Between an unwavering addiction to Mario Kart and the fact that Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed came to Games with Gold recently, I’ve spent a heck of a lot of time with kart racers as of late. High quality kart racers too, with both games proving to be some of the finest I’ve played across the genre.
Naturally then, I was excited for All-Star Fruit Racing, especially since it’d received a lot of buzz from gamers in its early access form. Unfortunately, it’s just not as good as those aforementioned titles with plenty of flaws to be found throughout, and whilst there’s a ton of content to get through, it wasn’t enough to really keep me hooked in.
The driving of All-Star Fruit Racing is actually pretty decent – it’s never guilty of doing anything bad, but it’s never really particularly exciting either. The drifting could be a bit guilty of being a little unpredictable, but the developers did something clever where if you drift too much your engine will stall on you. It ensures you can’t simply pull off some neat drifting tricks to boost your way to victory a la Mario Kart and instead have to utilise some solid driving skills.
In fairness, some of the races I took part in could be pretty intense too. There were a few gripping encounters that could’ve genuinely gone either way, with some victories snatched at the last second and others slipping away with an awkward crash on the last bend. Other times though, races could just be boring. There’s no rubber banding in the game, so if you speed ahead of the pack you’re staying ahead. Alternatively, if racers get ahead of you there’s often no way to catch up. It’s unpredictable in design and it put me in a situation where every epic race I took part in would often be followed up by a complete dud.
The single player content plays out across eleven cups, each of which can be played on different difficulties. There are a ton of courses to get through and to the game’s credit a lot of them are well designed. There are typically plenty of shortcuts to find and hazards to avoid, but the track is always made perfectly clear and often sends you up and down courses across multiple twists and bends. Sure, some of the courses were a bit blander than others, but there was little to complain about there.
There are a few different modes you can tackle which offer something a bit more original outside of just racing too, but in honesty they didn’t have the lasting power to keep me hooked in. The online play on the other hand could, but I’ve not had a lot of luck in finding plenty of players to race with so far. When I have managed to get in with others it’s been fun, but the community is a bit sparse compared to that found in more popular titles like Mario Kart.
It’s a kart racer so naturally there are weapons to use and they do add some sense of unpredictability to the game, but the way they were incorporated felt a little bit over-convoluted for this kind of game. Basically, there are four different kinds of fruit that each fill up a different bar – you’ve got watermelons, cherries, blackberries and kiwis. There are also bananas, but they fill up all four bars at once so they’re a little less unique.
When you fill up a bar, you can use a different weapon, be it a small hurricane to send out upon your foe or just a boost to shoot yourself ahead of everyone. However, if you fill up more than one bar at a time, you’re able to combine the abilities to make an even more powerful one. Fill up all four meters, and you can use your character’s special ability.
It might sound simple enough, but during a tense race it was often difficult to keep track of each bar. Given the game is based around fruit, I would have appreciated it more if it was just a case of using simple weapons based upon the fruit in the same way most other kart racers work. It’s great to see that All-Star Fruit Racing tries to do something different, but it just ended up taking away from my enjoyment of the game and I found it difficult to just keep track of what arsenal I actually had at my disposal.
There are a few technical issues on show in the game, with frame rate drops in particular occurring quite often. It’d definitely fluctuate between 30fps and 60fps on a regular basis, and whilst it never dropped to unplayable levels it could make the whole thing feel a little bit jarring. The loading times could be a bit of a pain too, but at least they had some neat fruit facts on display during them so I can’t hold it against the game too much.
Visually, All-Star Fruit Racing is quite an attractive game, with some vibrant and well-designed tracks that are absolutely full to the brim with colour, charm and, of course, fruit. There’s a lot of creativity on show with their design and I never grew bored of seeing each one’s unique sights as I drove across them – even if one or two had a few frustrating sections from a gameplay perspective…
The character models and karts on the other hand are a bit bland and lacking the personality seen in other areas of the game’s design. It was a good idea to base the characters upon fruit (it fits the theme of the game after all), but they all look so ordinary and like something you’d see in a cheaply producedkids TV show. At least the karts are customisable, but even with a bit of player-led tinkering they never feel particularly unique. It’s definitely a bit of a mixed bag as far as visuals are concerned.
I don’t think that All-Star Fruit Racing is a bad game and there were certainly times when I had a lot of fun with it – some of the tracks were great and they made for some intense showdowns with my opponents. It’s just that everything generally feels so average in design, whether it’s the racing mechanics, the weapons, the character design or just the overall vibe of the game as a whole.
PlayStation 4 gamers are itching for a good kart racer, so they might get something out of All-Star Fruit Racing. Nintendo Switch and Xbox One owners just have too many better options available (some of them last-gen) to make the game worth recommending though. It’s a decent effort, but All-Star Fruit Racing falls short of the standards set by the better kart racers that are out there.
Release Date: Out Now
Format(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC