Review: Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity
Posted 21 Mar 2008 at 04:11 by Tom Phillips
|"To become good at it, you'll have to put up with unfair AI and become competent with the dodgy controls."|
Sonic the Hedgehog, one of the fastest videogames characters in the business. Perfectly fitted to a racing title, surely? The original Sonic Riders was released in 2006, and this sequel, subtitled Zero Gravity, finds a total of three dozen Sega characters racing on sixteen futuristic twisting tracks via the use of hoverboards, in settings varied from jungles, deserts and icey tundras.
This time round, the boards are able to "alter the gravity" of the track, which enables access to a large number of alternate routes. There are two basic special moves. First is the Gravity Drift, which allows you to slow down time, allowing you to swerve round a perfect right angle bend in slow motion or re-position yourself on the track to jump onto a shortcut. The second is the Gravity Dive, where your character is pulled along the track at great speed – which also rips pieces of scenery off of the track as well – and bumping into this flying debris gives you extra boosts.
"Look Ma, no hands!"
This leads us to detail the game's faults. If you play the title in arcade, you're going to notice the worryingly good computer players. There are no different settings of difficulty to choose from, and you'll be right in at the deep end. They know all the short cuts, and can navigate them with ease. If only the same could be said for you.
As for the special moves, Gravity Drifting significantly slows you down while you make a turn, and this usually just allows your opponents past. Time doesn't slow for them too. It's often better to not use the move, swerve as sharp as you can and just hope for the best. Similarly, when beginning a Gravity Dive, your character is initially paused in mid-air before you boost forwards, but only after you've been over-taken. This then just leaves you having to work your way past opponents who had previously been behind you already. These boost effects can often actually be a hindrance, but probably the most annoying thing is that there are only one or two places in a course they can really effectively be used. And if you don't have the boost power then, you're kind of stuck. Additionally, you can collect rings to upgrade your machine during the race for better speed and control, but the effects are barely noticeable.
There are three control schemes to the game, the default being to hold the Wiimote horizontally and tilt it side-to-side to steer. The second is holding it normally and tilting it like that. But remarkably it is the third way – the good old GameCube controller - which is the easiest to use. And it'll need to be a Cube controller – there is no Classic Controller support.
Oooh, pretty curly foresty things.
On a much more positive note, the game looks great. The Story mode is begun by some gorgeous CG. Never has Sonic looked so good, and we mean that. Oh, not like that, you know what we mean. The title has far superior graphics to the PS2 version – we shouldn't have to remark upon this, but certain other titles (mentioning no names) do cut corners… Indeed, the graphics throughout are very pleasing (excepting some truly awful fire effects dotted around some tracks). Generally though, the title is visually very pleasing – especially as you're boosting around the track and your whole screen is filled with scenery soaring past, the wind rushing by and debris flying everywhere.
The game's soundtrack is similarly enjoyable, and includes themes you will be humming after you've switched the game off (it's even available on a soundtrack CD). The music kicking in hard as you initiate a boost gives you a great feeling, and adds to the speed of the race.
The Story mode in the title is a fairly short affair, the first half of which focuses on Sonic and co. as they defeat Eggman's evil schemes and come up against the Babylon crew once again – Jet the Hawk and his cronies. The second half sees events from Jet's perspective, which is a nice touch. As you race through courses in Story they are unlocked in Arcade, with two tracks to each location available – one as you play through on Sonic's side, the second when you play through with Jet. It's a decent diversion from what is essentially an arcade racing game, and will take you several hours to complete.
One of the newer David Attenborough programmes here showing a green bird of prey demanding a mystical object from a pink hedgehog in dress.
After completing Story mode, and through picking up rings on tracks in Story and Arcade, more characters and boards become available. There's a roster of eighteen characters available in total, including some non-Sonic Sega faves. If you want every single item in the game, it's going to take you a fair while. You can also connect up to the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection to download Ghosts from the best racers, though there is no online racing option, which is a shame.
It's not that the title is terrible – it's definitely not. But to become good at it, you'll have to put up with unfair AI and become competent with the dodgy controls. Plug in some Cube controllers and get some mates round though, and it could be a different story.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Our advice: use a GameCube controller, learn the shortcuts, and hope the next one sorts out that boost system.
More great CG and visuals from Sonic Team
Plenty of alternate routes on tracks
The best control option is a lastgen controller
Counterintuitive boost system
No online races