Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sonic Rush (video game)

Platform: Nintendo DS
Developers: Dimps, Sonic Team
Genre: Action, Platformer
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Release Date: November 15th, 2005

Sonic's been a strange beast to watch this past decade. He's gone from prominence as a premier icon of video games to a mid carder at best and a relic of a bygone era in games at worst. All on the strength, or lack thereof, of many of his games this decade, with the exception of the first two Sonic Adventures. A lot had been riding on this title around it's release, considering many were clamoring for a Sonic experience that was decent at the very least.

Personally, I don't think we got it. This game really does highlight some of the just plain bad choices that have been thrust upon this former icon over the years in a striking bold, even if it's not quite as bad as Sonic Advance 2's particular atrocities. It's not a good showing for the speedy blue hedgehog.

The story is rather simplistic, which is probably the one thing this game did I was glad for. Generally, trying to shove a plot in Sonic games hasn't quite worked out over the years, making me wish for the day's when it was as simple as fighting Eggman through stages to a final battle with no dialogue present. The days when any character interactions were done within the stages and you'd get all you needed to know right there.

Still, there is some semblance of a story here. It generally revolves around a cat named Blaze from another dimension, complete with her own alternate universe Eggman and emeralds, trying to stop her Eggman, who has invaded Sonic's world. This wouldn't be so terrible if the dialogue wasn't so laughably bad; it's honestly even worse than some of the most glaring offenders in the series of late, with generally bad lines and cheesy writing. Then there's Sonic, who, upon defeating a boss, watches as the Eggman flies away and snaps his fingers in an "oh darn" sort of way. Umm, hello? Maybe you should try chasing him?

The sound is generally just okay. There are some voice clips here and there, thankfully only for four or five characters. I say thankfully because the voices are just plain gratingly bad. It was enough to make you wish you could reach through the screen and strangle Tails after about the eighteenth time he spoke during a boss fight, saying the same damn thing. Music was a bit better, but overall I thought it was rather forgettable. Which is a shame, as usually Sonic games, at the least, have had some memorable music.

The graphics fared a bit better. The surroundings are suitably bright and pleasing to the eye, if nothing really special. The game literally goes right to the most basic tropes of the series levels with little real deviance from them, which makes them a bit more forgettable. It's almost as though the designers aren't even trying anymore in regards to differentiating them. In the old days, you had your opening green level, but they looked different. Sonic had a grasslands vibe, Sonic 2's was a bit more tropical, Sonic 3 had something of a tropical jungle, Sonic and Knuckles had a thick forest. These days they seem to just slap a jungle theme and be done with it. If there was one level that stood out, however, it was the carnival-esque level.

The gameplay, however, is where this game completely falls apart. Much of the Sonic series problems since Sonic Adventure 2 lie largely in level design, or bad level design, as it were. Sonic Rush is as bad as any of them. The level designs themselves are quite frankly boring. Most of it is a bunch of loops and dashing from place to place. There is none of the complexity of the Genesis era Sonic games or even any of the interesting gimmicks. It's a lot of "hold right to win" gameplay, which is about the biggest possible snoozefest of gameplay you could ever have. There are maybe one or two paths in each stage, sure, which is something I fully welcome the return of; but none of the paths are in the least bit interesting or unique. The paths are basically the same bland levels, just with more options to get through the level, which misses the point of them entirely.

Even just the facets of level design here are poor. Enemy and hazard placement in this game is just a cruel joke; you'll be cruising along in the blandly designed levels when suddenly "BAM MUTHAFUCKA", there's a bunch of enemies right in your path. No time to react, no time to dodge, just unfairly placed in the worst possible spots. In the old days, they were placed in good positions that were far from unfair; if you got hit, it was your fault and not the games. Not so from Adventure 2 on. This goes for the hazards too.

This is not to mention the horrid amount of endless pits in every damn level, which is the worst addition to the franchise I could possibly think of. They come out of absolutely nowhere with no damn warning and are everywhere in the levels of this game. You'll cruise along and hit a ramp, go flying, then hit a wall. You'll start to fall, only to see a platform pass to your left. You miss it, because you couldn't freaking see it, only to be greeted not by solid ground below, but by a pit. There goes one of your lives. Modern Sonic games love punishing you for things that aren't your fault. Probably why the character has gone from video game hero to a joke as far as peoples opinions here in America go.

Bosses and enemies are, as usual lately, uninspired. Like most modern Sonic games, this portable entry has a habit of recycling enemy and boss designs because Sega is too cheap to put money into producing more than the handful they do. You'll literally fight the same boss on a later level with nothing more than a vague change of scenery, which is positively boring. Enemies are reused through levels with little more than a palette swap.

Then there's Blaze, the new second playable character in this game. Anyone that was hoping for an experience similar to the days of old where you had Sonic and another character like Knuckles or Tails, each with their own play experience, is going to be sorely disappointed. Playing as either character literally gives you the exact same game, just with a different level order. Blaze doesn't even have the courtesy to play differently, giving you the exact same play experience and moves that Sonic does. What's the point in having another playable character if they're not different from the first in any way except visually?

This game is bad. I mean, really, really bad. It doesn't even have the decency to use the touch screen in any interesting way; not that being able to even see more around you helps much when you're going so fast through poor level design that it doesn't help you. As a game experience, this game fails to be fun in any fashion, to the point where I literally had to force myself to finish it after having put it down several times. I'm going to play its sequel only because a friend says it's better, but if that one fails to be of any sort of fun I'm going to write off the era of Sonic games between Sonic Adventure 2 and SatSR (Sonic and the Secret Rings) completely without feeling an ounce of regret.
Avoid this one if you can for the sake of your blood pressure.

My Opinion: Burn It

1 comment:

  1. I remember trying this out one time. I absolutely detested it in every way shape and form. It made my head hurt within playing for twenty minutes. egh, please, allow me to help you boot this one over the horizon for eternity.