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Sonic and The Secret Rings
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Sonic and The Secret Rings
Written by James Hobbs

Sonic. A franchise that, of late, has seen something of a decline in terms of quality. Arguably, it was the move to true 3D that heralded this slip - Sonic Adventure was fun, but not a patch on the predecessors. Luckily, it would appear that Sega are returning to their roots - of sorts. Sonic and The Secret Rings, whilst remaining fully 3D, is the first 'solo' Sonic game since the original way back in 1991. No ridiculous peripheral robot characters this time folks - it's all about Sonic.

Rather strangely, the plot revolves around the ( according to the press release ) 'classic tale' of Arabian Nights. The last few pages have gone missing from a storybook of said tale, and it's up to Sonic to finish the story. Right. Clearly Sonic Team are either very strapped for ideas or all smoking crack on their lunch breaks, but the story seems inconsequential enough as long as the gameplay itself is good. So far, it does seem to be shaping up rather nicely. As you would expect, it runs at an obscenely fast pace, with a few platforming sections thrown into the mix to break up the speeding action. Some of the platforming levels where Sonic sneaks along a ledge dodging spikes look suspciously similar to the 'Whomp's Fortress' level of Super Mario 64 - sneaking on a ledge to dodge a pirahna plant. Looking back to the finest platforming game of all time for inspiration is certainly not a bad idea.

The game is 'on-rails' - as such, you do not control the movement of Sonic in any other capacity than to steer him and to perform attack moves. This incredibly simple control system means that not only will the game be very easy to pick up and play, it will also allow for some ridiculously high speeds as the game will be quite linear. The Wii-mote is tilted to steer Sonic, and thrusted forward to make him perform an attack, including combo moves. Sega have also promised 'an array of unique controller-focused minigames,' which will be multiplayer compatible. Hopefully the simplicity will also extend to the minigames - WarioWare and Super Monkey Ball have demonstrated that simplicity is often the key to a fantastically addictive minigame. So far 30 minigames have been confirmed.

The graphics so far seem to be shaping up nicely. The game moves at a fast pace throughout the video, and the environments adequately reflect the story - beautiful reflective oceanic vistas and shadows being cast over sand. So far the game looks positively tropical, and will hopefully mean that Sega render the water properly - a must for any game set anywhere near water. Bad-looking water spoils the experience. Nice and reflective please Sega. The on-rails format of the gameplay means that lots of cinematic camera angles can be utilised - the camera will switch to various different shot positions as Sonic leaps through the landscapes. The slight wide angle of the view you get of the action also helps to enhance the furious speed. The graphics in this game put titles like Elebits to shame. It's fairly safe to say that Sonic looks like he's finally getting his act together.



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