for this package is absurd compared to the competition on the market.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.0 Graphics
There’s a decent cartoonish vibe throughout the game, and it’s nice to be able to use your own avatar. 1.5 Control
The signature problem with the entire package. Sometimes Kinect barely sees your hands, and other times it sees your hands, but it’s too hard to control anyway. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
A fairly standard soundtrack that hits all the necessary bases without ever becoming superlative. 2.0 Play Value
There’s not enough content in this package, and the progression aspects are woefully lacking. For the most part you’re expected to keep playing to rank up stats, rather than a compelling campaign. 2.0 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.