STAFF REVIEW of Sonic Riders (Xbox)

Sunday, March 19, 2006.
by Tony Ingrassia

Sonic Riders Box art So our turbo charged little blue buddy is back, that?s right Sonic the Hedgehog has returned. Not in his usual surroundings in this new outing by the folks at the Sonic Team, Sonic finds himself in a more ?Extreme? situation. Accompanied by the usual cast of characters and a couple of new ones, Sonic Riders takes our speedy friend on a high-speed hover board adventure across some interesting tracks and obstacles. Much like my feelings towards a certain plumber from that ?Other? console, I find myself asking this burning question?Is it time to retire? Let?s find out together shall we.

The Sonic franchise has always been one of my favorites; it?s always kind of been the anti-Mario character to me. The speed, the levels, the cut-scenes, I just couldn?t get enough. Now after a few ?Best Of? outings we are treated to an entirely new Sonic adventure, and I do mean new. Apparently Sonic has grown weary of running and needs to take to a hover board to relieve his boredom. The simplest way to describe Sonic Riders is Sonic meets SSX Tricky, with added Sonic wrinkles for good measure.

The storyline is a little week, Sonics arch enemy Egg Man sets up a grand competition, a series of races on these ?New? hover boards. 2 New villains are added to the usual cast of characters, and your pretty much off and running. Levels are replaced by races in SR (Sonic Riders), Sonic staples, the golden rings, the speed tracks, and cut-scenes are all still here. The few wrinkles are the Tony Hawk like upgrades to your board, and rival jet streams as you race.

Each race starts out with your character on foot, as the race is started you run towards the start line and hit your board. Sounds simple enough, but you do need to time your approach just right because if you cross the start line before its time you get zapped, loosing precious time. This sounds like an interesting little addition, but it ends up being more of an annoyance as you play on. I just found myself asking, does it really need to be in the game? Once your off and hurling down the tracks your met with various twists and turns, and the usual cut scenes that are forced on you, taking control of the game for the duration. This cut scene thing worked well in the past, but now seems not only a little overdone, but I?m finding that in SR there is more ?watching? and less playing. During races you can also ?Jump? onto a rivals ?Jet Stream?, riding his wave and conserving your board, more on this a little late, but again, more watching less playing. Your board does overheat and needs to be ?Re-Charged?, there are stations along the track were you can do this, oddly enough they are never placed in easily accessible locations causing you to either continue forward to the next one or try and double back wasting time and your position.

On top of all of this, SR also has an added ?Trick? system, yep Sonic can perform some ?Extreme? combos while air born and get graded as he lands. At this point I have to admit, SR is a hodge-podge of ideas that don?t come together very fluidly. The speed that games of the past were made classic for seems out of control in SR. The control scheme while simple, has a very steep learning curve, making your early races seem more like a pinball game with your character basically bouncing off walls and obstacles in an uncontrolled frantic manner. Graphically the game looks as good as ever, but there is some excessive clipping and I hate to beat a dead horse, too many cut scenes within the races. The sound quality is solid, the music a little different from Sonics past, more heavy metal, less Sonic-like. The dialogue is campier and more stagnant than past games also, adding to the week story line.

Sonic Riders offers some very interesting ?Tracks? as you progress, and could be better than I may think, but it will deffinatly have a problem keeping the attention of not only new gamers, but die-hard Sonic fans long enough to find out. I found myself going on and on with SR just to give it a valid chance before writing this review, but I found it a chore at best, which tells me it will be just as big a chore for others with less reason than I to continue.

If you?re a Sonic fan, a Die-Hard, give it a shot, you may find the change of pace refreshing. Which leads us back to my original burning question. Is it time to retire? Well, this may surprise some of you after this review, but I would say no, and I?ll justify it with this comment, which applies to the plumber too, by the way. Franchises we love become just that because of innovative ideas and level designs, not by throwing those franchise characters in surrounding not really suited, or familiar to the games basis.

So to the folks at Sonic Team I say this, give me the Sonic that I fell in love with way back in the day, hell, even the Sonic from Sonic Heroes is much closer to what I want from my blazing blue buddy, but don?t sell him short.

Game On!

Overall: 5.0 / 10
Gameplay: 5.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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