You’d be forgiven for thinking Sonic Free Riders and Kinect together would work well. It does on some levels, and as a light-hearted hoverboard racer, this game could be a bit of fun. As a Kinect title, it leaves a taste of frustration.
First off, the attract sequence is bright, colourful and pleasing to watch. In fact, it promises so much with big characters and hints of gameplay. Not forgetting the sound, which is as typically Sonic as the soundtrack in a Sonic game can be.
Once the Kinect sensor has grabbed you, the main menu screen gives the player some hope; the elliptical shaped menu is quick and smooth, and I would go as far as saying it’s one of the better Kinect user interfaces I have seen. This is particularly evident when compared to Kinect Sports, my number one Kinect title for gameplay, but with some of the most laborious navigation I have experienced. Cycling through the options is instinctive, and without delay you will launch into one of the any race types on offer.
But this is where it starts to fall apart.
The game wants you to ‘stand’ on your hover-board, and this entails standing side-on, leaning forward to go faster and leaning back and forwards into corners. As a gamer with creaky knees, this becomes tiresome very quickly and also ignores the fact that my stance is not fixed. Over the course of the race, my ability to move and take corners drops dramatically, and I often find my feet have drifted into the ‘brake’ position. As for making jumps and pulling tricks? Well, not at my age.
The game offers plenty of variety in race types, both offline and online, not to mention a plethora of boards and gadgets as upgrades. There is also a fun selection of over-the-top weapon pickups to use in the events against other racers, ranging ridiculously from an oversize bowling ball to a golf club and golf ball. The practicality, however, of actually putting these weapons to use is questionable.
Overall, I don’t think of Sonic Free Riders as a bad game; it’s just a game that would have been so much more entertaining and palatable with a controller.
I believe in Kinect, but I just don’t believe this first round of titles has done it much good.