Sonic Rush Adventure Review (DS)

After his illustrious start and the adoption by Sega for their various machines, Sonic has had something of a torrid time. Sonic Team seemed to struggle to replicate some of the original simple genius they had demonstrated in the earlier games. In hindsight we can appreciate the fine line walked by those old Megadrive games between speed, complexity and sheer blistering fun.

Jet Ski's away!
Lush green environments

There have been a string of laughable releases on a variety of the next generation machines that have largely been below par. The exception to prove this rule throws up an unlikely bedfellow for Sonic in the form of his old nemesis Nintendo. The Sonic releases on the Wii and DS both seem to have regained their old composure and robustness. Both these titles have delivered an experience that has not only been well received critically, but has also sold pretty well through the retail chain.

To that end, it was with some interest that I noticed a new DS Sonic game plop through the Strategy Informer letter box. The previous DS title, we alluded to above, was Sonic Rush. Whilst it was overlooked in some areas, it grew in popularity and become something of a sleeper hit through the previous summer. It worked well because it kept its mind on the task in hand; namely super fast action with a megaton of secrets to unearth. This back-to-basics approach was complemented by a few innovations. Such as the use of the two DS screens for gameplay, and the combination of three and two dimension graphics in the game space to great effect.

Top to bottom screen action
Back to the world map

The game in hand today, aims to take this already packed formula and cram in a bit of role play game (RPG) action. The majority of the play remains intact but around this core Sonic Team have woven a RPG screen. The thinking here is to add a bit of depth and development to the play that should bring the player back for more, after the novelty of the speed and exploration have worn off. This is something we have seen Nintendo do recently in Paper Mario. They took their much vaunted Mario franchise and mixed it up with a proper(ish) RPG game. The result for Nintendo was more than pleasurable, and testament to their understanding of both the platform and RPG genres.

As you might expect, Sonic Rush Adventure lands you in charge of the diminutive blue hedgehog along with the equally speedy Blaze the Cat. This male and female duo introduce more options to affect the play. That said there is not a huge differentiation here, other than the axial drill attack and the appropriately different visuals.

The main platforming action again looks to pull in the majority of previous play techniques seen throughout the franchise, and certainly offers a large degree of variety and reminiscence for the returning player. Like the previous DS outing, the action jumps from screen to screen, and although it was hard to identify any tangible difference in this mechanic, it did seem a little more polished this time around.

It's a shame we can't say the same for the adventuring part of the game. This complicates the direct and simple level advancement we have come to know and love in Sonic games. In true RPG style, you now have to earn enough points before you can carry on with your Adventure. You get around the different locations through the use of Jet Skies. This mechanic is then used rather heavy handily to restrict the places you can access. Before you can get very far you need to earn a beefed up Jet Ski with better range. This forces you to return to previous levels to try and pick up enough points to let you progress. It's a shame that Sonic Team felt the need to force the player to revisit levels in this way, rather than let them stand on their own merits in terms of replay value. This adventuring approach persists throughout the rest of the game, where you find yourself searching for certain items to enable you to solve the various puzzles with which you are faced.

Graphically the game is easily on a par with the previous outing, and certainly delivers an exceptional experience on the humble DS hardware. We really are seeing a jump in performance in these games compared to those a year ago. Accordingly, the action has a slightly slicker more solid feel to it that Sonic Rush. Again this is hard to nail down, apart from the overall play experience being better put together.

Up, up and away

Apart from these few grips we are happy to see the rest of the game exhibit a slightly improved experience from the last DS Sonic game. As we said at the top of the review, that in itself was a sleeper hit, so another chance to enjoy Sonic Team's return to form cannot be sneezed at. Overall if you haven't played the previous game then this could be a great time to return to the Sonic franchise. If on the other hand you do already have Sonic Rush on DS, you should probably think twice before buying the adventuring version.

Top Game Moment:
That moment when you are blistering your way through a level and notice a certain platform or jump go flying by. Something clicks in your mind and you realize it will enable you to gain access to a whole part of the world previously out of reach.