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All-Star Fruit Racing (Nintendo Switch) Review

How to innovate on kart racing: make it fruity. Maybe not innovating as in ‘adding a significant change to the established mechanics’ like kart racers of the past, but moreso providing an aesthetic seldom seen in the genre. So here’s All-Star Fruit Racing doing just that. And right away ya don’t have to worry about any silly plot to try and justify why everything’s fruity or anything that happens. You race a bunch of times to unlock stuff. Also, very fruity. That’s about it.

All-Star Fruit Racing is, as one can clearly tell, a racing game. Specifically, a kart racing game.

If you’ve played any prominent kart racing game; Mario Kart, Crash Team Racing, Diddy Kong Racing, just to name a few, then All-Star Fruit Racing will be more of the same, relatively speaking; one might even call it a budget Mario Kart. It’s got mechanics shared among kart racers like drifting for turbo boosts, powerups, kart customization, it’s all here and it’s all familiar, so the game is practically pick up and play, controls notwithstanding; they’re good, responsive and laid out very well, but are unorthodox compared to most kart racers, so they take some getting used to. Despite all that, though, the game does do a couple of things differently compared to its brethren, enough to specifically talk about.

The powerup system works differently to the standard kart racing fare depending on the race. Located on the bottom right corner of the screen is your fruit tanks. When applicable, tracks have rows of fruit laying around to collect. Collecting specific fruit allows access to the list of powerups, which includes missiles, shields, pools of slippery fluids, turbo boosts and tire freezing ice. These on their own are useful, but there’s more. Every selectable character has a unique fruit themed superweapon exclusive to them, accessed only via hoarding all fruit tanks until they are filled. This can range from a homing pineapple bazooka to a giant, hard to avoid peach explosive, and can turn the tide of a race depending on how they’re used.

Drifting, likewise, has a different implementation compared to the usual fare. On the surface, it works like other racers: you slide on the ground to make hard turns and build up a boost meter while doing so. It’s when you look at the specific intricacies of the mechanic that it becomes interesting. In most kart racers, when you begin a drift, you can’t let go at all lest you lose the drift and any accumulated boosts. Furthermore, hitting a wall or similar terrain usually ruins your groove. In Fruit Racing, though, not only can you let go of the drift button and not immediately lose the boost, but you can drift again in quick succession if you want to. Gaining speed this way is deceptively easy to do, albeit possibly tiring on the hands. It’s debatable whether this is a good or bad thing given the fact it’s clearly snaking, a technique most prevalent in early Mario Kart titles, but it is a notable part of the gameplay.

Overall, though, said gameplay is very much passable. It doesn’t have the same kind of grace a more mainstream karting title would have, but it’s not perfect; sometimes lap counts are imbalanced relative to course length, one match can be easy but the next ends up being tough to even maintain third place, and the alert system for incoming attacks is obnoxious, but it’s otherwise workable.

It goes without saying that the game’s devotion to a fruity aesthetic is not only evident, but also very well done, from the environments and characters bursting with charm and color to the music having a very summer-ish aesthetic. The commitment is so strong to the degree that there are even fruit factoids on loading screens. It’s as if the developers saw Fruit Ninja and thought it wasn’t fruity enough. It’s great. Not flawless, seeing as some models look a tad weird, but those are excusable. The 30-45 fps framerate is somewhat disappointing, but it’s also pretty much stable, as is the game in general. There’s no crashing and no game breaking bugs for playing normally. True, you might very rarely find a scenario by accident where you catapult yourself out of bounds, but seeing as you can reset yourself to the track painlessly, there’s no harm done.

All-Star Fruit Racing is a solid package when picked up, with a lengthy career mode, online modes, time attacks, unlockables and kart customization to keep you occupied for a while. It more than justifies the higher than normal price tag (for a non-major eShop title); if you don’t have Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, since everything you can do here is done way better there. It’s also more recommended for those who have people to play with above all else. It’s by no means unplayable alone, but for $40 there are much better options.