Saturday, September 8

Review: All-Star Fruit Racing [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Let’s face it, making a breakout kart racing game on a Nintendo system is a steep challenge, and one quite a number of releases on Switch have utterly failed to even get close with. Most of the field has been brought down by overly generic design, poor racing physics, or just overall bugginess, leaving it as a pretty wide open race for anyone shooting for the crown. All-Star Fruit Racing actually gets some things right and generally races past the rest of the pack, but the bar set by Nintendo’s genre-defining franchise proves to be well out of reach, leaving ASFR in a pretty distant second.


Starting with the things it gets right on a visual level the tracks actually have some appealing qualities with a fair amount of diversity, some nice visuals, and even some things going on along the sides as you race along. Customization is also a nice perk, and as you complete circuits and meet objectives (which you can review in the Extras section of the menu) you’ll unlock some special elements that will give your ride some extra style to make it reflect you a bit better. While some of the race modes will have you moving through Mario Kart-esque question orbs that will bestow you with a random power-up, there’s also an attempt here to do something different. As you race you’ll be able to fill up 4 tanks with different types of fruit that you can then use to give you different power-ups. Filling only one will give you one type, filling more will begin to give you combinations, and filling all 4 will let you use your driver’s special attack.


Unfortunately while this power-up system is novel it’s related to one of the game’s bigger problems and that’s the fact that in many cases power-ups are either dull, unclear in what they’re doing, or a bit redundant. The brilliance behind Mario Kart’s power-up design is that it is clear what each thing does with little explanation. While most of them in ASFR make some degree of sense the worst thing may be that I honestly couldn’t tell what some of the drivers’ signature powers did at all. Between the relative complexity of worrying over which fruits you’re picking up to fill which tanks and the often-disappointing result of using them the battle essence of the game unfortunately ends up being a wash at best rather than an effective differentiator.


Going a bit further down the rabbit hole of issues that hold it back the feel of the racing simply doesn’t generate a lot of excitement or tension. There’s almost a loose quality to the racing here that is hard to put a finger on, and the lack of nuance in power sliding is noticeable as the racers turn too quickly and you’re unable to really milk the slide with much effectiveness. While I appreciate the number of circuits and the fair variety of tracks I’d also note that there are too many 5 lap races that simply drag on too long. Speaking of dragging on the load times for each track feel very long, and factoids about fruit aren’t enough to distract you from that fact. Finally, for all of the customization you can use to kit out your car there are so many reused elements like voices and heavy similarities in the player models too much in the game feels very generic.


There’s no doubt that competing in this space on the Switch is a brutal affair but I’d think anyone trying to make a dent in even the fender of a game like Mario Kart would be well aware of that challenge. For a freshman effort I suppose All-Star Fruit Racing makes the most of the attempt, and shows some glimmer of hope for someone changing up the formula effectively. Unfortunately its biggest struggle is to stand out, at least in a good way, and while it is leading the indie racing pack for the most part it’s still not even sniffing Mario Kart’s fumes in the end.

Score: 6.5

Pros:

  • A fair variety of attractive tracks
  • Attempts a new weapon pick-up system, though its success is questionable
  • Customization options encourage unlocking and help you to personalize your ride a bit

Cons:

  • The weapons effects and powers aren’t always very clear and the juice coming from the different system isn’t really worth the squeeze
  • Some pretty long load times deflate enthusiasm between races quickly
  • A general lack of nuance in the racing itself make everything feel generic and a bit dull