All-Star Fruit Racing – Early Access Review

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Posted October 18, 2017 by Cameron McFarland in Video Games

Developer: 3DClouds.it

Publisher: 3DClouds.it

Release date: September 4th, 2017 (Early Access)

Available on: PC (Steam)

I remember when I first watched Wreck-it-Ralph in theaters just how wide my smile was when Ralph saw that he had crash-landed in a cutesy kart racing game. The bright colors and clever designs made me wish game companies still sold those mandatory movie tie-in games because I wanted to play Sugar Rush more than anything. Little did I know that the folks at 3DClouds.it were busy with the early blueprints to a kart racer that was really made-to-order for my palette.

It is of course impossible to talk about a kart racer without comparing it to Mario Kart as a series. So, let’s get that out of the way. Like MarioAll-Star Fruit Racing puts a lot of focus into easy controls, friendly roads, and cartoony powerups to fire at rival racers. You can drift around corners, look for short cuts and openings to take the lead, and risk having your win stolen from you with a well-aimed projectile. Any fan of kart racers knows what they’re signing up for when they first boot up Fruit Racing. What genuinely caught me by surprise was the unique take on variety that gets applied to each race.

I really like fruit

The colorful and creative art design makes each lap fun to tour.

The first unique element of Fruit Racing I can’t quite get over is “juice mixing” the various powerups. Like in other racers, you can drive through brightly colored items on the course to get weapons to defend yourself, but in certain game modes you are required to pass over several of one type of fruit before you have access to that weapon. You can use it immediately, or you can hold onto it until you have some more juice to mix in, rewarding you with a more powerful items. In the screenshot above you can see I’ve got all the watermelon and cherry juice I need for a powerful boost forward, but only if I don’t want to hold out for that grape juice to blend up the perfect tornado to take out the competition. This element of strategy adds a layer to gameplay I had never considered “fun” for racing games, but I really love it in execution.

The other strength I noticed was the variety of race types. Some courses warrant multiple laps while others are long enough that one or two can get the job done. There’s a game mode where you don’t mix juice but instead get weapons assigned at random much more like Mario Kart‘s design. My favorite finale to a campaign run is “elimination” where every few seconds the player in last place gets removed from the race. Watching the counter tick down as you inch nose-for-nose to stay ahead of your opponent can be terribly exciting, which is surprising given the game’s lighthearted presentation.

It smells so good

This course takes you around the inside of a giant coconut, complete with milky waterfalls and that smell that will stay in your hair all day.

All-Star Fruit Racing isn’t perfect, though. I struggle at this point to focus too much on the flaws because this title is currently in early-access. In fact, when you boot the game you are greeted with a message from the developers wishing you well and reminding you that they are looking for feedback as they work hard to complete the project. It’s easy to look the other way and assume that everything will come together as intended, but I want to ask: Is this worth your $14.99?

I mentioned earlier that the controls are simple, and this is by design I’m quite certain. I feel like the tracks offer a lot of forgiving turns and moments to think about how a player should execute their next strategic fruit attack. This guarantees a player won’t feel too overwhelmed at any given time, but can also lead to some rather by-the-books bland racing when the cards don’t align. I did have fun seeing each new track for the first time, but as only 2 of the 5 planned worlds are available so far and online play is not yet accessible, the single difficulty setting for AI eventually stops challenging players after they’ve learned their favorite techniques to reach first place. A small consolation is that local multiplayer goes up to 4 slots and online is reportedly around the corner, but until I get to give their netcode a try I’m finding it hard to say the game lasts long.

The future looks bright, I must admit. Even with these shortcomings, no one can argue that the art design is adorable. Each stage has at least one visual gimmick that gave me a smile, be it a dolphin on the beach made out of a banana or just how tasty the grape juice looked from beyond the plastic walls of the giant drinking straw I was racing through. No stage neglects to inject your eyes with joy-inducing amounts of color. Players also get to customize their race car to their tastes and pick from a variety of drivers that each have their own powerful weapon that ties into the racer’s fruit design motif and the entire thing comes together beautifully.

On the topic of art design, I do need to gripe on one aspect in particular, namely the sound design. The soundtrack feels a little uninspired, which surprises me given the overwhelmingly fun and cute characters in this tasty world. Additionally, some of the sound effects feel out of place, maybe even placeholders that the team intends to replace at some point. Then, the colorful world and menus are all fun, but those grayed out “coming soon” bits sort of infect each screen and remind you that the game isn’t quite finished.

The bottom line to my question? Is this game worth your $14.99? I personally feel like this game was made for me. There is just so much fun to be had. Playing All-Star Fruit Racing brightened my day when I needed a smile. Even though I feel like I conquered what’s available in the game so far, it was a little sunshine in the middle of a dark day and I am definitely going to be keeping a close eye on where this team takes their game in the future. It is clearly not done yet, and there is a little room for improvement here or there, but if you set your expectations a little low or consider it like betting on an underdog, I think All-Star Fruit Racing may turn out to be something very special by the time it reaches full release. I have to give the game a middling score because the dollar-per-fun ratio isn’t quite balanced given the missing features at present. Personally, I can see the game coming together as the team listens to feedback and continues to demonstrate their skills. But, if you don’t think this is for you, at least look at the concept art on their official website and get an adorable wallpaper for your phone. Maybe it will remind you to check back every once in a while and see if they’ve earned an increased rating as features and tracks get added over time.


About the Author

Cameron McFarland

Cameron loves cartoons and bad movies almost as much as bad cartoon movies. He is also the world's best spaghetti-eater, so don't bring it up around him or he won't shut up about it. Author and Artist for world-reviled World of Warcraft fancomic, www.taurenitup.com