All-Star Fruit Racing is a new arcade kart racing game from developer 3DClouds, published by PQube, and is available for Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC. It’s quite obviously inspired by a certain moustachioed Italian plumber, but will I go bananas over it or will it leave me s-peach-less. And no more fruit puns, honest.
All-Star Fruit Racing has all the elements that you would expect from a game in this genre. There are single player options for quick race, different options for creating your own competitions and of course, eleven championships to win in the career mode. Of course there is an online mode as well, but unfortunately I have been unable to test this due to a lack of player base before release. I plan to check this out more thoroughly after the game has officially released and plan to update this review. Also available is a split-screen couch multiplayer option, which is nice to have when other developers are moving away from this mode. There are also lots of customisation options in order to change the look of your kart, with new items to earn during your racing adventures.
All-Star Fruit Racing has 21 tracks which are themed around the four seasons and also has some additional Special Island tracks. There are also 22 characters to choose from, each with a fruit based special power, such as Anny with her Pineazooka (pineapple bazooka) and Faith with a Sharkmelon (yes, a melon that acts like a Shark). All the characters at the start are female, with more characters unlockable with progress. The lack of a male choice does feel a bit odd, and could give the impression that the game is squarely aimed at a young female demographic, which I don’t think is the case.
It’s when the racing starts you’ll see the obvious similarities to that other Kart game. There are a wide variety of races to compete in, ranging from five lap marathons to elimination races, and surprisingly there are short sprint races. I say surprisingly as I had no idea that the final race in a championship was that short and was busily admiring the track design, so before I knew what was happening I’d already lost! Some tweaking is needed here to clearly highlight the criteria of the upcoming race. Power-ups are obviously present and act in two different ways. The first is the familiar random pickups which we are so used to seeing. The second is where All-Star Fruit Racing tries something original. Collecting the fruit as you race around will fill four different reservoirs, represented by the four coloured face buttons. Filling all four will activate your special power, however you can choose to turn off some of the reservoirs in order to fire off different powers instead, meaning you could fire a defensive power if you find yourself out in the lead. It is an original idea, however it is somewhat confusing to start with as there is no on-screen indication as to which buttons activate which powers.
The special powers in Mario Kart do a great job in keeping the pack together, as a racer in last place will get the boost drops, whilst the racer out in front will get a defensive power. This is where All-Star Fruit Racing just doesn’t get it right. I’ve been in first place, half a lap in front of everybody else, but still get boost power ups. I’ve also been at the rear, with no chance of catching up to the leader and only get the defensive drops. So, this power-up system just appears to be completely random and is quite frustrating.
The best thing about All-Star Fruit Racing is it’s design. All the tracks look amazing, full of colour and detail and also have small hidden features that you could miss, such as the dinosaurs that sit beside the Dino-Juice track. There doesn’t feel to be as much love and care put into the drivers or cars, as there is no real distinction between the character models. The music and sound effects are also fine, although some of the dialogue does become repetitive after a while, but I never found myself reaching for the option to turn it off.
Gameplay wise it’s fine. It doesn’t do anything special, but it’s also not awful either. The first hour or two felt like a struggle, but it does have a certain amount of charm to it that shines through the longer you keep playing. Mastering the drift mechanic is the key to success, although some of the tracks are not designed in a way where it can be used effectively. There are some major issues that do affect the overall experience. Hitting the scenery or the sides of the track doesn’t really slow you down, instead you just kind of bounce off them and carry on your race. However, sometimes getting hit with a power-up can nearly cause you to stop completely, and the time it takes to get going again is frustrating, especially when your opponents all fly past. I know this is a feature of these types of games, but it does feel like it needs some tweaking. There are frame rate issues, most noticeable at the very start of each race, and when there are a lot of racers on-screen at one time. I’ve also witnessed some really strange sound issues, with a loud repetitive clicking noise occurring through a certain area of track.
Some improvements are also needed around the career mode. When starting a career there is no indication of how many races there are, and when finishing the championship you have to click the “return to main menu” option to get the winning animation. It is possible to replay every race straight away if you don’t get enough points as well, meaning there’s never any jeopardy in not doing well, apart from the time it takes to try again.
All-Star Fruit Racing is an OK racing game, but I feel like it’s been made for a young female audience. Fans of the casual racing genre will not find anything new to draw them in, apart from the great visuals. However, it does have some charm, and managed to entertain this 44 year old male for a good six or so hours, but it’s probably not a game that I’ll continue playing.