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Sonic and the Secret Rings – Review

Brandon Erickson's picture

Sonic and the Secret Rings Art 

It’s been eight years since I really enjoyed playing a new Sonic the Hedgehog game, and after having played Sonic and the Secret Rings, I must sadly report that this is still the case. For me, what made the original Sonic games so compelling was their mixture of solid platforming combined with incredible bursts of speed. Watching Sonic cruise around loop-de-loops, shoot off springs, and zip through chutes and tunnels was just plain fun. While Sonic and the Secret Rings certainly contains many such fun moments, the overall experience is derailed by shoddy controls, a ridiculous story, shameless recycling of levels, and a cumbersome and incongruous RPG-style system for gaining experience and abilities.

The story is set in motion by a genie who summons Sonic to enter the book of the Arabian Nights in order to save the story-world from being erased by the evil Erazor Djinn. While the game is in 3D, the story portions are told in storybook style via 2D panels. As the plot unfolds, familiar characters from the Sonic universe pop up as characters from the original stories (e.g., Tails as Ali-Baba and Knuckles as Sinbad). I am not intimately familiar with the Arabian Nights; however, I am almost certain that the story in Sonic and the Secret Rings is really, really bad. It is so ridiculous, in fact, that after a while it was easier to just tune it out.

The main game consists of seven racetrack-like stages, each with a distinct style and names like “Sand Oasis” and “Pirate Storm." In the “Dinosaur Jungle” stage, Sonic runs from a pack of Triceratopses, cruises down a river, and speeds along the necks and backs of several Apatosauruses. In “Evil Foundry,” he sprints through a castle, dodges spiked traps, and hops over pits of lava. In "Levitated Ruin," he dashes over airships, shoots across zip-lines, and even zooms through the sky along the wake of a flying beast. Although Sonic always remains on a fixed path, the way he moves through each course has a fairly fluid and organic feel to it.

Sonic and the Secret Rings Screenshot

The first and last missions of each stage always consist of a run through the entire course for that level and a final boss fight, respectively. If the developers had left it at that, then I might have been happy. Unfortunately, each stage also crams in a dozen or so challenge missions that reuse and recycle small sections of the larger course. These challenge missions include objectives such as beating a timer, collecting a certain number of rings, and getting to the end without destroyong any enemies. Not all of the missions are bad, but their repetitiveness drags things down, and I would rather have skipped over most of it.

Guiding Sonic through the stages feels in many respects like playing a racing game. Players control Sonic by holding the Wii remote horizontally (the nunchuk attachment is not used at all) and tilting it left or right to steer him one way or the other. By default, Sonic always runs forward at a medium pace. Tilting the controller forward speeds him up, while tilting it back slows him down or moves him in reverse. Although the core gameplay resembles a racer, the courses are often punctuated by short sections that require Sonic to jump between platforms, leap over traps, destroy enemies, or use mechanisms such as springs, catapults, and turbo pads.

Unfortunately, the motion-sensing controls seriously hinder the experience. Like most Wii games I have played so far, the remote’s motion sensing feels far too loose when compared to the precision and sensitivity afforded by standard controllers. Often, it seems almost impossible to make any fine or subtle movements. When the situation requires Sonic to stop or make a precise jump, the controls behave erratically. I can’t count the number of times I died simply because Sonic was spasmodically jerking around when I merely wanted him to stay still. There are a few rare instances where the game’s motion-sensing actions feel well executed (e.g., tilting the controller forward to do a homing attack), but on the whole the controls seriously get in the way of the game.

Further diluting the experience is an ill-fitting RPG-style leveling up mechanic. After completing missions, players are awarded experience points and access to new and enhanced abilities (e.g., better jumping, turbo starts, speeding or slowing time, etc.). These skills are equipped via four customizable rings. The more experience the player has, the more abilities can be equipped to a ring. For me, this entire aspect of the game felt hideously out of place. If it were simply a matter of gaining experience and acquiring new abilities without the added step of selectively attaching the abilities to rings, then I might have accepted it. But asking players to sit around and mix and match abilities is too removed from what this game should be about—namely, going really fast. Such messily implemented RPG-like features do not fit well in a Sonic the Hedgehog game.

Sonic and the Secret Rings Screenshot

Another somewhat gratuitous feature is the multiplayer "party" mode, in which up to four players can compete at 40 different mini-games. The games are extremely simplistic, and most of them try to utlize some aspect of the Wii's motion-sensing capability. One such game has the on-screen character drifting through the air with an umbrella while the player tilts the controller left or right to steer the character into as many floating coins as possible. There is a modicum of fun to be had playing some of these games, but for the most part, the multiplayer struck me as a rather trivial distraction.

About the only thing that is consistently good in this game are its graphics. The colors are crisp and vibrant, and the environments are fun and interesting to look at. When things are going smoothly, there is an undeniable visual appeal to watching Sonic speed around through the various unique stages. While there is nothing in the game that seems as though it couldn't have been done on the GameCube, the visuals are quite impressive nonetheless.

In the end, there are far too many problems with this game to make it worth recommending. From its incongruous RPG-style leveling up to its endless recycling of levels to its utterly ridiculous Arabian Nights-themed story, Sonic and the Secret Rings feels horribly padded from top to bottom. To top it off, the sloppy controls make the game way harder than it should be. There might be a serviceable game buried somewhere in here, but I don't think it's worth anyone's time to try and find it. Rating: 4 out of 10

Category Tags
Platform(s): Wii  
Developer(s): Sonic Team  
Publisher: Sega  
Series: Sonic the Hedgehog  
Genre(s): Adventure/Explore  
ESRB Rating: Everyone  
Articles: Game Reviews  

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You needed to PLAY the game to know this?

I saw this coming a mile away. This game is just the sonic rush bonus stage spruced up. End of story.

Well said

There is a disturbing trend of control issues popping up with practically every single Wii game, even one that is as polished as WarioWare. Motion sensing is either far too loose or "sensed" far too arbitrarily by the sensor bar. That sometimes leads to frustration. In this case, it led to hangups. And as anyone who's played a Sonic game knows, hangups in his levels are no fun at all. Unfortunately, the problem with the past several games is that the developers themselves implement hangups in the game. In this particular game, the hangups were caused not by the developers, but by the controls.

Thanks for the impressions

Thanks for the impressions on this one. I just bought a Wii, and was thinking about getting it but now I'm definitely going to rent first. It can't be as bad as Sonic Adventure 2 or Sonic Heroes, right?

RPG Expert

Personally, I think SA and heroes are much better. At least you actually control sonic in those games. BTW, I heard sonic Next-Gen is coming out in a PC version. Is this true? And don't tell me I'm an idiot for wanting it. Just anwser the question please.

Sorry, but I think this

Sorry, but I think this Sonic-title would have deserved at least 7 or 8 out of 10 points if you ask me. This one is the only 3D Sonic game I actually enjoyed, and that's mainly _because_ of the controls, which worked fine for me. Just tilting the Wiimote to the left and right while Sonic keeps running on rails feels like a true Sonic-experience, Sonic Team should have made the 3D-Sonics this way from the beginning on imo^^. Yes, the game is really hard, I had to play some missions over and over again to get a gold or silver medal, but that's something I haven't done for ages in a Sonic title ;).

And sorry, but have you actually ever played the game? You've written that tilting the Wiimote forward increases Sonic's speed. That's just wrong. Sonic always accelerates to maximum speed (which can be increased using abilities^^), tilting the controller forward when running has no effect at all. Also, tilting the controller toward yourself only let's Sonic move in the opposite direction. You can't really slow him down, only stop with the 1-button.

Is this serious?

I'm really surprised by this review. It's hardly credible at all. I mean... I'm not a Sonic fanboy. I admit that there hasn't been a good Sonic game in a long time, but to say THIS particular game is bad is truly misguided.

First of all, most of the review is opinion, with few facts about the actual game itself. Complaining about the story is opinion; a lot of people enjoyed the story, including myself, and thought it was a needed break from these "hard-core" and "serious" plotlines. It's hard to take a game about a talking hedgehog seriously, so it's good to finally see Sonic being what he is: a cartoon character.

Also, complaining about the sensitivity of the Wii Remote has nothing to do with the game itself. The Wii Remote is a motion sensor, meaning that the slightest movement affects the game. It has nothing to do with this game itself. ALL games using the Wii Remote have sensitive, slightly edgy controls. That shouldn't count against the game, but the Wii itself. All it takes is some getting used to, in reality, for at first, I had the same mindset as you, but with practice, I can cruise through the missions of this game.

I DO agree that the game would have been better off with a normal Act system instead of the missions, but they add replay value, since there are only seven levels.

Most importantly, to me, your statement about the level-up system being bad is pure opinion. You had nothing more to say about what was wrong with it than "I don't think it fits in a Sonic game". Sheer opinion, not fact. Your suggestion that the game should have merely activated every new skill without giving players the option to customize them to their liking needs backup, for it would ultimately render the game unplayable. Certain levels call for certain abilities. Some levels, for example, are spacious and open. Others are narrow and require timed platforming. Without the option to customize Sonic, it would be harder to play these levels. For example, if you simply gained the Speed-Up ability and didn't have the option to toggle it on and off, Sonic would inevitably go at high speeds, which would make it hard to play the narrower levels. Sega added the ability to customize Sonic so we could use the Speed-Up for open levels, ang go slowly in the narrow platforming levels. Think about it. If you gained Speed-Up, but couldn't have the option activate or deactivate it, you would have to play through Skeleton Dome going at high speed, when Skeleton Dome is a level full of obstacles. It would be nearly impossible. So Sega gave us the option to turn it on and off, so that for levels like Skeleton Dome and Pirate Storm, we can slow down, and for levels like Night Palace and Sand Oasis, we can turn it on and zip off at high speed. I hope you get my meaning.

Also, you guys that say you aren't going to buy this game because of this review, heed my advice. Realize that this review is in the minority; this game has generally recieved a multitude of positive reviews, and only a handful are negative, including this one. There are other reviews, and this is definately the first good Sonic game in years. There's much more to it than "moving left and right". Trust me.

Thank you for your

Thank you for your responses, and I appreciate the differences of opinion that you've expressed. All I can really say is that this is my personal critique of the entire game, and that necessarily must include a critique of the control system.

Regarding my description of the controls, I know for a fact that tilting the controller back slows Sonic down because I was actually doing that in the game. I know that tilting the controller forward gives Sonic a boost in midair and also gives him a boost if done during the opening countdown. If, however, Sonic just automatically accelerates no matter what during regular gameplay, then perhaps I interpreted my moving the controller forward as having some affect on this. If that's the case, then my perception was incorrect on that point. But at the same time, the fact that this was not readily discernible to me seems like another example of just how loose and imprecise the controls are as a whole.

As for my critique of the game's story and leveling up system, these are my personal opinions. I do not claim them to be facts. If someone really likes the story, then that's fine. I wouldn't try to convince such a person that they shouldn't like the story if that's not what their personal experience was. All I can do is give my personal assessment based on my many years of playing games. I fully expect that not everyone will agree.

Yes, and that's one of the

Yes, and that's one of the main reasons I don't appreciate giving points or something like that: It's always only a personal opinion. But as to the controls I can only say they worked fine for me all the time. The problem in most cases is imo that some levels are based upon "Trial & Error", you sometimes see obstacles a bit too late. But that's not a problem of the control, because after some trials I was able to dodge every single obstacle with ease^^ The English voice actors were awful as well, just like the music was, well ... "unusual" (After listening to the lyrics of the Dino Jungle-song nobody can seriously deny that ^^) xD Your review is well-written, though. And it's better than the one of IGN's: First they said how great the game is but still gave it 67% (if I remember correctly) because the author doesn't like Sonic...

To Austin:

All reviews are 100% opinion. You can either take the reviewers word for it or, like I'm doing with sonic next-gen, see for yourself. BTW PC release?

It would be helpful if the

It would be helpful if the reviewer had played the game for more than ONE HOUR.

Don't get me wrong, this is

Don't get me wrong, this is a good review, and I can understand what the reviewer is saying. I'm just saying that a review is supposed to tell, from a non-opinionated, impersonal point of view, what the quality of a game is. You can't rate a game's quality on personal opinion, because opinion varies. Quality is rated on how good the controls are, or how many glitches and problems are in the game. The game is by no means perfect, though, but it's still worthy of at least a 7.

My main gripe is that he gave the game a low control score based on the general sensetivity of the Wii Remote. The sensetivity shouldn't be a strike against the game. The Wii Remote itself is to blame for motion sensetivity, and he said so himself. With such logic, Twilight Princess should have a low score. Sometimes Link started attacking from the slightest movement of my hand to scratch my head.

That is rather

That is rather game-specific, though, so it should count. The Wii Remote is not too sensitive in EVERY game, it's sometimes not sensitive enough in some. Like it or not, this is a problem with the games and the developers, not the remote, so it's certainly fair enough to dock major points for it. One of the fundamental design choices is controls, and poor controls can ruin an otherwise good game. If the developers are making bad controls for games, it's not our job to accept it, we SHOULD be docking points for it and not tryint bo lame something else because it was their fault that they made the game poorly and we should let them know that. Hopefully that way we'll get better games soon.

I've tryed it...

It's not that bad. They could have tryed harder on the extra levels instead of recycling the main course. The plot was
pretty much Alladin. But I think the RPG style was a nice touch.
Personally it was my favorite part. But Darkspine Sonic? Give me
A break! His voice was a mix of Sonic The Hedgehog and Jett The
Hawk!

BURN!

BURN!

BURN IT!

Anonymous wrote:

BURN!

BURN THE GAME BECAUSE IT SUCKS!!!!

BURN IT!

Anonymous wrote:

BURN!

BURN THE GAME BECAUSE IT SUCKS!!!!

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