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Nintendo DS Review: Sonic Rush

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For longtime fans disappointed with the direction the series has taken in 3-D, they still have handhelds to provide the experience they’re looking for in Sonic titles. On the DS that’s Sonic Rush, a near return to form for Sega’s mascot, and no, it’s still not any easier to play as the character on a Nintendo system. The speed, boss battles, and multi-player have a hard time making up for the level design though.

The problem with all of the 2-D Sonic titles has always been the difficulty level. Anyone over the age of five could run through each stage with little resistance. Each new entry was easily beaten in an afternoon. There’s no chance to do the same thing with Rush.

It’s not because of the health system. It still only requires a single ring to withstand contact with an enemy, and those gold pieces are littered everywhere. It’s not the enemies. The new trick system (a combination of the d-pad and a face button when in the air) lets Sonic combat those in his paths by charging forward with an unstoppable blast.

It’s not the use of the second screen for gameplay. This well-implemented feature adds to the sense of speed and height, while benefiting the game tremendously. It’s not the 3-D boss battles, which will only take one or two deaths to figure out. A few shots to their special weak point (which they of course reveal in an obvious manner) and it’s over.

What it is are pits. Numerous, countless, poorly mapped out chasms that kill the Hedgehog instantly. This is a problem that plagues most of the game. In other titles in the series, you had a general idea of what was a bottomless crater and what was a fall to an off-screen platform. That’s not the case here. Ramps send players flying into the death inducing traps, and you won’t even realize you’re seconds from losing a life because it looks like an extension to the level or a new area to explore.

There’s also a focus on tight platform jumping. This is not generous in the least, and Sonic’s jump has never been the most accurate. Obviously, missing a single leap is a death warrant into another bottomless “badly placed pit of doom.”

Multi-player takes its concept from Sonic 3 on the Genesis, letting players race against each other wirelessly and only with a single cart (on levels already beaten). It only uses the top screen oddly enough. The bottom one displays a map so you can check your opponent’s position. If you’ve been involved in the single player game, it’s a jarring switch. It doesn’t feel right without an extra screen anymore if you’ve become accustomed to it.

This really is a disappointment all around. If it weren’t for the level design, which is wonderful at capturing the Sonic aesthetic, this would be an excellent extension of the Game Boy Advance games in the series. Those deep falls don’t help a series that’s set on letting players explore gigantic levels multiple times. You can expect to be frustrated long before you appreciate the dual screen and multi-player bonuses.

Sonic Rush is a rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB.

(*** out of *****)

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Ken Edwards

    I remember the GBA games had “badly placed pit of doom” too. Some of those were just as frustrating. Well, almost. When you have two screens to fall through, it is a little worse.

    And it is not like taking out those “badly placed pits of doom” would have made the game any less enjoyable.