All-Star Fruit Racing – Xbox One Review
When a kart racing game is released on the market, one question always crops up. Its an unfair question but you cant help but try and measure the game up against the daddy of the genre, Super Mario Kart to see how it compares. Now, like all those other games, All-Star Fruit Racing doesn’t reach those dizzy heights, but that doesn’t mean its not going to be fun to play. With enough of its own unique features and quirks, this game by Italian publisher 3DClouds.it does enough to stand out from the crowd, but does it have the quality to elevate it above other arcade racers?
As you’d expect from the title, the game is run on a fruit based theme, and you even get fruit based fun facts during the loading screens. You pick from a selection of 22 characters, although they aren’t all unlocked at the start of the game. The characters are all based on different fruits, but the difference is really only cosmetic, with different colours and specific super attacks for each character. The carts are all standard in performance but can be massively customised with different rims, wheels, aerials, body parts, colour schemes and more. Again, a lot of the features need to be unlocked but with so many options you will certainly be able to create a cart unique to just you.
A great feature is the ability to construct the power ups by combining the elements you pick up off the track. A specific fruit is mapped to each of the four lettered controller buttons, and in game you can press the button to turn on or off the corresponding fruit, controlling which are then blended to make different power ups during the race. Theres the usual powerups of boosts to your speed, the laying of traps or homing missiles that can be fired at opponents ahead of you. Nothing that veers from the genre standard, but they are nicely dressed up with decent animations. A criticism I had while playing though is that the advantage of the power ups is for too short. The advantage barely last a couple of seconds, so you already have to be close to the kart in front to get past with a speed boost. The rubber banding of the racers is also far too tight. No matter how well you drive you can’t build up a decent lead on the AI karts, and I would often get hit by a missile in the closing stages to see 3 competitors whizz past. That level of frustration on a regular basis doesn’t make for the best gaming experience.
The cartoon graphical style is bright brash and detailed, a pleasure on the eye, and a lot of thought has been given to making the look of each track unique enough to ensure a great contrast between racing environments. The tracks are laid out in laps of a size that gives a great balance between being able to memorise the layout without being too short and repetitive. The style of each track is based on a particular fruit, then the graphics give you an environment that mesh well with the subject, so you’ll be racing round a tropical plantation for the pineapple track, or going through orchards if the fruit is an apple. The accompanying music also fits in well with the theme of each track. As well as the fruits, some of the tracks are based on icy fruit drinks and are a bit more outrageous with ice tunnels or sections of track that twist, dip and climb like a rollercoaster.
The main career mode of the offline game has you race a series of grouped races which you need to do well in to unlock the next set of tracks. How well you need to do isn’t always clear, as theres no instructions and the sense of achievement is really played down, to the extent that your progress report can easily pass by unnoticed unless you press the right button. You just seem to be racing for the sake of grinding out enough wins to unlock one of the many characters and customisation options.
Other than the main career mode, there are other formats to try out. Training mode is for getting a bit of practise in; custom race does what it says and lets you set up on any unlocked track, which is a good choice if playing in local multiplayer; Time Attack, where you race against the clock to beat a set gold, silver and bronze tine on each track. Online mode lives and dies by the popularity of the game, and for the purpose of this review, this mode died, as unless there are a large number of other players waiting for a game, matchmaking will fail.
While the racing can be fun, it can be a bit of a shallow experience as there is no connection between you as the player and the racer you are on the screen. For example, at the end of a race, the top three racers are shown on the podium, but the developers have missed a trick by not making each characters celebration unique. This highlights the lack of any depth of character with the racers, so you don’t really care which one you play as. Heading to the garage redresses the balance slightly as provided you have unlocked enough features, theres a large wealth of options for customising your car, its just a shame that the choice of driver is largely irrelevant.
All-star fruit racing might be fun and colourful but didn’t excite enough to get me hooked on the racing. The style and content will certainly appeal to a younger audience, who hopefully wont be put off by the lack of depth, and while the single player career can turn into a bit of a grind, a hell of a lot of fun can still be had when playing with friends.
Many Thanks to PQube for the review copy.