A pure impulse buy on the way to pick up another game , Sonic Riders caught my attention. The game news sites had been running screens of this for a while now and so I thought: "Hey, a Sonic racing game. Maybe it won't suck." Besides, I'm an easy mark for any kind of racing game.
With Sonic R in Sega's catalogue, Sonic Riders is not a totally original idea. As Sonic games go, one may throw their hands up in exasperation over the "me too" approach Sonic Team is taking its beloved blue hedgehog. There are greener pastures and longer lasting franchises over in Mario's court after all. So when you're about to take your company's flagship mascot and put them in a dedicated racing game, of all things, you better do it right.
Expectations may range anywhere from a revival of the Sega Saturn classic to a all out kart brawler like many other mascot racers set out to do. Instead we get something that's a little old, a little new, a little borrowed and, you guessed it – a little blue. And the results are interesting indeed. Riders comes closer to a visceral punch to the temple, ala F-Zero and Wipeout, than it does with plumbers and his ilk. So is it fun?
Well, Sonic Riders toutes a simple ideology: take Sonic and company along huge spanning tracks wrought with peril, shortcuts and racing at fast speeds; blazingly fast. And when you're in first place? Go faster – trust me, there's never a moment where you should feel safe in current ranking. There's also a bit of kitsch involved – everyone goes fast on hover boards. Called "Extreme Gear" – I kid you not. So the essential thrust is to go fast on "extreme" boards and place first in every race event.
Sonic Team mixes things up into the formula to keep each competition interesting. Every character fits to one of three skill types – Speed, Fly, or Power. Speed types, like Sonic, have the ability to grind on rails littered around the course. Fly types like – you guessed it – Tails can control their movement better in the air and use air-rings to take nifty shortcuts. Power types such as Knuckles can tear down walls and other obstacles to reveal hidden paths, as well as have the power to pummel through junk that clutters the main track. This means each race stays interesting with multiple paths and hidden routes that only certain character types can get to.