Jonas Elfving has gripped the wheel, ehum, thin air as he hits the tracks in Big Park's Kinect Joy Ride.
I don't want to play games this way. It's just silly, gimmicky and imprecise. It may be futuristic, but to control a vehicle by gripping a make believe steering wheel is a tech demo, at best.
In Kinect Joy Ride you chose a colourful ride and head out on a Mario Kart-like experience on laidback tracks. Let's start with the classic racing. The car accelerates and brakes by itself, and all you have to worry about is steering, something you do with your stretched out hands. Pull the hands towards yourself and you charge up a boost and to release it you thrust your hands towards the Kinect camera in a swift motion. Lean with your body and you will drift through corners.
After the novelty wears off it quickly grows boring. The controls, or lack there of, is what messes things up. An analogue stick or even better a proper steering wheel would obviously provide better precision, and I can accept that Kinect Joy Ride is a casual experience, easy to grasp and design for everyone. But it surprises me that it handles so sluggishly, and the so called casual crowd will see through this quickly as well.
Instead it's the game modes where we aren't racing towards the finish line that provide the entertainment. Dash offers short, boost based races where your objective is to register the best possible time. Trick sees you imitating poses while you stand on the wing of your car that has transformed into a plane. Crush lets you out on a field full of tokens and dummies to destroy. As this doesn't require the same precision from the controls it's more enjoyable, but you will tire of it after a few rounds.
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The same can be said of Stunt, where you gain speed with boosts and jump in an enormous half-pipe. There are bonuses to collect in the air, and bombs, and the objective is to reach the highest areas where most bonus items are to gain the highest possible score. You can also perform tricks by twisting and turning your body mid-air. With the help of friend you'll probably get half an hours worth of entertainment out of the stunt mode.
In the Battle mode there are power ups of various kinds to make life miserable for your opponents. Things like teleporters, mines, ice weapons and missiles. To activate them you flick your left hand wrist, a move that cannot be trust. If your Kinect doesn't pick up on your intention of launching your item, it will pick up on your strange steering wheel and you are likely to run straight into a wall. One solution to this is to use weapons while you are in the air, but that's a silly limitation.
The graphics are okay, and really the only things that's impressive about Kinect Joy Ride. The colour palette is easy going and the avatar seamlessly blend into the game. The tracks vary from cosy urban environments, to dry deserts and coastal areas with lots of palm trees.
The menus in Kinect Joy Ride are the most annoying I have ever encountered. They suffer from the same slow feel as all other Kinect titles, but they still manage to set new records when it comes to taking me "back to main menu". You reach out with your hand to chose a button with a hand icon. The problem is that the hand lags so much that you need to do it all in tai chi tempo to gain control of it. This is something that really frustrates and makes me all the more convinced of the geniality of a d-pad or analogue stick.
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Depending on your position and the number of tokens you collect you are rewarded with fans after each race. The more fans you have, the more levels and cars are unlocked. Not really the kind of incentives that excites me, and the gifts you get aren't any better. Or have about little replicas of tracks that you can look at in a special menu. They don't really do anything, they're just there.
As in other Kinect games the camera is used to snap photos of you while you play that you can look at after each race. It's comedy of the unfortunate kind. After my trail run I laughed out loud to the picture of me in my living room, with outstretched arms and a completely blank and bored face. As far away from the happy families you find in Microsoft's archive of press photos.
"Let your body become one with the car" is what Microsoft say of Kinect Joy Ride. The result is the exact opposite - I cannot remember the last time I felt this distanced from a game. Some games simply require something to hold on to.
4 / 10
Lots of modes, charming graphics.
Slow and imprecise controls, horrible menus, anonymous, quickly grows boring.