PSP Hands-On: Sonic Rivals
Three new Sonic titles, and here's "the other one", the portable iteration of Sonic's trifecta.
Sonic's been a busy boy as of late, with his 15 year anniversary fast-approaching he's been prepping to party on a wide variety of gaming platforms. But it's nothing he's not used to; Sonic's numerous adventures have spanned across all current generation console platforms, mobile phones, and handhelds like the Game Boy Advance and the Nintendo DS. It was just a matter of time before the PSP received some Sonic love, and frankly it's about darn time.
Developed by Backbone Entertainment, the people behind the original Death, Jr. and its upcoming sequels, Sonic Rivals isn't your everyday Sonic game. While the side-scrolling 2.5D visuals will have many Sonic fans frothing at the mouth at the thought of getting a traditional 2D Sonic action platformer with darling graphics, only part of that is true.
Sonic Rivals isn't a platformer in the traditional sense, the game is more along the lines of a side-scrolling racing platformer, where Sonic competes against his top rivals in a number of on-foot races with some platforming elements sprinkled throughout the courses for good measure. In a way, you can say that the competitive head-to-head nature of the game is akin to a side-scrolling version of Sonic R with fewer onscreen racers, more platform hopping and much better controls.
The racing action will be presented in both single-player and Wi-Fi multiplayer variety, allowing players to select and race as one of four characters taken from the Sonic universe. As players battle through the single-player mode of the game they'll be able to experience each character's unique storyline as well as engage in some highly competitive 2P head-to-head contests against a friend in the multiplayer mode.
The E3 demo we played limited us to just a single race with Sonic racing against Shadow. The action was off to a pretty quick start as we shot out from the starting line and attempted to leave Shadow behind to eat our dust. As you navigate the courses a race meter displayed at the bottom of the screen indicates the distance of the racers from each other.
The gameplay certainly had a Sonic feel to it as we sped through the winding course at supersonic speeds, navigating all the twists, turns, and loops that came our way while collecting rings and power-ups. In typical Sonic fashion, enemies also appear throughout the course of the race, serving to slow you down if you bump into them, so you'll have to carefully time your short range attack when close enough to them in order to maintain your momentum and lead over your opponent.
In addition to dealing with enemies you'll also have other hazards to deal with during the races such as avoiding deadly spike spits and other hazardous contraptions, vaulting over obstacles intended to slow you down and bouncing around to different platforms, all while trying to maintain a high rate of speed.
The game controls using the PSP d-pad and Sonic has a few decent moves in his arsenal; in addition to Sonic's normal jump, he can also air boost as well as leapfrog his opponent with the X button, speed boost and attack his opponents with the circle button, as well as activate his power-ups with the triangle button.
Sonic Rivals will also feature a rewards system where players will be able to customize the looks of their characters by collecting trading cards. One of the coolest aspects of the trading card system is that cards can be traded via the PSP's Wi-Fi connectivity feature and players can effectively up the ante of their multiplayer battles by putting their cards on the line.
The graphics looked pretty decent, with the typical Sonic color scheme and some nice backgrounds, but nothing too fancy. To be honest the level designs are almost too Sonicy in a cliché sense, offering nothing new or appealing beyond the carbon Green Hill or Mystic Ruin look from all those years back, unlike the 3D games of the last few years which really spice up the blue-sky formula with new details for each new iteration.
While the game moved at a pretty speedy pace, the demo was plagued with some seriously stuttery framerates and playing through the level often felt like a disjointed, awkward experience. Sonic didn't move as smoothly as he could, making the game feel as if it wasn't properly optimized yet, but there's still plenty of time left for the developers to fine-tune the game.
Sonic Rivals is currently slated to be released this fall. Stay tuned for more info as the game approaches it release.
Staff Writer, Kikizo.com