by Bam! Entertainment
Riding Spirits is perhaps one of the most ambitious PlayStation 2 titles this year. Aiming to bring that Gran Turismo feels to motorcycle fans the developers, Spike have created a game that doesn't skimp on any details in it's pursuit for accuracy. An example of the effort that has been put into the game is the 200+ motorcycles that have included. Of course the size and details of the game are insignificant if the gameplay isn't upto much, so let's have a look at how it plays.
Straight away you can see how Riding Spirits has been heavily influenced by Gran Turismo. The style and layout of the menus and gameplay make it obvious that a motorcycle version of GT is what the developers were trying to achieve. The career mode sees you purchasing bikes, upgrading them with the various components (which are bought with the points you earn in races) and challenging your way through the motorcycle classes. In fact if you've played any of the GT games then you'll feel right at home with the proceedings.
Of course there is a problem with driving on two wheels compared to four. Motorcycle games are not as popular as car games in general because the developers make a conscious choice whether to make the game a simulation and turn the casual gamer off or an arcade game and then turn the enthusiast off. Spike have included an arcade and simulation control system in the game but to be perfectly honest even the arcade mode is anything but easy. Clipping dirt or the slightest nudge from a barrier will send you straight off your bike. Of course this might be realistic but it means that frustration will never be too far away.
Of course the graphical comparisons made with GT3 will, in every respect fall short. The textures for the most part are very bland. Go under a tunnel and all you'll see is grey flat textures starring right at you. Strangely enough the lighting effects are spot on and are very impressive. The rider, in my opinion, is far too chunky and looks like he's been at the bakers a little too often. The bikes look impressive and are recognisable but again the textures could have been better. What is disappointing though is that crash animations always seem the same and look out of place with the accident. With the detail that has been included in the game, it is strange that realistic crash animations weren't included. There isn't any visible damage model either, just like GT3.
The game is fine for deaf gamers, although it would have been nice if the force feedback had been more substantial and constant. The force feedback feels unresponsive for a motorcycle game. Countdowns, objectives and tutorial messages are all given in text and you'll be able to understand everything that is required.
Riding Spirits is, perhaps, not the title it deserves to be. The realistic but frustrating gameplay might put some people off. If you are prepared to stick with it though, you'll reap the dividends with a well thought out and satisfying motorcycle game. It's just a pity that it's not more accommodating to sloppy drivers in the same way that GT3 is.
Overall Game Rating: 7.7/10 It is a good attempt at making a two wheeled GT3 but it could have been less harsh on the casual gamer.
Deaf Gamers comment: Absolutely fine. It's a shame that the force feedback is poor though.