All Star Fruit Racing - Quick Hit Review
Microsoft Xbox OneAlso available on Nintendo Switch, PC and Sony PlayStation 4
Kart racers have always been popular but none have yet bested the classic Mario Kart formula, one which has worked since the original game debuted on the SNES. There have been dozens of attempts - some have delivered great gaming experiences all on their own - Xbox One players have the excellent Sonic & All Stars Racing available via Backwards Compatibility for one - while others have struggled to break out of the shadow of much better games.
All Star Fruit Racing is the latest attempt from studio PQube - and it has a few things going for it. First up is the all woman line-up of drivers; it's a refreshing thing to see in a world where games have consistently been heavily weighted towards male characters. The fruity background to the game is also great - and with loading screens sharing fruit-related facts it might offer something of a mild educational experience for younger kids.
It looks nice enough too - bright graphics - but there is a lingering feeling of an occasional drop in frame rate. Nothing massive but then the game isn't really doing anything huge and the Xbox at least should be throwing a game like this around without even breaking the slightest of sweats. There are a few presentational oddities that suggest some corner cutting - even the title screen smacks of laziness with the low resolution font. It feels like someone has used the wrong asset and just shipped it.
The gameplay is again serviceable - but it all feels very clinical, which, in turn, makes your kart feel as though it drives with no real weight and floats around the track. The button config isn't very intuitive; yes - right trigger to accelerate makes sense but then binding reverse and drift to the left trigger while making the right button the break feels wrong. There is also a distinct lack of challenge - which again suggests a game aimed at young kids rather than hardcore gamers. The first race on my first game saw a first place with no-one coming close to overtaking and while later tracks offer a little more bite, the learning curve was pretty much non-existent.
The track design feeds into this lack of challenge with very little variety or inventiveness. Yes, there are branching options, jumps and more and the customary power-ups add a randomness factor, but the courses lack the finesse that we've been spoilt with in other games.
The game offers special combinations of power-ups which, had the game been more challenging might have been worth the extra effort to use. There is a 'special combinations' screen providing you with what you need to do to make use of them.
Even kids want a challenge from their games and without that there's little pull to return. There is an online option - and no doubt playing against up to eight real people is likely to bring with it more challenge and longevity; we were unable to test this on the pre-release version of the game. There is local split-screen multiplayer support for up to four players which is fun, but brings with it another drop in presentation and more framerate concerns - they're never enough to ruin the game but when there are drops, it takes you out of the moment.
All Star Fruit Racing is a decent indie kart racer - it looks nice enough on Xbox One but lacks any real personality or challenge making it, ultimately, disappointing.