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Not Your Grandpa’s Sonic : Sonic and the Secret Rings Review

In Wii on May 9, 2007 at 9:06 pm

I’ve had my fun with Sonic and, as always, here are my impressions.

Sonic has landed on the Wii and just like Paper Mario, he decided change a bit for his Wiimote premiere. Is the new Sonic better or worst? Keep on reading to know more or if I’m going to slow for you, you can skip ahead to the Final Verdict.

Sonic and the Secret Rings starts off with Sonic being asked by the Shahra, a genie, to help her stop the Erazor Djinn, an evil genie who is trying to destroy the pages of the Arabian Nights. Except for a plot twist here and there and a cameo appearance by other members of the Sonic franchise, the story’s not immensely interesting, although it does have a larger role than just filler.

The game’s graphics look very nice. Some of the levels look like what you’d expect from Arabian architecture. Others seems more as the usual Sonic levels like a grassy area with Dinosaurs (I haven’t read the Arabian Nights but I somehow doubt it has dinosaurs). And more seem like a mixture of both.

The game’s music would fit in the rock category, some of the songs having the obligatory Middle Eastern touches. Some are a bit catchy and most go well with the game.

As the title of the review says, this game doesn’t play as other Sonic games nor is it organized as other Sonic games. You learn some of the controls in a tutorial stage and then, you move onto the main game. You finish the first stage and then… you do it again. Unlike your usual Sonic game, you have various missions you can or must complete before moving on to the next stage. These missions make you find certain things, collect a given number of rings or of enemies or even not have any rings when you arrive at the end of the stage. These missions are usually played in smaller areas of the stage, modified depending on your objective. After a certain mission, you get to go to the next stage. You’ll do some backtracking from time to time, retuning to a level to complete missions. The boss battles don’t come in their usual manor : they are unlocked after certain missions or at certain points in the storyline. You get graded with medals after you complete a mission, with many unlockable things to obtain with good performances.

The game’s controls are both functional and aggravating at times. Let’s see some of the basic elements. You hold the Wiimote sideways to play. Tilt it left and right to move accordingly. Twist it toward you to move backwards. Press 1 to stop moving and 2 to jump. When in the air, you can charge on a targeted enemy by flinging the Wiimote forward. The controls are mostly responsive but it’s not there the problem.

The forward button is probably the least thought of button in a Sonic game. It’s a Sonic game : the whole point is to go forward! So the developers of Sonic and the Secret Rings took the logical next step : You automatically go forward. After having played this game, I now have an entirely new respect for the forward button. Fortunately, you do have the ability to stop Sonic by using the 1 button, a button you will learn to use or become insane. But that’s not the only problem. It can be mighty hard to keep a Wiimote dead strait in intense situations. It’s not always easy to avoid inadvertently going backwards. The game also changes the way you control Sonic at times which can be a bit confusing and the camera has a life of its own, choosing what angle it thinks is best for this part of the stage. It’s not always right.

The game also add rings and the soul gauge to the mix. You gain experience when playing the game. When you level up, you are offered special abilities you can equip to the ring on your finger. These abilities can add new moves or enhance such things as your speed on various terrain or previously activated moves. You are limited in the number of abilities you can add through a kind of points system but you can set up up to 4 rings with the abilities you want. You get to choose which ring to use before entering a stage. Later in the game, you are introduced the soul gauge, which you fill up with pearls you find in the game’s stages. After filling it enough, you can can either run very quickly for a short period of time or slow time down (and turn the screen black and white, which makes things harder to see but is also a nice visual touch) to be able to get out of trick situation by pressing up or down, respectively, on the control pad.

The game also has some mini-games. There a nice addition but, well, it’s just simple mini-games. But you can play them against up to 3 computer or actual players (4 players, be them real or not, must play) and you have a selection of ways you can keep score of who’s winning, from a boat race to unlocking treasure chests to gain coins.

Final Verdict

Sonic and the Secret Rings isn’t perfect. There’s a lot of perfect timing or a lot of stopping involved to play trough it. The games new structure is different but not bad either. It’s a good way to stretch out a Sonic game and to make replaying levels interesting. If you’re a Sonic fan, go ahead and get it, or maybe rent it. For everyone else, the title seems to fit in that grey area between a must buy and just plain bad. The game mostly works, is an interesting twist on the series, and sounds good and looks better. If you want a game to work your reflexes and timing a bit, it might just be for you.

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