In a year when Criterion are bringing us a new Need For Speed (and one that may be the best the series has ever offered), it's rather easy for a simple, casual kart racer like Joy Ride to be overlooked. But that would be a mistake. Joy Ride captures the bite-sized yet fun nature that is the hallmark of family-friendly games, and adds a quite literal 'twist'.
The game controls completely sans a controller thanks to Kinect. Instead of using an analog stick or accelerometer, you will have to hold your hands out as you would a real steering wheel. You turn by gesturing a left or right turn. You can drift by leaning your body in the direction you wish to drift. Drifting is oddly enjoyable. Boosting is performed by bringing your arms closer to you then quickly extending. Finally, you can perform stunts in the air by leaning forward, backwards, or physically spinning in place.
The big surprise is how well the controls actually work. With few hiccups, you can accurately and skillfully navigate the tracks. This doesn't mean there are no control problems, but the ones I did observe can possibly be tweaked by release. The boosting mechanic can be finicky and at times the Kinect will not track fine-tuned movements. Despite slight control annoyances, each race is enjoyable.
Joy Ride is not a particularly deep kart-racer as it is missing some genre staples like drafting and weapons or power ups. It is designed to be a game that is played in short spurts and ditches a strong competitive nature in favor of more family-friendly competition. You and I may prefer a racing title like Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, but Big Park Games did develop a title that will appeal to wider audiences and can play with the big boys, like Mario Kart Wii.