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We Take Microsoft's Joy Ride For A Spin

Microsoft's Joy Ride was first revealed at last year's E3, though it was then just a vanilla-flavored arcade racer. What a difference a year makes, eh? Since that first announcement, Microsoft and BigPark have been quiet about its whereabouts. The game has been transformed, removing its traditional controller inputs for Kinect's motion-based scheme. We got to play it for a while today during our Kinect tour, testing out two of the game's modes.

The first game we checked out was a traditional racer. Two of us took on a field of eight total cars in a split-screen competition. Players steer by holding an imaginary wheel in front of them and turning. To boost, players pull the wheel close to their chests and slam their arms forward. Drifting is done by sticking their butts out and leaning them in the opposite direction of the drift. There's no gas pedal in the game; your car is always going forward.

With the basic controls figured out, I raced two laps and ended up in a completely adequate fourth. Not having a gas pedal keeps things moving along, though it's problematic if you smash into a wall and the game has to figure out where to stick you back on the road. Drifting worked quite well, even though the gesture wasn't exactly dignified. The biggest issue was with steering. It felt sloppy, and I didn't feel as though I was in complete control of my car. to be fair, maybe I just need more practice, since I'm not accustomed to steering with an imaginary wheel.

The other mode we played was also split-screen and competitive. In the stunt mode, players are on a half pipe. The goal is to boost up the sides as high as possible while collecting cherries and other goodies. Bombs blast nearby items apart, earning more points. As in the racing mode, players also earn points for performing stunts (surprise!). When airborne, leaning to a side, spinning around, or moving your arms around is a cue for your Avatar to hop around like a maniac and maneuver your car in silly ways. The more complex the stunt, the more points you earn.

Controls in this mode really shined. Either steering wasn't quite as important or I just got significantly better at it since my race. Either way, I was able to dart around and mop up the points with ease.

Joy Ride is one of the games that will launch with Kinect this fall. Is is a must-buy? I can't really say for sure at this point. It's cute and fun, but I'll have to see more tracks and modes before I make up my mind. There's a lot of competition in this area--and some huge names--and players don't have to settle for something that's just OK in the arcade-racing space. Regardless, I'm curious to see more of it.

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