Joy Ride Turbo Review (Xbox360)

Joy Ride Turbo has ridden a pretty bumpy road to get where it is today. Originally announced during E3 2009 as a downloadable title simply called Joyride it initially showed a lot of promise. Then the game was retooled for Microsoft's Kinect sensor, nonsensically swapping controller play for an imaginary steering wheel and becoming a near full-priced boxed product. Kinect Joy Ride, as game critics rightly pointed out, was a car wreck.

Developer BigPark gets a second chance for success with the new, Kinect-less version of the game which seems a lot closer to the original vision for Joyride. Has the Canadian dev managed to redeem itself? If you ask me, absolutely.

There are some impressive environments to be seen and traversed, especially in the two stunt parks

It's not simply the restoration of controller play that makes this version great, although that is an essential factor in its success. Turbo is consistently good throughout, from its surprisingly slick presentation to the strong offering of modes and features. In all seriousness, it gives the likes of Mario Kart a run for their money.

It's clear that the Joy Ride games owe a lot to Nintendo's wacky driving series, what with its primary mode being a weapon based kart racer. Heck, many of it's power ups are directly analogous to Mario Kart's such as the homing rocket and the booby trapped item box.

But these obvious similarities don't stop Turbo from being fun in its own right. On top of the satisfying good ol' stick and buttons controls, the emphasis on over the top track design and gravity defying stunts set it apart from its spiritual predecessors.

This is particularly true of the new Stunt Park mode. Expanding on the Stunt mode from Kinect Joy Ride, here you get to drive around two huge vehicular playgrounds performing tricks and hunting down collectables. Sporting massive ramps, loops, half pipes and hard to reach places I can't help but be reminded of the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater games, and that's no bad thing.

With fifteen vehicles, dozens of paint jobs and Xbox avatar support there's a good deal of customisation on offer

The game does a nice job of encouraging repeat play via its collectables and unlocks. The crates of parts and hovering coins (both of which can be found in small quantities in standard races) contribute to new vehicles and colour schemes. The more powerful vehicles are locked away so you'll need to earn them if you want to get the super hard to reach collectibles and have the edge in multiplayer.

Speaking of which, as you'd expect from a kart racer playing with others is a big deal. Turbo is particularly strong in this area allowing up to eight to play together online and four offline via split-screen across Stunt Park and all of the racing mode variants. These days it's rare when a game has such extensive multiplayer functionality and it's something that BigPark should be commended for.

What else has changed from the previous version of the game? Some of additional modes have been dropped, for example the Trick mode that depended on the Kinect sensor. However, their loses aren't felt as they were largely throwaway mini-games to begin with. The Stunt mode was the only one of any real worth and this has essentially formed the basis for the larger, more fleshed out Stunt Park mode.

Tucked away vehicle parts and coins that contribute to vehicles unlocks will likely keep you hooked

There's no escaping some of the core similarities between Kinect and Turbo; that's to be expected from a reworked title rather than a full blown sequel. Music and sound effects are identical, as are the graphics. The seven tracks for standard races return although three new ones have been added. Given such familiarities those who've played Kinect Joy Ride may not feel as jazzed for this second (albeit it vastly improved) version as a newcomer would. That said, with a low price tag of 800 Microsoft Points I doubt anyone's going to be complaining. Heck, owners of the first version could probably trade it in for the measly £6 required for the virtual bucks.

Whatever your experience with the series, if you've ever been fond of alternative racing games and have friends wanting to go for a spin with you then Joy Ride Turbo is a no-brainer. It's a legitimate alternative, perhaps an outright replacement, for the likes of Mario Kart.

Top Game Moment: Devising crazy runs and competing for collectables with your mates in the stunt parks.

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