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November 2018

All-Star Fruit Racing

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Racing
Release Date: Aug. 21, 2018 (US), July 13, 2018 (EU)


Switch/PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'All-Star Fruit Racing'

by Cody Medellin on June 8, 2018 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

All-Star Fruit Racing is the kart racing game you've been waiting for! More exciting, colorful, fruity, strategic and more fun than anything else before.

Pre-order All-Star Fruit Racing

When it comes to kart racers, the best ones on the market are heavily character-driven. Mario Kart is the undoubted king in the genre, with the name recognition backing up an excellent racing system for both casual and hardcore fans. Sonic has seen some success with the Sonic & All-Stars titles, which started with recognizable characters from a multitude of Sega franchises before giving players the thrill of using boats, cars and planes on the same track. There's also the Crash Bandicoot trio of racers, which has been MIA for a while but can still go toe-to-toe with the older Mario Kart games.

Every other game has either tried and failed to shoehorn famous characters in mediocre racers or simply been mediocre racers that try to appeal to gamers who want some kart action while waiting for new entries from the bigger names. At first glance, All-Star Fruit Racing seems like a case of the latter, but some changes in the mechanics give it a little more punch than expected.

 All-Star Fruit Racing has been in Early Access for almost a year now, so it isn't surprising to see it packed with modes. There are the standard single race and time trial modes as well as championship runs, both long and short versions. There's also a career mode and support for split-screen play for up to four players. Online is here as well, but the population is nonexistent at the moment.

If you've played a kart racing game from any other time period, you pretty much know what to expect here. Acceleration and braking are very arcade-like in nature, and you don't have to deal with slowly drifting out of a turn when you encounter a corner. Actual drifting is here, and its execution is much simpler than expected because you just have to hold down reverse when accelerating in a corner and then let it go to get a short burst of speed. The change is that the game gives you a meter for drift, so you can only hold it for so long before your engine blows out; this prevents people from drifting throughout the whole course.

What really makes this game stand out is the weapon system. Instead of picking up a randomized weapon in the field, you pick up several different colors of fruit. Each color feeds into a specific bucket, which, when filled, allows you to unleash a specific attack. The key is that the weapon or ability you get can be dependent on which bucket colors are filled and combined. Filling up the blue bucket alone, for example, provides a simple shield, but throw in green, and it suddenly becomes a speed boost. There are loads of different combinations that can be used, depending on what power you want, and you can cut off different color buckets on the fly in order to get the power-up you need. Of course, you can simply ignore all of this and fill up every bucket to get your character-specific ability instead.

That weapon system really adds something to an otherwise standard kart racing game. The tracks have some interesting designs but nothing you haven't seen before. Each track is filled with a few shortcuts and a few natural obstacles, like pits and rolling rocks that come out of walls. Ramps and turbo pads also make an appearance, but they're placed further apart than expected. Opponent AI is quite ruthless, but rubberbanding doesn't seem to happen. You'll see a few places change near the top of the stack, but once someone has a lead, it's nearly impossible to see them fall behind, especially during the final few laps. Oddly, the game lacks a proper physics system, so while that means bumping into a wall isn't as devastating as in other titles, it also means that bumping into another racer is equivalent to bumping into a ghost.

What All-Star Fruit Racing lacks is any character beyond everything being fruit-themed and fruit facts appearing in the loading screens. There are lots of racers, but when you set aside their special ability, there's nothing to make each one distinct from one another. This is especially true when you see them sharing the same animations in the character select screen and the same victory and loss poses at the end of each race. None of the characters have any stats differentiating them from one another, and all of the unlockables (except for tracks) are cosmetic in nature. Winning a race gives you a standard podium where everyone who isn't the first-place winner looks miserable, and winning a trophy feels like a low-key affair. It's unexciting as far as non-race elements go.

As for the presentation, it's all over the place. For the audio, that means sound effects that feel muted and very few voice samples that can grate due to their lack of variance. Meanwhile, the soundtrack goes from a dubstep title sequence to much calmer fare when racing, giving it a big disconnect when compared to the action. Graphically, the game sports a colorful palette that moves with a very high frame rate that doesn't dip no matter how many things are on-screen. That said, the animations for the other racers are rougher when their vehicles turn, and you'll see detailed texture creep from time to time, which is unfortunate since you'll see it occur in the same spots for every lap.

It isn't the greatest kart racer, but when All-Star Fruit Racing comes out for consoles and out of Steam Early Access in a few months, players can expect a decent racer with an inventive weapon system. That's really going to be the game's calling card, as there isn't much else to drive kart racer fans to pick up this title. The developers have done a good job of constantly improving the title via updates, so here's hoping the game will be more exciting once it releases and builds up an online community.

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