Sonic and the Secret Rings Wii Review
Those who originally became enamoured with Sonic due to his exhilarating sense of speed haven’t exactly been impressed with the speedy blue hedgehog’s latter outings. The addition of several new characters and adventure elements, haven’t been popular with this group of people.
However, Sonic and the Secret Rings has finally ditched the generic cartoon characters and realised why we play a Sonic game, which is to zoom through the levels as the charismatic hedgehog, collecting rings, bouncing on enemies and attempting to finish each stage in the fastest time possible. Much like the Sonic of old then.
In regards to its storyline premise, Sonic and the Secret Rings is vastly different to what has come before. The game takes place around the pages of the Arabian Nights and the story is told by some rather stylish comic book sequences. Genie, Shahara, comes forth from the book and calls upon Sonic to save her world from Erazor Djinn, the games main enemy. All of the other usual main players of Sonic appear in the role of characters from the book, and whilst by no means fantastic, the story is for once at least passable; perhaps thanks must go largely to the Arabian Nights inspiration for this.
The game is on-rails, which given the iconic hedgehog’s emphasis on speed makes plenty of sense. Sonic is controlled, by turning the remote horizontally (similarly to the fantastic Excite Truck), tilting it left and right will send him moving in those directions and whilst airborne, thrusting it forward will either cause him to glide, or if there are enemies or particular objects about, it will produce a homing attack. Pressing the 2 button will result in Sonic braking, whilst moving the remote towards your body will cause him to reverse. It’s so very simple and actions are tremendous fun to execute.
Whilst there’s plenty here that is familiar to those who played any of the 2D Sonic games, there’s also some key differences, not least of which is the game’s structure. There are few levels, but a variety of different missions on each one, and this isn’t going to please everyone, though it has to be said that missions are usually so diverse that it still manages to feel refreshing even after multiple runs through each stage.
Another major difference is the surprisingly heavy RPG elements. At the conclusion of each stage, you’ll receive EXP, and accumulating enough, will level Sonic up and often reward him with new skills. This system gives you a good sense of progression, eventually transforming the spiny blue one into a force to be reckoned with and since there’s one hundred skills for the taking, there’s plenty of replay value to be had if you so want it.
Whilst the game is highly enjoyable, it does however rely on trial and error far too much. Sonic moves so swiftly, that many a time you’re not able to see ahead of you, resulting in far too many unfair deaths, perhaps some kind of visual indication to make you aware of what’s ahead of you could have negated this problem.
As is seemingly a requisite for a Wii game, Sonic and the Secret Rings features a generous helping of mini games that can be played by up to four players and if you aren’t able to fill all slots, bots are even a possibility. There are forty games or so and as expected not all of these are good, but the ratio of good is certainly better than Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz’s largely disappointing collection. The structure of the mode is certainly deserving of a mention, it can be played in tournament style, whilst a Mario Party like board game is another possibility amongst other pleasing options.
The visuals, whilst on the surface not as impressive as Sonic’s other next generation offering have a far more appealing style. As opposed to the slightly muted colours of the other game, levels are pleasingly bright and whereas the framerate of the recent Sonic the Hedgehog was erratic, here it’s butter smooth, whilst the draw distance is generous, looking down on the other short sighted Sonic from a great height and laughing.
Sonic and The Secret Rings is fast, simple and fun, all of which culminates in the best Sonic game in years. It also has to be said that the on-rails method is a natural path for the series to take, and it’s a path that we hope it will continue to travel for any future games.