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Platform: Nintendo Wii
If you’re expecting the second coming of Sonic, or his first genuinely classic foray in 3D, prepare for some disappointment. It’s not that Sonic and the Secret Rings is a disaster, but neither is it the game we might have hoped for.
It’s not hard to understand the high expectations surrounding this title. Nobody was surprised when Sonic the Hedgehog on the 360 turned out to be a bit of a nightmare, but this was Sonic on the Wii! We were promised innovative controls, a return to high-speed action and adventure, no more tedious interludes where you have to play Tails or Shadow. Could you ask for anything more? Well, how about some decent gameplay. This is a game you come into wanting it to be as good as Sonic 2, and instead it’s only roughly on a par with Sonic Adventure 2.
Fancy some specifics? Well, before we get to why the game doesn’t quite gel, it should be said that there is plenty here to warm the cockles of the long-term Sonic fan’s heart. Firstly, Sonic and the Secret Rings is a bit of a back to basics effort. There are no tiresome adventure elements to put up with, you play as Sonic the whole way through, and the emphasis is firmly on a) speed, b) jumping and c) jumping at enemies in order to obliterate them. In other words, we’re going back to Sonic’s first principles, and even if the action is into or out of the screen rather than scrolling from left to right across it, you’re still doing basically what you did back in the good old days.
The camera is fixed, and you move the spikey blue beast by tilting the Wii remote left or right, pressing a button to jump, and using other tilting or pushing motions to make Sonic move backwards, take a second boost jump or home in and attack enemies. You do miss the free-roaming liberty of a classic 3D platformer like Mario 64 or Ratchet & Clank, but – when the game works – it gives a great sense of the old Sonic gameplay bought back to life.
More good news. Sonic and the Secret Rings is easily the most visually accomplished Sonic game in years. In fact, it’s one of the first Wii titles that looks like it couldn’t have been done two years ago on the Gamecube, and at its best – the lush greenery and waterfalls of Dinosaur Jungle, the raging seas of Pirate Storm – it has a layer of visual polish that puts a good number of ‘true next generation’ games to shame. I know it’s not high-definition, but there are some gorgeous reflective water and particle effects, and it all runs at a terrifying lick without a hint of slowdown. And if you want big-time spectacle, you get it in spades. Even the first ‘proper’ level, Sand Oasis, has a few jaw-dropping moments, while Levitated Ruin later on features a stomping race through the skies that packs in as many high-speed thrills as you could possibly wish for.