If you’re a fan of kart racers then you’ve hardly been spoilt for choice in recent years, with countless racers releasing with the hope of having the same impact seen previously by Crash, Mario and Sonic. With so many already available though, there needs to be something special to make a kart racer stand out these days. All-Star Fruit Racing is the latest game to try and make a name for itself, but does this fruit inspired kart racer have what it takes to put itself up there with the best?
If we were to base this review on visuals alone, All-Star Fruit Racing would certainly be heading the field. From the tracks to the vehicles and everything in between, there is an element of beauty to be found in this fruity locale, with it all sharing a striking resemblance with Wreck-it Ralph. Unfortunately, we have to take the gameplay into account too, and it’s fair to say things don’t quite play as smoothly as they look.
There are six different modes to get stuck into – Custom Race, Career, Fast Championship, Custom Championship, Time Attack and Training.
Custom Race allows you to choose your location, track, game mode, difficulty and number of opponents before getting straight into things, whilst Fast Championship picks three random races to compete in, allowing the comfort of choosing number of opponents and difficulty once more. As for the Custom Championship, things are very much the same as Custom Race, but instead of a one-off race you can choose up to six races to create a championship of your choosing. The Time Attack and Training options are pretty self-explanatory to anyone who has seen any type of racing game over the years.
Career mode however is the place where you’ll spend the majority of your time, as you look to progress through each of the 11 championship cups across five different worlds, running from the Coco Cup, all the way to the coveted Fruit Special Cup, whilst mastering every championship in between.
Within each of the different modes are various race types which include the standard Juicer race, Random Juicer in which different special moves can be combined together to attack enemies, Dragster, which brings different moves and allows the special abilities – known as Supers – to recharge faster the longer the race goes on. Then there is Elimination, which is pretty self-explanatory and Elimination Mix in which a timer will count down and eliminate the racer struggling in last place at a random point rather than the end of the lap.
For those of you who have played any decent kart racers before – and if you’re a serious gamer there is no doubt you’ll have played at least one of the many available – All-Star Fruit Racing offers exactly what you’d expect. Unfortunately, gameplay wise though, it isn’t quite the spectacle we are used to with many of the more popular and frequent kart racers. in fact, there have been times when I was left questioning certain features.
One such feature that feels like a true disappointment is the drifting. Drifting is a big feature in most kart racers and it only takes a look back to Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed or F1 All Stars to see how much of an impact it can have when it’s done right. In All-Star Fruit Racing however, the drifting mechanic is more of a drain on the experience than it is a key feature and that’s thanks to the fact that as soon as you begin to initiate a drift, you immediately find yourself going slower than you would be if you were just to race around the corners normally. This is something that can be used to your advantage though – just by avoiding refusing to drift completely. Strangely, this slowdown isn’t always the case, and in the training it doesn’t seem to be an issue at all; during races though it shows on several occasions.
With drifting proving a disappointment though, you’d expect at least something else to show promise. Sadly, as much as I want to find something special within All-Star Fruit Racing, I can’t, as it is a real struggle to find a decent gameplay aspect that hasn’t already been bettered elsewhere.
Joining the drifting issue is a problem with the A.I., and the fact that if they have got a lead over you, with any reasonable distance, even on the first lap, chances are you’re not going to ever catch them up – and that is despite the fact they are able to catch you up in no time should you take a lead. It’s a very odd thing to experience but even on the occasions when you hit all the speed boost pads and found every shortcut, you’ll still rarely find a way to gain much distance on your opponents.
When you put all these problems together, it doesn’t take much to realise All-Star Fruit Racing isn’t as polished as other kart racers, which is a real shame because visually it looks absolutely fantastic. It’s not entirely doom and gloom though, and should you be able to find enough players to get a game together online, then you’ll discover the A.I. difficulty issues no longer apply and things become a little more enjoyable. Unfortunately, the player base seems to have already dissipated rather quickly, so unless you have a group of friends to hand who are willing to jump in with a purchase too, chances are your online adventures won’t be very fruitful.
In a more positive vein though, I feel I must also mention one of the other key features within the game, especially considering it affects every race and it’s a key ingredient to every successful kart racer – Powerups, or as they are known in All-Star Fruit Racing, Special Moves.
To use Special Moves, players must collect fruit bubbles spread throughout each race, each of which will help fill up a fruit tank. Once one of the four moves tied to your character are full, you can unleash it on the opposition or save it until multiple are full and then combine them then for a Combined Special Move that is even more powerful. Special Moves can be a variety of things such as a homing missile – in the form of a banana, of course – a tornado that can be fired in front of you, ice blocks to create a slippery patch on the track, a temporary speed boost and so on. Generally, there is nothing that you wouldn’t have already seen in other similar titles, and that is a shame as it would have been much nicer to have seen more unique fruit-based attacks given the nature of the game. Of course, that doesn’t mean the special moves are bad, but it is disappointing to see the same old things we always see in these types of games once more make an appearance.
Aside from the racing there is one other option within the game that is at least promising and that’s the vehicle customisation. Here players can customise the look of their fancy karts by changing the body paint, the wheels, the rims, the aerial and even the horn. It’s hardly ground-breaking stuff but given how few kart racers generally tend to hold any form of customisation, it is certainly nice to see the option included.
As promising as All-Star Fruit Racing looks, it just doesn’t hold up against some of the more iconic kart racers out there. With disappointing mechanics that really should be a lot more polished than they currently are, this isn’t a game that will live long in the memory for many. If you are after a colourful racer that can be enjoyed by the kids, this could be worth a look, but if you’re in need of a new joyful karting experience, then maybe you should be looking elsewhere.