Or, a prime example of why Sega should stick to making original games - Review By zerothreat
Each of the player characters has unique abilities consistent with those presented in prior Sonic games. For example, Tails can traverse certain spaces designed for him alone, allowing him to fly from one board area to another. Amy can use a hammer at certain spaces, allowing her to catapult herself around. Not that any one character has a significant advantage over any other, but the inclusion of unique character attributes is still nice.
Amy and Tails cheer as Sonic is consumed by fiery napalm. "Now let's go for ice cream!" she says.
Oh, and I should mention Dr. Robotnik makes several appearances throughout the game, thwarting players, reducing their chances of acquiring rings, meddling with their card values, or dropping 16-ton weights on competitors, thus demolishing their ring counts. I always enjoy seeing Robotnik, regardless of what type of Sonic game I'm playing. He's just a classic character, and he's as big a pain in the ass as he's ever been.
Primary gameplay is often broken up by mini-games or monster battles. Every time a mini-game or a battle is triggered, the main game crashes to a halt, and players are treated to a series of loading screens. This sort of disruption wasn't a problem in Mario Party, where load times were pretty much rendered moot by the cartridge. But on a disc-based system, where load times are always a factor, this constant level of disruption is hard to tolerate.
And then there's the issue of the mini-games themselves. Though some are good, they're generally inconsistent in quality, and, when they suck, they can really suck bad. For every simple, fun and intriguing mini-game, you'll encounter three or four under-explained exercises in frustration and bewilderment. In one example, in the role of a DJ, the player gets to "shock" his opponents by violently scratching (shaking) the huge vinyl record on which they stand. But at no point do the instructions mention there's a limit on the amount of shock the player can inflict. In fact, each time the limit is surpassed, the DJ character is himself shocked, and is penalized. Huh? The instructions didn't say... oh, hell, I give up.
I wish Sega had had the balls to not follow the Mario Party formula so faithfully, because gameplay around each of the main boards is interesting and fast-paced enough to not require much else. Sure, the game wouldn't have been deep in the least, but the constant, short-lived battles and poorly explained, frustrating mini-games don't deepen the game much anyway. Hell, some of the load times required to bring in the mini games seem longer than the mini games themselves, which is a strong argument for their exclusion. It would have been nice to be able to turn the mini-games off, but no such option can be found.
You're looking at what would be the worst mini-game ever, if it were not for the other travesties on offer in Sonic Shuffle.
Also, I have a big problem with the game's "tutorial" section, which is too short, and not even worth the space required to list it in the main menu. The so-called tutorial offers only rough explanations of primary gameplay around the boards. To paraphrase: "A blue space adds rings to your total. A red space takes rings away. There are monster battles and mini games." That's about it. No mention of force stones. No opportunities to learn more about the mini games. No explanation of the little "Sonic's Room" area, where players can purchase portraits of hidden characters and unlock them, and contribute to the contents of an aquarium by competing in mini-games. Pop in the disc, plug in the controllers and play the game for only a few minutes, and you'll already know more about Sonic Shuffle than its tutorial section covers. It's useless.
And then there's the issue of the music. While some of the game's music is passable, much of it sounds like it was composed by some undergraduate student whose idea of "cool" is heavily rooted in syncopated, twelve-tone tribal/jazz exploration. A damned shame when you consider most other Sonic games have given us some of the coolest videogame music ever. (Remember "la-la-loo" from Sonic CD?) Some of the music is tasteless and atonal enough to provoke physical reactions like little tiny headaches or a gnawing in the pit of one's stomach. I'm not kidding. I'm not sure for whom this music was written, but it sure as hell wasn't written for kids, Sega's target audience for this product. And you can't turn the music off. Go figure.
The Final Word
What can I say? My kids enjoy this game, and it certainly has a few good things going for it, but there isn't anything here Nintendo hasn't done before (and better). In fact, not only is the game lacking in innovation, but it's dragged way, way down by uneven and confusing mini games, far too many load-time interruptions and horrible, sophomoric music. Chances are, if your kids want this game it's because they already own some iteration of Mario Party. They'd be better off sticking with that.
Highs: Nice graphics, good card concept.
Lows: Mostly terrible mini-games, frequent and annoying load times, horrendous music.
Other: 1-4 players, VMU Compatible (4 blocks), VGA Box Compatible.
Intro (MPEG) - The intro may be the game's high point, with cel-shading and upbeat music aplenty. [Big (12.3M)] - [Small (6.6M)]
Gameplay 1 (MPEG) - Running around the gameboard, plus a terribly annoying mini-game. [Big (11.8M)] - [Small (6.3M)]
Gameplay 2 (MPEG) - The Fourth Dimension Space is high on the eye candy. [Big (12.4M)] - [Small (6.7M)]
(out of a possible 10)
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