Something that we really don’t get enough of anymore are fun kart racing games. Nintendo continues to offer the best one with Mario Kart but in the past we had other great ones such as Modnation Racers, Crash Team Racing, and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. Most of those have faded off in the distance though and if you’re a kart racing fan like myself then your only fix has pretty much been to play Mario Kart (although there is a new Sonic racing game on the way finally.) That’s why when I saw PQube and 3D Clouds were bringing All-Star Fruit Racing to the PlayStation 4 I was very optimistic. However, my confidence ended up being misplaced as this is not the great kart racing experience I’ve been craving.
I want to start with one area that All-Star Fruit Racing is actually good in and that is the content. This game has a lot of content in it whether you’re talking about modes, tracks, characters or customization options. For modes you have the Career mode where there are 11 cups to win across five different worlds. Winning them unlocks new characters and customization options for your kart. Each of these races can vary from single lap races, three to five lap races, and elimination races where the player in last place is eliminated after certain points of time. Then there is Time Attack mode and Fast Championship mode where the game queues up three random tracks. Custom Championship mode allows you to select up to six tracks to race through. The game also offers up to four player offline racing and up to eight player online racing although I struggled to find anyone else that was playing online. Finally the Garage allows you to go in and customize your kart with the items that you’ve unlocked.
There are 20+ tracks in total and all of them are full of color and fruit since that is what this game is all about. However quantity isn’t more important than quality and unfortunately most of these tracks just weren’t very fun to race on or very memorable. Some of them have strange design choices like paths that split where one route is clearly shorter. The character roster consists of nothing but female characters which I don’t have a problem with but they all come across as being too samey in looks. You see, where other kart racers are remembered for their unique characters and tracks All-Star Fruit Racing lacks any of that and it’s really unfortunate.
So when it comes to the actual racing itself the game has some things going for it and some things going against it. To me the karts feel as if they are more gliding around the track rather than actually driving on it. When entering turns you’ll want to drift so that you can build up for a speed boost but again it feels off. Shorter drifts seem to work but if you enter a longer curve it seems too easy to crash into something and ruin your chance for a boost. Also if you drift too long you’ll overheat your vehicle. Enemy AI in the game is problematic as well and wildly inconsistent. Sometimes they all seem to go off in a weird direction making it easy for you to take the lead and win but more often than not I found them to be cheap and constantly right behind you. Even playing on the easiest difficulty there were so many times where I would get hit by one attack so close to the end of a race just to fall behind the whole pack. It really never seemed to me like you could build any kind of lead against them for the most part.
The interesting thing about the races and what makes All-Star Fruit Racing stand out is the juicer system. Across all the tracks there are five different types of fruit: Cherries, kiwi, bananas, blackberries, and watermelons. Each of these build up one of four different fruit meters for your kart where the banana builds up all of them at once. Each of these meters then give you different abilities when they are filled up. Filling up more than one combines them to give you more powerful attacks and if you build up all four you can unleash your characters unique ultimate attack such as a pineapple rocket launcher. While the ultimate attacks are cool, they felt like they lacked the oomph and spectacle that maybe you’d expect to get from them. There is also the option to turn off and turn on the separate juice meters so that you have better control on which power ups that you get.
The presentation of the game looks nice and is very colorful but it also just has a low budget feel to it. What is really strange to me is the price of the game on consoles. On PC the game is $15 but on consoles it’s a whopping $40. For the quality of the package here it feels more like the PC price than the console price and I really would recommend not paying that much for it. There are a lot of other little things about the game that bothered me too such as the inconsistent frame rate, long load times, occasional bugs, and graphical issues like noticeable pop in. Also strange design choices like having to race on the same track more than once in a single cup in the Career mode. The game is available across PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch but the problem is there are better options on just about all those platforms. Mario Kart on Switch and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed on Xbox One via backward compatibility are much better options if you are on those platforms. If you’re on PS4 there aren’t a lot of options right now but maybe wait and see how the new Sonic kart racer turns out later this year.
All-Star Fruit Racing isn’t a bad game it just ended up being a very average and meh game in my opinion. I liked their take on the weapon system and the choice they give you to build towards the power ups that you want but everything else about the game just left me disappointed. I’d only recommend you get this if you are a die hard kart racing fan and you can find it deeply discounted in the future.
*All-Star Fruit Racing is out now on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC. Reviewed on PS4 Pro. Review copy provided by PQube.