11. Sonic Rivals
- Original Platform: PSP
- Where to get: Vita Store
Sonic Rivals takes the gameplay of Sonic into something closer to the original Mega Drive ones, just with 3D graphics. The levels are played in 2D (just with some parts closer or further away from the camera), and there’s no boosting like the Sonic Rush games. It’s an A-to-B platformer where sticking to the top route is generally faster. The main gimmick of the levels in Sonic Rivals is that there are obstacles where you can jump off either upwards or forwards. There’s usually a button icon (kind of like a Quick Time Event) recommending one, buy you can perform either move (sometimes it can even be better doing the opposite of the recommendation.
There are six zones, with unique styles and looks, and I quite liked the layouts of all of them (although there are a few bottomless pits). If Sonic Rivals was just what I have described so far, it would actually be a great Sonic game.
But it isn’t.
When you start the first level, Sonic will be with Knuckles, joking about who will reach Eggman first (because of a plot where Eggman can capture people in cards using a camera, making it seem like the story was accidentally taken from an AR card game). Take a few steps forward and Knuckles will attack you – Sonic Rivals is a competitive racing game, even with power ups.
Power ups activate in two different ways: if you’re ahead, it will drop behind you as a trap, if you’re behind, it automatically hits your opponent (a few work slightly differently). Almost every time you use items, your opponent won’t be visible, so you don’t get to see the effects. So power ups feel more like they’re just there to attack you. Side effects include: slowing you down, freezing you, swapping controls around, pausing you in place. These are not fun at all and are incredibly frustrating to be on the receiving end of.
The AI racer doesn’t help, either. Sonic Rivals relies on ridiculous rubber banding – but only in one direction. If you get far ahead, your opponent will still catch up and rush past you, sometimes they just teleport to be in front of you. If you fall behind, there’s no chance of catching up. The cheating AI just makes the power ups even more frustrating, and if one hits you in the middle of a large uphill section, you may as well just restart the level.
The last zone of the game excludes the “rival” element and, even though it has a strict timer, this part of the game is really good – showing that the major problem was the racing mechanics.
Sonic Rivals has the potential being a solid Sonic 2D Platformer, with similarities to the classic Mega Drive games, but it just feels like you’re playing one where the game will randomly make you lose control, and decide that you have to replay a level again because it feels like it.