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December 19 2007
Sonic Rivals 2 - PSP Review
Release Date Distributor Publisher Developer
5/12/2007SegaSegaBackbone Entertainment
Save Size Difficulty Players Rating

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It's 3D graphics but 2D gameplay.
Despite the terrible games in recent years I have to admit that I am still a big fan of Sega's spiky blue hedgehog. There's a romanticism surrounding the character, primarily due to the fact that it was the first 16-bit game I owned when I bought an imported Sega Megadrive many moons ago. Sadly the transition to 3D has not been handled well, even by Yuji Naka and original developers Sonic Team. Last year though developers Backbone Entertainment finished off a little PSP game for Sega called Sonic Rivals. It was actually a great take on the usual Sonic adventure games, this time it was a foot race, something which the speedy blue hedgehog seemed to be born for. Great graphics, fun gameplay and solid presentation made the game a winner. Can Backbone improve on that original title? Read on...

There isn't much of a storyline to write him about. Basically Dr Robotnik is back and the Chao seem to be disappearing. All eight rivals must work fast to find out who is behind it. The single player game includes a Story mode, Single Event, Cup Circuit and Free Play. Certainly the Story mode is where you will likely spend much of your time as it offers the bulk of the game. The Free Play though is also quite entertaining as you can explore the levels at your leisure.

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Sonic leaps up high...
If you checked out the first Sonic Rivals on PSP then you would be aware that rather then an action/adventure game the title was more of a race through a series of 2D (yes, the graphics were 3D but the gameplay very much 2D) levels to beat the opponents. This game is pretty much the same in terms of gameplay with the title taking place across 12 new levels and with three new characters including Miles "Tails" Power, Espio the Chameleon, and Rouge the Bat which brings the playable character count to eight. At times the game will put you into a battle styled area to combat enemies and bosses. We have to say that this is quite a distraction from the main game and while we can see that making at least some elements of this title more traditional in game design may appeal to the bean counters, it actually detracts from the overall experience.

A battle mode also gives you six different ways to take out your rivals... Knockout, Ring Battle, Race, King of the Hill, Capture the Chao, and Tag. Multi-player for 2-players entering battles is supported over Wi-Fi with game sharing (you only need one disc) which is a nice addition. To compete in 2-player races though each player will need a copy of the game.

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As always, expect plenty of loops.
Sadly this isn't the perfect game we were hoping for. First of all you do feel that you have limited controls as you hurtle through the levels bouncing around, being accelerated to ridiculous speeds and flying through the air with no sight of the ground at all. Another issue is that the difficulty level is pretty high - a single mistake could see the end of your race while CPU controlled opponents rarely make any mistakes. Surely a dynamic difficulty (where it changes according to how you are performing) could have been implemented. Another issue is that Sonic Rivals 2 has a pretty weak storyline which serves little purpose - why not just make a racing game a racing game. Do we have storylines in Gran Turismo or Burnout? Of course not. All the story does here is manage to infuriate due to the boring plot and poor scripting. Speaking of which I was pretty disappointed that the dialogue only appears on static screens with character images.

As with the original game the graphics in this game look pretty good compared to other PSP titles. The character models are a little low on detail, but the emphasis here is on the bright colours and blistering speed as you dash through the levels. While the game could still be a couple of notches faster there is no denying that this is an impressive title that holds a fairly solid frame rate throughout. Kudos must also go to Backbone Entertainment for developing a camera system which works as perfect as one could hope in a game such as this.

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Characters are good, but a little blocky.
In the past I have heavily criticised the audio found in most of the Sonic games, but Sonic Rivals 2 is a bit of an exception. The music is pretty heavily rock based, but it manages to suit the frantic nature of the games. The effects will also be pretty similar to fans of the franchise with that familiar tingling as you collect the rings, and wooshes as you get a speed boost. Certainly the weakest aspect yet again are the voices which sound pretty childish. Fortunately they are better then many other games, but still not great.

While still well below what we were hoping for there was considerable enjoyment gained from Sonic Rivals 2. It's still not perfect, and we actually feel that the developers are making things a little complex in places and you still don't have the full sense of control as you hurtle through the levels, however if you're a Sonic fan this is probably the most fun you would have had in quite some time.

Review By: Dave Warner

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GRAPHICSBright and colourful there's no denying this is Sonic.
SOUNDMusic, effects and even the speech are passable - a change from most Sonic games of late.
GAMEPLAYThe racing element is fun, but it gets quite hard near the end.
VALUEPlenty of cards to collect, and great fun to be hard.
OVERALLSonic Rivals 2 is another good game in the series, but it doesn't feel like Backbone Entertainment have taken the game anywhere new with this sequel.

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