Sonic and the Secret Rings Wii Review

Sonic has hardly had a very good reputation in recent years. Basically since he went 3D, Sonic has been circling the drain, with the exception of Sonic Rush which stayed 2D for the most part. The low point has to be Sonic the Hedgehog for 360/PS3. Can Sonic finally be starting to turn it all around? It’s time to find out.

Plot never really takes a major role in Sonic games, as most gamers choose Sonic for the fun of playing and the plots are never going to be bestsellers. Secret Rings is no different, the only surprise being that it’s not Eggman/Robotnik that you’re up against. You must save the pages of an Arabian nights book from being wiped out by a genie. All in a day’s work for our spiky hero it seems.

Being on Wii, it was always going to have an interesting control system. Instead of having total control, you’re limited to moving side to side, with a few more options. The easiest part to master is the side to side. Tilting forwards and back speeds up or reverses you accordingly. This can be fiddly and sometimes totally doesn’t work. Very frustrating indeed. You hold 2 down to charge up a jump and 1 to break. The arrows are also used later on in the game. And that’s about it for buttons. I have to say, this is one of the hardest Wii games to get used to that I’ve come across so far, but that’s not saying much as playing the Wii is almost instinctive. There are seven worlds to tear across and a whole load of missions to complete.

Unfortunately you have to sit through a load of boring comic book style cut-scenes and then a few too many tutorials before you can really begin to enjoy the game. The environments are surprisingly nice, and the worlds are fun to go through. Even though its all Arabian Nights themed, they are each individual and full of character. From a dinosaur island to flying creatures soaring through the skies, you really have to admire some of the imagination poured into these levels.

Like other Sonic games, after the initial mission you get more missions to do. So don’t be worried about the short list of levels because there’re about 15 missions per level. Unlike other Sonic games, these actually feel more like a part of the game rather than useless things added on to make the game longer. There are various challenges such as; race through the level, finish without killing any enemies or some matching pairs to be done. Each one feels different and makes Secret Rings really feel like a game you’ll come back to again and again, because it’s a lot of fun with minimal frustration.

Another unexpected twist is that Sonic is the only playable character in single player, with no alternate story lines to explore. This is a good thing, even though it seems to be restricting the lifespan somewhat. Usually the alternate story lines are exactly the same but with a different character to play as, so now you feel as if you’re getting more game for your money because it’s purely a full single player experience, not the same storyline edited a bit and copied/pasted.

Yet another new experience for the Sonic series is an RPG style element (maybe Sonic Battle for GBA did this first) as you can edit Sonic’s abilities. There’s around 100 abilities to choose from, unlocked as you play through the game. You start with a basic Sonic and then build him up to suit your play style. You even have 4 rings to equip, these representing your different set ups. This means you could have a different ring for each style of mission, which is a nice idea and works well because it doesn’t over complicate a game that should never be over complicated, but it does make it that bit more interesting.

Sonic has two pretty cool abilities to use as well. Once unlocked, pressing up on the arrows will initiate ‘Speed Break’. Sonic rockets forward past and through anything up ahead. The blur effects are pretty nice too, and heighten the excitement. Also available is ‘Time Break’. Once used, time slows down almost to a standstill; ready to negotiate otherwise impossible obstacles. This is very cinematic, especially as the screen goes into black and white in tremendous style. The Special book has a large selection of unlockable making-of type videos, and are great for any people who really want to get into the game.

Multiplayer this time around takes the form of a series of WarioWare style mini-games. Basically they just require you to use the Wii-mote in a certain way, and the arrow buttons are sometimes involved. These mini-games vary in quality. Some are great fun and easy to work out, others are hard to do and you find it’s over before you’ve even worked out what the heck’s going on. Although fun at times, these mini-games don’t compare to WarioWare. Still, it’s not bad for a little something extra.

After a lot of poor, poor showings, is Sonic finally and the straight and narrow road back towards his former greatness? Well it certainly seems that way. Secret Rings is not only nice to look at, it is enjoyable too. You really recapture that sense of speed that should be in every Sonic game. There’s a lot of Sonic firsts here, and a lot of back to basics stuff too. Returning to his roots has been done just right for Sonic, it’s not too basic to look substandard by today’s expectations, and it seems Sonic is casting off the shackles of his recent 3D games. Well done, oh blue one!

It shouldn’t be a secret that Sonic is finally starting to become enjoyable again.

8.1 out of 10

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