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July 24, 2006
Sonic Riders - PS2 Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
150KBDolby PLIIYesNoNoneNo

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Sonic is back...
Sonic has come a long way since the original games was first released on the Sega Genesis back in 1991. No longer a 2D side-scrolling platformer, the franchise has received a lot of criticism in recent years, with the Sonic games seeming to lose more and more of whatever it was that made them so special all those years ago. The latest game with the blue hedgehog in it, Sonic Riders, is a break from the 3D platforming. But is this what the sonic fans have been waiting for, or just another seemingly half-witted release?

Lets begin with the part of the Sonic games that usually lets it down the most; the story. Sonic, originally, didnt need a story, and it was once the Sonic Team started to try and put a story to the game that the games slowly fell apart. Unfortunately, Sonic Riders is no exception. Once again, as can be expected, Dr. Eggman (once known to us as Robotnik) is out to get the chaos emeralds, and something more. To do this he has employed the help of the Babylon Rogues, a group of birds who use "extreme gear" (essentially like a hoverboard from the Back to the Future movie series), to take on Sonic and his friends in a World Grand Prix. Winner takes all seven emeralds. And thats pretty much the entire story. Even with this brief explanation, you can hear thousands of gamers crying out in pain. It's the type of plot any fan of the Sonic series has come to expect, and has seen many times over. Not a good start, not a good start at all.

Click To Enlarge Image a racing game!
So the crew enters the grand prix. This is where the story cuts off for a while, and also where the game gets better. You jump onto one of the extreme gear boards as a sonic character and away you go. The first thing that you notice while playing the game is the speed. Sonic Riders makes many of the other games in the series look slow, and thats no easy task. Almost instantly, you're cruising along the track at full speed riding someone elses turbulence rifts, or pulling a stunt off a ramp. You, for a moment, even manage to forget about the horrible story behind this game and start enjoying yourself, then your board run out of air. It seems that the extreme gear runs on air, and it doesnt replenish without aid of either a pit stop or air pickups. All of a sudden your character gets off his/her board and starts running, and anyone who was behind you cruises by. Even once you get some air back, you have to use your boost to catch up to the players, and guess what? That uses up more air. A very frustrating cycle.

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The game looks great moving.
There are a few other elements of gameplay that make up for this unforgiving air system. When a player goes fast enough they leave behind them a turbulence rift, which you can 'ride' and get a speed boost. While in these rifts you could just let the character go, and not do anything, but better than that you could pull off some tricks using the half-pipe shape of the rift. While the trick system is as simple as manipulating the left control stick, it does provide a sizeable air boost, and is always fun to do. It's definately a lot more fun than the attacking system which, although able to be used to take a player's rings away, forcing them down a level (thus lowering some stats, like speed, cornering, etc.), is quite automatic and boring. All this, as well as short levels and fairly useless character shortcuts (based on a class-like system) means that the game mechanics leave much to be desired. However, multiplayer is a lot more enjoyable than single player with this game, allowing up to four players to race, split-screen, at breakneck speeds in the various levels available.

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4-player split screen.
The levels themselves, although short (as previously mentioned), look quite nice, and are much better than some of the other Sonic games. The game moves smoothly with very few slowdown points, though certain areas of the levels can look quite bland when moving slowly on foot. CG cutscenes are also far too common in this game, and while they look nice, they are nothing amazing and could have easily have been cut. Perhaps one of the strongest points, graphically, of Sonic Riders is the character models. While still bland in comparison to many other games, the models have seen a fairly obvious increase in detail since the last game (Shadow the Hedgehog).

Audio within the game is nothing to get excited over either. Throughout each race there is the voice of an incredibly annoying female announcer who doesn't seem to have more than a handful of lines, and she just keeps repeating them over and over. On top of this, the voice acting in the game seems to have, as is usual with the sonic games, gotten even worse. In particular, some of the voices for the new enemies are particularly annoying, and it's one of those games that you wish you could listen to the japanese audio with subtitles on.

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Sonic gets some air.
Overall, the game makes for a fairly dismal experience, however, for those with a soft spot for the franchise, Sonic Riders does come through on one front. Once you finish the story mode there are a whole host of challenges for you to finish, and these will keep you going for some time.

So it seems that we will have to wait for the PS3's Sonic title, headed our way hopefully at the PS3 launch, for what looks like a return to the old Sonic ways. For now we have multiplayer Sonic Riders to keep us content. The singleplayer is certainly not a selling point, but if you have a multitap and a few friends this game isn't half bad.

Review By: Michael Hutchesson

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version) or Amazon (NTSC Version).
GRAPHICSBetter than other Sonic games, a few framerate drops but not many.
SOUNDThe voice acting and announcer will have you turning the game off if you pay any attention to it. THe lowest point of the game.
GAMEPLAYFast-paced and enjoyable with several problems. Great multiplayer.
VALUEShort story-mode, but heaps of challenges. Plenty of playtime.
OVERALLSonic Riders is kind of a mixed bag, and perhaps best reserved for true Sonic fans and collectors.

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