Sonic And The Secret Rings
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2007-03-31 Wii Action E (Everyone) SEGA

SEGA's blue mascot returns, this time bringing his insane speed to the Wii.

The story starts as Sonic reads Arabian Nights. We discover that an evil Genie, Erazor Djinn, is erasing chapters of the book. In fact, parts of it near the end are blank. Sonic is compelled to help by retrieving the missing pages, and away he goes into the Arabian Nights world. But Erazor shoots Sonic with an enchanted arrow and forces him to fetch the Seven Rings scattered through the worlds, and only then will he remove the curse.

The game begins with a tutorial where you learn how to control Sonic. To move left and right, you tilt the Wii remote. To perform Sonic's homing attack, you thrust the remote forward. To break and reverse, you pull the controller back. It feels really weird at first and takes quite a bit to get used to, timing the movements with Sonic but it becomes much better and more natural as you go along. Except when trying to move backwards, which is really frustrating.

Some of the levels offer challenges such as finishing without collecting any rings, without dying or without killing any enemies. While most challenges are optional, the few that aren't can be extremely? challenging. However, completing them successfully rewards you with bonus content.

Instead of using free-roaming environments, Sonic and the Secret Rings plays somewhat as if Sonic were on tracks, always moving forward. You have to dodge obstacles that sometimes blend in with the scenery and collect all the rings.

A bit like an RPG, you get a character advancement system. You can develop Sonic's abilities by using skill points to purchase them, making him faster, stronger and having a few extra moves. Some of the missions can't be completed unless you already possess certain skills, and before you begin a stage, you have to pick which skills to "equip". There are 100-something skills in total, including the ability to backflip, lose less rings when hit, increased attack range, the addition of a Soul Gauge.

The Soul Gauge allows Sonic to use a Speed Break or a Time Break when full. Time Break slows down time, making it easier to navigate around obstacles, but also reveals hidden objects that's can't be seen otherwise. Speed Break makes Sonic partially invincible while boosting his speed. While in use, these moves will gradually deplete the Soul Gauge. To refill it, you must collect Pearls.

While Sonic is the only playable character in the story mode, you will encounter familiar faces in the game, only they've been cast for other parts: Eggman plays King Shahryar, Tails plays Ali Baba and Knuckles appears as Sindbad.

Aside from the story mode, there is also a party mode. In a way, you could compare it to the Mario Party games, where four players can compete in a series of mini-games. Here you can pick any of the available characters from the Sonic world, such as Tails, Amy and Knuckles. You can either play single mini-games or compete in a tournament. More mini-games will be unlocked as you progress through the adventure and collect Fire Souls, and they range from canoeing to catching fruit, playing violin, racing in mine carts and other fun little activities.

While the party mode isn't original, it's a welcome addition and a good change of pace from the adventure.

Graphically, the game is very stable. Everything is very colorful, with rich and detailed environments. The water and particle effects are just beautiful. Each of the seven worlds has its own distinct look: deserts in Sand Oasis, pre-historic settings in Dinosaur Jungle, hovering runways in the Levitating Ruins, factory-like stage in the Evil Foundry.

The initial CG sequence is impressive, but the ones that follow are presented as pages of a book, which was a little disappointing. The game offers a great sense of speed and fluid frame rate throughout, and the camera angles seemed to have improved compared to previous titles, even if they don't work so well when you try to move Sonic backwards.

The soundtrack is excellent, with catchy tunes reminiscent of 80's rock and metal. The voice acting isn't as impressive, and the whole dialog seems to have been written with children in mind.

Overall, Sonic and the Secret Rings offers the classic rollercoaster ride type of gameplay that we know from other Sonic games, but with a new twist on controls. But it's exactly that twist on the controls that will make you feel really excited in one moment and extremely frustrated in the next.

Special thanks to Dana Whitney and SEGA for providing a copy of this title.