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Sonic Riders

Whenever parents scold their children for spending too much time playing video games, the standard comeback is that games are good for you because they improve hand-eye coordination. So in theory, the next time Big Jimmy hurls a blazing fastball at you, you'll be able to knock it out of the park because you've got the top score in Galaga. Under this logic, if any kid ever masters the controls of Sonic Riders, a lightning-fast racing extension of the Sonic The Hedgehog line, then he's the next Ichiro Suzuki. Whatever neurons need to fire to send players through the courses with maximum speed and efficiency just aren't fast enough in mere mortals. Of course, arcade-game action is by nature always a little overwhelming, but in Sonic Riders, your fate is occasionally out of your hands, and you might as well let the cat take over.

Like SSX on Pixie Stix, Sonic Riders is basically a tricked-out snowboarding game, but it's played over mixed terrain with "Extreme Gear," which is just a fancy way of describing the hoverboards from Back To The Future Part II. In story mode, the precious Chaos Emerald is swiped from Sonic and his buddies by the Babylon Rogues, a group of thieves with connections to the ancients. While Sonic and co. mope over their loss in Metal City Plaza, the diabolical Dr. Eggman announces an Extreme Gear event called the "Ex World Grand Prix," in which the first prize is a Chaos Emerald. Facing off against their nemeses from the Babylon Rogues, Sonic and friends alternate racing over various tracks in a no-holds-barred contest with jumping, drafting, shoving, and numerous shortcuts and bonus rings.

Beyond the game: As part of the Sonic universe, the game offers tons of fun unlockables like movies and new racing environments, and the rings buy you more Extreme Gear… which makes no discernible impact on the game.


Worth playing for: Drafting in an opponent's wake makes it strategically advantageous to race from behind, especially when you end a run by walloping him to the ground.

Frustration sets in when: No matter how perfectly you race, the rest of the pack is so close behind that you can go from first place to fourth in one mucked turn.

Final judgment: If you've always found the SSX series too stodgily realistic, have at it.

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