Tasty fruits, fast rides, and cozy design are promised in the latest kart racer to grace consoles.
Surely we can all agree that there's room for more party racers along the lines of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. All-Star Fruit Racing looks like a contender from afar, possibly a new game to add to the rotation thanks to its charming design and fast-paced racing. Unfortunately the feeling we were hoping for after having seen early trailers never sets in. Instead, we're treated to a rather uninspired offering and it feels as if the game lacks the sort of character you tend to look for in a kart racer.
Creating a kart game that attracts enough players is no simple task. Games such as Mario Kart, Crash Team Racing, and Sonic All-Stars leverage a wide selection of well-known characters, a factor which puts other developers at a disadvantage. Here we're treated to colourful characters based on various fruits and it just doesn't do it for us. The main reason for this is that they all feel too similar to each other and there's a distinct lack of identity. The one thing that sets them apart is a unique ability they can use in the races. The game offers 22 characters, half of them unlockable, but sadly it feels like there's too many of them given the lack of voice acting and distinctive looks. Given how the spectators in the races are cute melon, cherry, and clementine characters, wouldn't it have been more fun to race as them? We're hardly the intended main audience, but we've got a feeling this would have been more popular with the young ones too.
All-Star Fruit Racing has much in common with other kart titles, but thankfully the developers have given some thought to their approach. Instead of having random items in boxes along the course, you're able to combine the various types of items. It's not hard to see that inspiration has been taken from Lego Racers, but it's not a straight clone, not at all. You can collect up to four fruits and then combine them into a powerful attack or turbo boost (depending on your character), but we've all had to face the frustration of getting items that are of no use to us at that moment. By inactivating one or more of the fruits you can decide to create a shield or place slippery ice spots behind you. Inactivating a fruit means you save it for later.
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Sadly it's been difficult to get a proper sense of the online mode. We only managed two races and the reason for this is that we simply haven't been able to find more matches online. Just prior to writing this text we tried again and didn't find a single lobby to join, instead we had to create one of our own, and no-one joined us. When we were able to find a lobby we were never more than three players. Even if we haven't been able to play much online it's still disappointing that you can't have two players playing online on the same console.
However, all is not as terrible as it may sound in this snack-friendly karting game. The racing itself is, for the most part, entertaining, but really only if you're not playing on your own. If you race by your lonesome then you've got a career mode with various cups to win, and there's also a time trial mode, but you'll likely tire of this fairly soon. It goes without saying that this sort of game is best enjoyed with a friend or two by your side. Four players can play on one screen, and it works really well. If your group of friends includes more people who have invested in the game you can enjoy it online as well.
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If you're familiar with Sonic & All-Stars Racing you'll feel right at home with All-Star Fruit Racing. The vehicles handle similarly and the focus is on speed and drifting through sharp corners. Sadly this is an area that could have been expanded upon as you can tailor your ride, which could have meant interesting decisions to do things like allow for more speed but less drifting, for example. However, the various parts don't offer such options, and you're likely to simply ignore the car parts unlocked after each race. Another route to take would have been to skip this customisation and instead given each character a unique ride to offer them more of an identity.
Our main complaint with All-Star Fruit Racing isn't the characters or the vehicles, though, it's the quality of the audio. It comes across as tinny and it sounds almost as bad as when someone has attempted to record a live-concert on their phone. It's simply not up to scratch.
There are a few modes including standard races (three or more laps) where it's all about finishing first, and another welcome mode is elimination where you can't allow yourself to get stuck in last place. At regular intervals the last placed racer is eliminated and this is the mode we've enjoyed the most. Often this ends up with an extremely tight duel at the end where only milliseconds separate the two best racers. Apart from these main modes, there are some other options that offer different restrictions on items and such things.
Our hopes that All-Star Fruit Racing would be able to crash the kart party were, sadly, left by the roadside. It's not a game you can't enjoy, but there are too many flaws here than what's acceptable. It's not impossible that you'll be able to spend a few fun hours with this new release, but we're sure that you'll soon tire and return to Mario Kart or some other older alternative.