Sunday, June 19, 2011

DS review: Sonic Rush

A fairly simplistic story sits at the heart of Sonic Rush, with two Eggmans from different dimensions fueling the story as Sonic the Hedgehog and Blaze the Cat try to stop their attempts to collect emeralds with the extravagant mechanized weaponry for which the doctor is so well known. Other characters including Cream and Tails make appearances, but this game is primarily about its cover art characters. A simplified approach when compared to more recent console titles, Sonic Rush excels in certain areas, while taking a few hits due to gameplay experimentation.

The controls for Sonic are very smooth, and despite some initial easing into the gameplay, players should find the dual screen display quite a natural for keeping track of the blue hedgehog. There are times, however, when the game glitches and sends Sonic hurtling to his death because he overshot his landing after a predetermined trajectory. Some inconsistencies with fast-paced and slower puzzle heavy sections present a minor annoyance, and seem an experiment on SEGA's part to try and translate similar areas from some of the Adventure games to this 2D platformer.

Players can also control Blaze the cat, a new addition to the ever-growing cast of characters. Though still quite fast, Blaze does not use the same spin style attacks as Sonic, opting instead for a fire tornado attack, wherein her character attacks while still in the upright position. Blaze is a rather odd character to control, but it's probably better for SEGA to test out something like this in handheld release with more simplified controls than try and have players learn yet another control scheme for a full-blown console release (ala Adventure, Heroes, etc.).

There are objects in certain levels that seem rather pointless. It's not so much that these objects in question play out poorly, but rather that they don't do much at all. For the most part, though, anything in level design that is familiar to veteran Sonic fans should react exactly as they would expect it to. Boss fights shift the game into a pseudo-3D setting, with the camera adjusting to accommodate for the attacks of Eggman's various mechanized weapons. Some of the boss fights will be repeated between the two stories, though overall a nice variety is presented.

Old-school Sonic titles are known for super-catchy and upbeat tunes, while the newer Adventure titles play host to a nice variety of tunes that - despite some cheesy lyrics - explore a greater variety of genres, namely rock and hip-hop. Sonic Rush seems to aim for some sort of middle ground, following the more basic repetitive musical patterns of the older games while infusing stylings from the new age Sonic titles. The results are, unfortunately, not pretty. Certainly I've found particular songs to be minor annoyances in past Sonic games, but never before have I found a Sonic soundtrack to be so bland and obnoxious to the point where it almost seems better to play the game without any sound at all.

The cel-shaded 3D character models fit the games atmosphere quite nicely, and there is a very smooth transition between the 2D and 3D segments of Sonic Rush. While I would normally complain about the trend of current generation games shirking on story, it actually works to Sonic Rush's advantage. As it isn't bogged down by weak storytelling and mediocre voice acting (the latter being almost completely absent in exchange for typed out dialogue), the game can focus on the high-speed platforming that made Genesis-era Sonic titles so successful. Sonic Rush is by no means the best title in the franchise, but it's also far from the worst. The experience will only last a few hours, but if you're someone who doesn't mind a blending of Sonic new and old, Sonic Rush might just be your answer to a handheld fix of SEGA's blue hedgehog.

My rating: 7.5 (out of 10)

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