Sonic Rivals 2 PSP Review

Publisher: SEGA  Developer: Backbone Entertainment  Genre: Racing, Platformer  

Players: 1-2  Age Rating: 7+  Other console/handheld formats: N/A

Sonic Rivals 2 was released in 2007, and sees Sonic and his friends – or in this instance, rivals – returning for more racing and mayhem. Gone this time is the strange premise of turning animals into cards, and in comes another story about an ultimate being, known as Ifrit, which Dr Robotnik’s doppelganger, Eggman Nega, is looking to release on to the world to destroy it. Chao and the Chaos Emeralds also play a part in the scheme.

Each of the 8 playable characters are divided into teams of two, with each team having their own part in the story. Sonic is with Tails; Knuckles and Rouge the Bat are together; Espio and Silver are teamed up; and Shadow and Metal Sonic make the last pairing.

As the story progresses, each of the teams are rivalled up against each other, taking on one another through a total of 6 fast-paced zones. Each character has their own set of basic moves – such as the ability to give your opponent a kick up the be-hind if you catch up to them, causing them to take damage, lose rings, and slowing them down – as well as their own Signature Move which they can use to their own advantage. Characters can also pick up a number of Power-Ups, which they can use against opponents to hinder their progress.

At certain points, you’ll be pitted against each other in a 1 on 1 battle.

At times, you’ll find your character pitted against another character in a 1v1 battle, in which it is the first character to score three hits against the other who wins. Other times, characters will be pitted against each other and a main boss, battling to see who can do the most damage. Boss Fights are basic, but varied, and require you to learn a pattern and time your hits. Sometimes this is done while the camera is stationary, the boss centralised; other times you might also have to contend with avoiding obstacles and hits from the boss as you run away, and all done while trying to outwit your rival.

Gameplay takes place in 2.5D zones, the design of each zone managing to capture the essence of the original 2D Sonic games whilst also managing to incorporate a more streamlined layout suitable for racing. The zones play like miniature versions of the 2.5D sections in the main 3D Sonic games, such as Unleashed and Generations. You can take multiple paths towards the goal, but it doesn’t overwhelm you with too many alternative options that you struggle with trying to find the right path to beat your rival. However, taking certain paths will work to your advantage, as some routes will be quicker to get through than others, helping you to get in the lead.

Mostly, as an older player, I found Sonic Rivals 2 to be a bit of an easy ride, as I also did with the original. It doesn’t take much skill to beat your rival, and unfortunately there is no way to adjust the difficulty of your rival to make things a bit more interesting. Once you manage to get in the lead, it is easy enough to stay in the lead, and even if you are slowed down, it doesn’t take much skill to get ahead again. Of course, it will be younger players who will find the game a bit more challenging, but if they are also avid players of the 3D games, they might also find this too easy.

Another issue is the fact that, as with the original, you play the same zones over and over again, just with different characters. Of course this means you get to use their different skill-sets, but this doesn’t do much to alleviate the repetitiveness of playing the same zones again and again.

However, to add some variation, you can play a number of mini games in the new Battle Mode. This features 6 different types of competition, including Knock Out, Rings Battle, Capture the Chao, Laps Race, King of the Hill and Tag. These are fun enough, but, again, older players may find them too easy, and there is no way to adjust the AI difficulty.

There is an offline-only multiplayer mode, using game sharing or wireless play, and this is the best way to play as it will truly test your skills against real players. Unfortunately there isn’t much of a selection of games on offer – not even the Battle Mode is available in multiplayer. Only the second act of each zone and the main bosses are available to play.

Gameplay is varied, but you’ll quickly find there’s actually very little to keep you invested.

Throughout the game, rewards for completing certain achievements can be unlocked, including collecting 150 cards, 8 character cups, and 4 unlockable skins for each character, making 32 outfits in total to collect.

From a technical standpoint, there is very little wrong with the game; I never experienced any glitches or bugs, and the design is colourful, bright and always energetic. However, whilst it is a lively game, looking at the bigger picture, you’ll soon realise that Sonic Rivals 2 doesn’t really have much to offer, especially for us older fans, and the multiplayer is wasted.

The story is lacklustre and the AI is too easy, with no option to change the settings to match the AI to your own ability. Whilst there is a Battle Mode, it can’t be played in multiplayer, where it would certainly have given the most enjoyment, multiplayer consisting of 6 acts and the bosses only, and only playable offline. In hindsight, this makes multiplayer a pretty basic and pointless addition.

Older players may find enjoyment in collecting all the rewards, but if you have no one to play against, some rewards become defunct because you’ll never be able to achieve them without another player. And if you do have someone to play against, collecting all the rewards certainly won’t take long, and after that, there really isn’t much to come back for. Perhaps best played as a little time waster.