We’re huge fans of couch multiplayer games here at my home. My in-laws visit about twice a month and we spend a good portion of the time eating ourselves silly and playing on the Switch. For the longest time, our go-to karting game has been “Beach Buggy Racing”: it was super cheap, it’s fun, it has just enough content to keep us playing against each other, and it’s easy to pick up, even for non-gamers. While a lot of people will compare “All-Star Fruit Racing” to “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe”, I think it’s more fair to compare it to other games that are trying to fill the void for those who don’t own the Italian plumber’s outing. So, how does “All-Star Fruit Racing” compare?
It’s a bit of a mixed bag, sadly.
Starting off with the positive, the art style and presentation in general is fantastic. It’s super colorful, and the car models and characters are really bright and well designed. The stages are designed in the same vein, but it ends up having the effect of being a bit confusing to find your way around them. And I’m not a first-time gamer, but even I had issues finding the path to victory. Obviously, the more you play the more you’ll familiarize yourself with the tracks. But I wish they were intuitive.
This non-intuitiveness is a theme that runs throughout the whole game. Sure, it does mean you get a hell of a lot more things to do, do collect, to power-up and defeat your opponents. But it also means you have to sit through a tutorial (which is presented on first boot of the game) and, well, a tutorial on an karting game… call me old-fashioned, but I prefer them a bit simpler than that.
Another issue we had was performance. Loading times in particular were strenuous, and a quick look around for a fix (just wondering if I was experiencing a “Monopoly on Switch” deja vú moment) told me everyone was having the same issues: almost a minute to load a race. It may not sound like much, but it goes really slow when all you do is stare at a spinning color wheel (hey, Mac users, is that you?).
Lastly, I couldn’t make out the text while docked. And that’s really something that may be personal, but none of my family could, either. It was way too small and somewhat smudged. Granted, 40” is not the biggest screen around, but we usually have no issues reading stuff on it. Even the menus were hard to read on “All-Star Fruit Racing”.
The control scheme is also weird, with buttons mapped in a way that makes little sense to me. You can re-map them, but why have them weird to begin with? I much prefer the “Beach Buggy Racing” approach: throttle always on. But if you’re not going that way, make it at least intuitive from the start.
I know it sounds like I’m having a massive downer on the game, and yes, I had high expectations that didn’t come to fruition (ha). But tons of it is fixable! Better performance, more intuitive controls and a more readable text environment are all things somewhat easy to patch! And once you get going in the game, it’s really, really fun.
As I mentioned before, there are tons of things to do, a trillion game modes, tracks and cars and characters to unlock and customize… this is by no means a cut-price, watered-down karting experience. It just needed a bit more polish before coming out, I think, and I hope the developers continue to support it post-launch.
They did promise they would: a patch is already being worked on that will allow online play (currently, the game is local multiplayer only), so I’m keeping my hopes up.
In the meantime, it’s a bit difficult to recommend “All-Star Fruit Racing”. There’s tons of promise, but technical issues and the asking price might make you think twice before jumping in. If you do, though, and you can power through some of the issues, you’ll find a competent racer with heaps of content.