Platforms: Nintendo Wii
Players: 1-4 players
Call me an eternal optimist, but despite the fact that Sonic’s more recent outings have ranged from merely mediocre to downright disappointing, I still clung to the hope that the next title would be the one to halt the spiky speed freak’s sad decline and restore him to gaming glory. Right on cue, along came Sonic and the Secret Rings for Nintendo’s new console. Will Sonic Team’s latest offering set their mascot on the road to redemption? Or will his loyal fans be forced to wait - fingers crossed, for the next one?
Set in the storybook world of the Arabian Nights - and using plenty of artistic license to weave the game’s story, Sonic and the Secret Rings boasts a single player game bristling with missions, as well as several multi-player “party play” modes all featuring mini-games. The background story for the single player adventure revolves around an evil genie who has taken to obliterating stories from the Arabian Nights – the book in which he is confined. His ultimate goal is the recovery of seven powerful rings and freedom (which would be a very bad thing). Our blue buddy has been enlisted by another genie to restore order to the world of the Arabian Nights and put the deluded megalomaniac in his place.
The first set of missions is basically a tutorial designed to gradually acquaint you with the controls. These are somewhat tricky at first but soon become second nature… which is just as well, because some of the later missions require you to act without thinking; you need to be able to pull off several different manoeuvres in quick succession. The Wii’s controller plays no small part in the game’s appeal, and you will find yourself tilting, shaking, swinging and frantically thumbing buttons to execute those well-timed jumps, moves and homing attacks as you guide Sonic through each level.
There are many challenging missions to play, with successful completion of one unlocking another. Sonic earns experience for each mission, gaining skills and other helpful goodies when he levels up. As you might expect from a Sonic title the action is seat-of-your-pants fast and furious, and thanks to the comic book-style interludes designed to advance the plot and give you time to catch your breath, it’s a very difficult game to put down.
Party Play is an entirely different kettle of fish. Essentially a bunch of mini-games you can play with your friends, the concept is a good one which sadly does not rate highly on the fun-o-meter. Certainly, some of the mini-games are extremely entertaining, and the folks I’d roped in to help test the multi-player modes did at times become very animated as they sought to best each other; however we spent an equal amount of time feeling frustrated and disappointed by some of the seemingly pointless mini-games. Don’t go there unless you’re really desperate… or possess the patience of a saint.
Graphics are very nice indeed – not quite on par with some of the jaw-dropping stuff we’ve seen on the other next gen titles, but certainly nothing to complain about. The 3D environments are attractive and well designed, however Sonic is usually in too much of a hurry for you to stop and admire the view.
Overall I’m happy to report that Sonic fans can breathe easy, because the drought is officially over! Despite the less than impressive multi-player games, Sonic and the Secret Rings is a must have for the Wii.
• Plenty of missions and interesting challenges to hold your interest, along with loads of unlockables and other tantalizing treats to keep you playing.
• Good all round appeal for fans and general gamers alike.
• The mini-games – although great in theory, don’t really work.
• The mini-games are genuinely fun to play, but the bulk of them are just plain frustrating.