Sonic Rivals PSP Review

Like Sonic Drift, Sonic R and Sonic Riders, Sonic Rivals isn’t a traditional game starring the blue hedgehog who literally “lives his life in the fast lane“, instead it’s a racing and platformer crossover. Putting Sonic and all his colourful comrades and villains into such a game makes perfect sense after all, as Sonic isn’t exactly known for strolling around his gaming environments, preferring to move like a drug-enhanced athlete of the future instead.

In some ways Sonic Rivals is a traditional Sonic game, although the objective to take on familiar faces in racing events is a recurring twist for SEGA’s once largely adored character, who is now ridiculed for his apparently rubbish games (we still have a soft spot for the blue one).

All the loops, springs, dizzying level design and trademark speed that the series quickly became famous for are present in Sonic Rivals. The levels are stupidly over the top and make rollercoaster’s look subtle, whilst the superb speed never lets up, releasing a rush of flowing adrenaline as a result.

This one is also a return to Sonic’s 2D heritage of sorts. The game is viewed from a side angle, although some neat camera work adds some style to the furious action and shows that the game has been constructed using polygons opposed to sprites. The levels are Sonic through and through and each host their own shortcuts to discover and obstacles to contend with, but of course you’re always up against a rival who’ll try everything in their power to ruin your race and look for a victory over you.

Catch-up is a feature that has been much debated, and if you are a part of the camp who can’t stand seemingly strange forces of magnetism keeping races nail bitingly close, then perhaps Sonic Rivals isn’t the game for you. This is a game where there’s catch-up in abundance, and it’s one where people are going to complain about the cheating AI when they’re losing and thanking the catch-up when they slip their way into first position literally a foot or two from the finishing line.

Power ups aid both you and your opponent during each race and range from burning fireballs to encasing your opponent in a block of ice. Each of the four characters also have their own signature moves (a burst of speed from Sonic, decreasing a rivals speed using Shadow etc) and any of these power ups can make a real difference at any stage, and can of course turn the tide of a race in the crucial closing moments.

You’ll take on each rival twice before you double up against the boss of the zone, and even in these situations it’s all about the competition. Your aim is to do more damage to the boss than your opponent, which means there’s never a friendly team-up to speak of and it’s every hedgehog and echidna for himself at all times.

The problem with the game is that each of the four characters are basically retreads of the last one with only their signature moves being something that they can call their own. This is made even worse by repeated levels and bosses for each character, although in spite of these niggles, the always present speed and intensity means that there’s never a dull moment.

Outside the story mode there’s an ad-hoc multiplayer mode (which may well earn you some real life rivals!), that requires each player to possess a copy of the game. Wagering the cards (these unlock extra costumes for the characters to change into etc) you’ve earned in the single player is also an option against another player, although racing for such immaterial and pointless items doesn’t really act as motivation. Cards can also be traded via ad-hoc for anyone who cares.

Sonic Rivals should delight the Sonic fans who felt that full 3D never did the series any justice or those who just have the desire to go back to Sonic’s roots in a modern game. We like the 3D Sonic games, but why don’t SEGA try and come up with something similar for the consoles under all our Tellies? And, no, we aren’t talking about ports of the earlier games on Xbox Live or the Virtual Console either.