In fact, the only thing more challenging than making it through the single player campaign is making it through a single one of the cinematic cut-scenes without skipping through. Listen to the rotten dialogue and the awful acting and wonder – why did we ever think Sonic and his chums were cool?
At this point it might seem that there’s nothing to recommend Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity, but there are some saving graces. Play straight races or time trials (now with online leaderboards) and the reduced difficulty level makes the action almost – almost – enjoyable. Play split-screen against friends and, as you’ll all be suffering from the same terrible controls, there’s a chance for some decent competition. Still, if you just want a good family racer there are other games that do this sort of thing much better. The additional battle modes, with a kind of airborne basketball and a mini-deathmatch arena game, don’t really work too well either.
It’s strange to me that so few of the people making kiddie-friendly racers seem to understand what the makers of Mario Kart did so many years ago. Nintendo’s classic stripped things back to basics, kept the course design tight, got the handling and the speed just right and threw in a roster of superbly balanced characters that you grew to love or hate plus a selection of brilliant power-ups. The result was a game that anyone could pick up, but that had a surprising amount of tactical depth beneath the surface. Throwing on new game mechanics and more complex tracks hasn’t made Sonic Riders a better game – partly because when the controls and the handling don’t work, nothing else is going to fix things. It still might end up selling by the bucketload – poor reviews didn’t do the less execrable Sonic and Mario at the Olympic Games any harm – but this is another dark day for the Hedgehog. Let’s hope Sega and its mascot can redeem themselves sometime soon.
Another step for Sonic down the rocky road to ruin. High on frustration, short on thrills and fun, Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity is a waste of a good Wii.