Offering a much faster and more familiar alternative to Joy Ride, Sega’s Sonic Free Riders may well turn out to be an important entry point for Kinect users.
Continuing the unique brand of racing begun in Sonic Riders and Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity, the Kinect version brings a new level of control to the franchise.
Players must lean left and right to turn round corners, jump to avoid obstacles and even twist in the air to trigger stunts that generate points and grant access to higher, alternative paths.
The race courses themselves are set in some of the most exotic and outlandish locales of Sonic’s world, from holiday resorts and treachourous canyons to futuristic cities and ancient ruins.
Each one is littered with environmental hazards to keep players on their toes, as well as dozens of secrets and shortcuts. Only the most skilled hoverboarders will be able to find the quickest way to finish each lap, leaving the competition for dust.
As they race around the tracks, gamers can collect special power-ups and weapons, such as rockets, bowling balls and traps that can be used to knock their opponents off course. These are also motion-controlled, with players throwing their arms out to launch rockets or swinging them low to release bowling balls.
Success unlocks new characters – including some of the most familiar faces from the Sonic series – and upgrades for their hoverboard or bike. Players will eventually be able to customise their vehicle’s speed and skills or give them special abilities.
While there is plenty of challenge for single players, one of the key selling points will be the multiplayer. Kinect users can ride side-by-side, competing to see who is the greatest racer, or they can go on Xbox Live and test their skills against other Sonic Free Riders fans.
Released in 2006 to start the celebrations for Sonic’s 15th anniversary, the original Sonic Riders introduced new characters and the hedgehog’s own blend of futuristic racing. It was available on GameCube, PS2, Xbox and PC.
SONIC RIDERS: ZERO GRAVITY
This Wii and PS2 title arrived two years later and introduced several mechanics to the series. As well as the ability to control gravity and upgrade gears, the biggest addition was the first motion controls for a Sonic Riders game.