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Sonic and The Secret Rings - Review ( cont'd )
Written by James Hobbs

In terms of controls, Sonic and The Secret Rings is something of a mixed bag, and it's a worrying trend that seems to be present in most Wii games thus far. Some aspects of the controls are absolutely fine - the game is 'on-rails,' requiring little input in terms of forward and backward motion, and this simplicity makes the game easier to manage. The D-Pad is used to activate the speed break and time break - the 1 and 2 buttons brake and jump respectively. However, it is the motion-based aspects of the control system that begin to present some problems. Tilting the controller towards you supposedly makes Sonic walk backwards - however, it's rarely that simple. All too often I found myself jittering back and forth, finding it particularly difficult to execute a smooth transition between forward and backward movement. Similarly, thrusting the remote forward whilst in the air activates a homing attack if a nearby enemy is targeted - this went awry with worrying frequency throughout many of the levels, with a great degree of timing and precision required to actually get it right.

These control problems extend yet further into the game - swinging from ropes, on some of the levels, was an absolute pain in the arse, with Sonic very often careering into spikes and walls despite a meaty thumb massing the brake button into oblivion. The camera occasionally reverts to face Sonic as he runs, which presented a new array of problems - surely not being able to see where you're going is a bit of a silly thing to implement into a game where the onus is on speed? Yes, it makes it harder, but it also makes it annoying to the extent where blood vessels burst. Sonic and The Secret Rings, much like the earlier Super Monkey Ball games, is not a title for those with little patience.

When it does work properly, it's wonderful, and some levels of the game flow very well indeed. Environmentally, there's a great amount of detail, and Sonic and The Secret Rings is easily the best-looking Wii game seen so far. There's an overall level of high detail that is lacking in most Wii games, extending even to the backgrounds - the wonderful texturing of the forest floor beneath you on the 'Ruined Fortress' world puts the crappy low-resolution backdrops of Tony Hawks' Downhill Jam to shame. The animation is excellent, and the game runs at a furious pace that belies the high-quality nature of the graphics. Technically, it's a supreme effort, and gives a far better idea of what Wii is capable of than anything we've seen so far. Massive herds of dinosaurs chase you through forests, gigantic bosses breathe fire at you, crashing waves pile around you as you jump across ships, and it all looks splendid.

Those of you with a Dolby Pro Logic II set up are in for a real treat, also - the quality extends beyond the graphics and into the sound. Audially, Sonic and The Secret Rings is fantastic, and it sounds absolutely stunning when cranked up loud. The crackling of flames as you load a level sounds absolutely unbelievable, and the sound effects in general are very good throughout each level. Sadly, this is somewhat let down by the absolutely terrible music Sonic Team have chosen. Unsurprisingly, it's some horrible cheesy rock with a crooning American idiot over the top, and Sega were nice enough to send us a promo CD with it. Cheers guys, but it's not our thing sadly. It's very well-produced, but I think there's a bit of a niche market for that kind of stuff - if you're over 50 and still wear denim jackets you might be into it. Thinking about it, if you're over 50 and still wear denim jackets - firstly, don't, and secondly: why are you reading this?

As well as the expansive single-player mode, Sonic Team saw fit to include a large amount of multiplayer mini-games, in possibly the most unsurprising choice imaginable. I'm getting rather sick of Wii's catalogue being populated largely by mini-game-games or games-with-lots-of-mini-games-included - unfortunately, as you might expect, a large amount of Sonic's mini-games are complete balls. Similarities can be drawn with Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz's multiplayer - quantity over quality. Whilst some of the mini-games are fun, some... well, some aren't. There's far too many to even begin to describe, and many are unlocked as you progress through the game. Far too many are too slow-paced, requiring you to take it in turns a lŠ Rayman Raving Rabbids - this isn't a good idea for a fast-paced game. It doesn't really work too well, but there are a few good games in there. Try and find them, it'll give you something to do.

Sonic and The Secret Rings is a definite step in the right direction, but it isn't quite there yet. At times, it's obscenely fast and good fun, providing a more simplified experience than the previous 3D Sonic games. All too often, however, the poor level design results in an interrupted and frustrating experience, with the flow being ruined by a badly placed box or enemy. Learning your way around this is more of a compromise than anything, and it tarnishes the experience somewhat. Sonic Team have done an excellent job for their first Wii title, but there's far more to be done. If you're a Sonic fan, this is definitely worth investing in to experience the beginning of what could be something very special indeed.


The verdict:

Fast-paced, beautiful-looking fun, but it's not quite as cohesive as it could be.

7.5

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