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Sonic Free Riders

Why is SEGA endlessly obsessed with putting Sonic on hoverboards? The whole point of him is he can run really fast anyway. It's like Superman getting into hang gliding. And yet, here we have another game nobody asked for in the shape of Sonic Free Riders.

This time our hero is accompanied by a cast of characters which can only be described as spectacularly stupid, even for a Sonic game. 'Storm the Albatross'? Because what child would want to be a cute cat or brave lion when they could be a nearly-extinct giant sea bird?

At least the tracks you get to race around are all right, in a sort of garish, noisy, Saturday morning cartoon mass-produced in a South Korean animation sweatshop kind of way.

There are plenty of ramps and jumps and shortcuts. There are gold rings to collect and turbo boosts to exploit. There's a good selection of fun power-ups and you can activate them using motion-controlled movements performing a bowling gesture to unleash the bowling ball, for example.

In other words, Sonic Free Riders is a decent-looking, well put together game which would be quite enjoyable if the control system worked properly.

The in-game instructions tell you to stand sideways-on and lean backwards and forwards to steer. Instinctively, you'll probably bend your knees and tilt your whole body using subtle movements, as if you were on a real-life skateboard.

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Is Sonic trying to high-five Tails or push him over? Surely the latter.

This doesn't work. Instead, Sonic Free Riders wants you to bend your body at the hips and lean your torso at extreme angles. Using this method makes steering easier but feels daft, and it doesn't improve the game's ability to recognise your intentions consistently. One minute you'll be cruising round corners with ease, the next you'll be smashing straight into a wall, with no idea what you did wrong.

Sonic Free Riders also suffers from an awkward menu system. This one involves performing diagonal swipes to drag circular icons onto arrows and other such nonsense. Throw in some tedious text-based static cut-scenes, which are fiddly to skip, and the game's constant recalibration requests, and entering a race quickly becomes more trouble than it's worth.

Just as with Sports Freedom I've forgotten the name of it already, Sonic Free Riders is no more fun with a friend. You'll both end up frustrated by the control system, irritated by the menu system and covered in bruises from headbutting each other in the back. Or worse.

The only reason to buy Sonic Free Riders would be if it was actually free. And even then, only if you just really liked the box.

4/10

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