reviews\ Feb 22, 2007 at 7:00 pm

Sonic and the Secret Rings - WII - Review

Let’s face it folks, the years have not been kind to SEGA’s little blue hedgehog that could. After some pretty dismal showings and ill-received 3D exploits (particularly the most recent fiasco on the Xbox 360 and PS3), it’s beginning to appear that Sonic has ran his course (pun intended). However, SEGA is looking to change all of that with his latest title, Sonic and the Secret Rings.

Developed exclusively for the Wii to take advantage of the system’s motion sensing controls, Sonic and the Secret Rings is certainly a step in the right direction for the waning franchise by having Sonic do what he does best, running at insane speeds. The game requires little more from you than fast reflexes, and pretty much does away with the overly frustrating platform-hopping elements that have damaged the series. While not without some typical problems, Sonic and the Secret Rings is the best Sonic game in recent years.

Sonic and the Secret Rings has a distinct Arabian theme in terms of presentation and storyline. In fact the main plot of the game involves Arabian Nights, as an evil character named Erazor Djinn is removing the pages of the book. You embark on a quest to restore the book, unlocking new worlds and meeting up with doppelgangers of Sonic’s friends and enemies, like Tails, Knuckles and Eggman, as you race to restore the pages. Each page that you discover will unlock new missions in the game and new areas to explore.

The gameplay almost feels like a racer, except you are still Sonic tearing through levels like a kid on Christmas morning. The game makes use of the Wiimote’s gyroscopic abilities, in that you hold it horizontally and tilt it left and right to make Sonic go in either direction, and press the 1 or 2 buttons to make Sonic break and jump, respectively.

However, Sonic does have some more moves in his repertoire. The game’s RPG-esque elements work off of an experience system where you gain experience for finishing stages, gaining extra for collecting a certain amount of rings once you pass the goal line and other things. Gaining experience will in turn gain you levels, and as you get higher levels, you’ll be able to hold more rings, get more skill points, and gain special abilities to help you along your journey.

The game is very successful at presenting Sonic both in a new way through the Wii’s control scheme, but also remains truer to his 2D roots, more so than any prior 3D Sonic. The game’s rail-based action is reminiscent of Nights, a very, very old game for the Saturn developed by Sonic Team. It works so well in Sonic and the Secret Rings that you’ll be left wondering why they haven’t done it this way from the first 3D Sonic exploit.

However, the game is not without its flaws, some of which can be quite glaring at times. The controls can be a bit unwieldy at first, and it can lead to some frustration, at least at first. It’s pretty easy to over and under-correct Sonic’s path, and finding the right balance of his movement takes a while. Also, the brevity of many of the objectives will lead you to be staring at the loading screen pretty often. While the loading times are nowhere near as bad as they were in Sonic the Hedgehog on Xbox 360 or PS3, it still disrupts the game’s pacing a bit.

The mission design is also pretty weak. While the areas are nicely varied and detailed, you’ll often find yourself running through the exact same areas many times over in order to unlock more areas. Of course, it wouldn’t be a 3D Sonic game without a lousy camera that can often get obstructed by the environment, or sometimes just up and decides not to showcase the action from a remotely comfortable angle.

Graphically, Sonic and the Secret Rings is great looking, truly expressing how the Wii is a step up from the GameCube. The character and enemy models are noticeably more detailed than the previous crop of Sonic games, and the areas are very impressive and filled with details. The framerate stays very solid throughout, as well, and the game supports 16:9 widescreen and 480p.

The sound is typical for a Sonic game. The sound effects are very clear, but the music is the same cheesy brand of hair metal (complete with corny lyrics) that the series has been doing for years. The voice acting is also a bit goofy, and won’t win any awards.

Sonic and the Secret Rings is not without flaws, but it stands as the best Sonic in a good long while, and effectively brings Sonic back to his high-speed days of yore. Sonic fans should give this one a look, as it is possibly the best 3D Sonic ever.

Review Scoring Details for Sonic and the Secret Rings

Gameplay: 7.5
The game has a few problems; the controls are a little rough and can be quite frustrating at first, the camera can be a pain, and the level design is pretty basic. However, the reflex-based gameplay effectively brings Sonic back to his roots, and the experience can be quite fun once you get used to the controls.

Graphics: 8.5
Sonic’s Wii adventure is pretty good looking, with great looking character models and colorful environments. Also, the framerate is very fluid and never bogs down.

Sound: 6.5
The music is the kind of 80s butt-rock that we’ve come to expect (for better or worse) from the Sonic games. The voice acting is pretty cheesy as well.

Difficulty: Medium

Concept: 8.0
Sonic and the Secret Rings brings the hero back to his roots, playing out more like the traditional Sonic games than any of the current crop of console Sonic games, which is quite ironic considering the new control scheme.

Multiplayer: 7.0
Sonic and the Secret Rings offers up around 40 party-style minigames for up to four players, but they don’t drive the game the way the single-player experience does.

Overall: 7.5
Sonic’s Wii quest is the best one in years, and could very well be his best 3D adventure yet. However, that doesn’t mean that the game is free of problems. Still, it’s a pretty fun game and worth a look from the Wii-owning Sonic fan.


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