The original Kinect Joy Ride was an admirable attempt at a controller-free kart racer, but wasn't able to fully live up to its potential due to the limitations placed on it by the Kinect. Now, with a controller-only setup, Joy Ride Turbo feels like the game the original was always meant to be. Everything you wanted to do before but couldn't is now possible.
It really is surprising to see how big a difference being able to actually accelerate and brake can make in the experience. Instead of having the game automate those things, now you've got complete control over them, and as expected, the left and right triggers work well for them. Boosting, before a chore due to unresponsive controls, is now easily handled with the B button, while weapons are used with the A button. Like before, you have the option of pro races (without weapons) or battle races (which use them).
The core racing game is fun, if usually unspectacular outside of the trick system. That is probably the best part of the game because of how fun it is to just spin your avatar and car around in a bunch of different directions. It reminds me a lot of the PS2/Wii Speed Racer game, and adds a lot of excitement to the races. While that aspect stands out greatly, if you've played a kart racer, you know what to expect here from the battle mode – race, get some sort of boost, front, and back projectile and use them as wisely as possible. The ice projectile mixes things up a bit, and brings about some thrills like cursing when you get hit by it, only to realize that you're going into a straightaway, and heading into an item box, leading to a weapon grab of your own as revenge. Moments like that are exciting, while the rest are usually forgettable. It is worth noting that rubber band AI isn't a problem, and you don't have to worry about the last lap becoming a frustrating 1st-to-8th affair due to a combination of it and poor weapon balancing.
The tracks themselves have a lot of interesting branching paths, which encourages the right kind of replaying. A variety of vehicles and racing series exclusive to each kind are available, but go by awfully quickly due to the relatively small track design, which leads me to think is the reason the developers added in finding crates for new car parts. Finding all of the parts scattered across the land (something you should probably only do in time trial mode unless you like tasting defeat a lot) will allow you to get new vehicles, but it winds up feeling like busy work – and not particularly fun busy work.
Sometimes, that isn't true – like when you have to nail a PERFECT jump to hit a crate, but usually, you've got to go off the beaten path, find something, and hope that it winds up being a part you want. You can also find a lot of them scattered around the stunt parks, which do allow you to pull off some sweet moves, but are also a bit too vast for their own good and the fun in them wears thin quickly. In that sense, it's an example of the wrong kind of replaying a game because you're doing it out of a sense of obligation, instead of trying to have more fun.
Online play is a tad limited compared to other kart racers on the market, but does feature lag-free play with up to eight players, and the community actually doesn't seem to be made up of poor sports who can't stand losing. Offline, you can have up to four players, although in this HDTV age, playing with more than two people results in a cramped view for everyone.
Visually, Turbo looks about the same as Kinect Joy Ride. The environments are very bright and cheerful, with many sporting a southwest theme that reminds me a lot of Samba De Amigo, only far more sterile. Everything looks a bit too perfect in the game, although that does make being able to destroy a few roadside objects like cranes due to high jumps that much more exciting. The music also has a southwest flavor to it, and is slightly catchy, but probably won't stick with you afterwards.
Joy Ride Turbo isn't perfect, but does wind up delivering a more satisfying racing experience than its predecessor. It controls far better with an actual controller than without it and is delivers a lot of fun. The only qualms I have with it are the sterile world, busy work caused by searching for car parts, and forgettable music. Outside of those issues, it's a blast to play and is a pretty good kart racer. I wouldn't say it was the best out there though – even for the 360, since Sonic and Sega All-Stars does everything this does but better. Still, at $10, this isn't terribly priced, and is a good game to get if you've got the Sega one and want something new.
This review is based on a digital copy of Joy Ride Turbo for Xbox Live Arcade provided by Microsoft Game Studios.