Support Andy, click to buy via us...
Kinect Joy Ride offers simple racing with surprisingly natural hands-free controls. The playful steering is mirrored throughout Joy Ride's imaginative modes and challenges.
Joy Ride was going to be a pay-as-you-go XBLA game where you purchased tracks as you needed them. Now called Kinect Joy Ride it has taken on the mantle of the first driving game on the 360's new hands-free system.
It's the same 360 avatar led Karting game, but now you simple hold an imaginary wheel to steer. It sounds a little odd, but it's one of the most natural gestures I've used to control a game. And it hooks into something I've long seen my kids mimic from the back seat of the car - pretending to steer, change gears, honk the horn and of course skid round corners.
Like the playful hands-up indication that Kinect Sports asks for when you are ready to play, the steering wheel controls here feel wonderfully playful - I couldn't help smiling.
On top of these you can pull your arms back to charge a boost then thrust them forward to trigger it. In the Battle mode you can also reach your arm left or right to fire various weapons you collect.
Put a child in front of the game - as we did - and tell them to just steer is pretty much all the instruction they need. The rest of the game just works. Acceleration and braking is handled for you. If you need a little more corning you can stick your bum out to drift, something our five year old found hysterical to watch.
There are the usual racing modes like Race and Battle, along with shorter races like Dash. On top of these Joy Ride offers a Stunt mode where you pull off tricks in the air by leaning in a direction to try and score the most points. There is also a Trick minigame where players have to mimic an on screen silhouette to win points. These are rounded off by a demolition style Smash game where players have to destroy as many things as possible.
If you need a little more corning you can stick your bum out to drift, something our five year old found hysterical to watch.
As you progress you win fans, who eventually start donating you new outfits and cars. A levelling up system ensures the challenge always matches your abilities and new tracks are unlocked at a steady pace to add variety.
This is all good clean family fun, but what impressed us most were the player detection functions of Kinect. I think you'll find these on other Kinect games too, but they seemed to fit this sort of game well - especially with a three kids taking turns on it.
When you setup your account and avatar with a Kinect camera it takes a record of your body shape. Stand in front of Kinect to play Joy Ride and it automatically detects who's playing.
On the Wii this sort of player switching is such a faff that we usually just end up playing on each other's Mii profiles. Here though we could build up fans and points for the right player record because the game magically switched to the right one just by seeing who was stood in front of it.
Stand in front of Kinect to play Joy Ride and it automatically detects who's playing.
This worked well for my older kids - six and seven - but the littlest addition to our tribe seemed to confuse the camera. His diminutive frame was harder for Kinect to recognise and he would often end up racing as a guest rather than his own avatar - which is a shame not only because of the points going to waste but because of the half an hour we invested to capturing his likeness.
The kids were also a little surprised to only be able to race two at a time - they are simply too used to Mario Karts four player races. But once they settled down to taking turns this didn't seem to be a show stopper. I suspect this will be something of a theme for Kinect games, unless they work out a way to include more than two players simultaneously.
In fact I wouldn't have minded having to pick up a controller if it meant we could up the numbers. But currently you can only play Joy Ride in Kinect hands free mode.
Joy Ride is another surprisingly strong Kinect experience.
Apart from these gripes, Kinect Joy Ride was a lot of fun. More than anything else it simply worked well, and had our whole family holding an invisible steering wheel most of the weekend.
The use of this "international gesture for driving" is endearing and functional. Couple this with some of the more competitive events and Joy Ride is another surprisingly strong Kinect experience.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: