Sonic has made an appearance in just about every major gaming genre ever created.
Apart from the obvious speedy platforming that he’s so famed for, he has appeared in beat-em ups (Sonic X-treme), RPGs (Sonic The Hedgehog), pinball (Sonic Spinball), Tetris like puzzle titles (Du Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine) and a whole wealth of racing titles over the years. The latest of which being Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity.
Released back in 2006, the original Sonic Riders tried to do the whole Mario Kart thing with a twist. Rather than simple racing, and utilising power-ups to thrust yourself into top spot, you were required to pull off tricks and jumps into to accumulate energy points to slingshot your way speedily around turns.
Even glancing past the incredulous stupidity of strapping Sonic to a hoverboard, (isn’t he supposed to be “the fastest thing alive”?) Sonic Riders on the Wii doesn’t give even the vaguest hint that it could possibly cause gamers to forget all about the upcoming release of Mario Kart Wii.
We’re all well aware of the Wii’s lack of processing power in comparison to the Xbox 360 and PS3, but Sonic Riders does indeed make fairly good use of the power it's able to utilise. There’s a true sensation of obscene speed when the action really ramps up, and the colourful levels, while not exactly dripping in detail, do prove to be easy on the eye when you’re rushing along the track at a high speed.
Sadly, there’s not that much racing to be done. A speedy run through the game's story mode will take a handful of hours at best, just allowing you enough time to tire of the over the top story. Each race is broken up by a tedious cutscene, coming with some the most horrendous and ridiculous dialogue ever seen in modern day gaming, even for a series famed for its phenomenally poor standards of story telling.
Not that the action out on the track is much better. While other Wii-based racing titles have utilised the Wii Remote to a high standard of workability, Sonic Riders gives a far too sensitive representation of turn. You’ll frequently find yourself bashing into each side of the track when you’re under real pressure, meaning that disabling the tilt control is an absolute must in order to extract any kind of enjoyment. A Gamecube controller is highly recommended indeed.
The slingshot mechanism makes tight corners much easier, and infinitely more enjoyable than the controls would suggest. As you reach the apex of a corner, you simply hold a button, slowing your racer right down, and allowing you to point yourself in the correct direction before letting you blast off at rapid speed further down the course.
Sadly you can’t use these gravitational powers at will. To accumulate the energy required, you must pull off a series of jumps and tricks to boost your reserves, and give you the chance of completing the perfect turn.
While Exite Truck has proven that the Wii can provide stunning motion controlled speedy racing action, Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity simply shows what can happen when such a title is placed in the wrong hands.
While fast at times, the short lived single-player mode, and some horrendous controls only go to show that Sonic will appear in any old rubbish to make a quick buck. One to miss.