Review: Faster hedgehog bumps up strategy
By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service
The game lets players pick one of four unique teams, each with its own agenda and band of characters.
Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Marc Saltzman, a freelance technology journalist whose reviews also appear on the Gannett News Service.
Many "Sonic the Hedgehog" fans were disappointed Sega's spiky blue-haired mascot made the transition from 2-D to 3-D a few years ago and slowed the pace of the action-adventure.
Sega has returned to its roots with "Sonic Team," which is reminiscent of the frantic high-speed game play found on the Sega Genesis -- with a little strategy thrown in.
This time around, Sonic and pals Knuckles and Tails must stop the wicked Dr. Eggman from building a powerful weapon. The trio has three days to find the elusive scientist and thwart his plans to "bring the world to his knees."
This is but one story line in "Sonic Heroes." The game lets you pick one of four unique teams, each with its own agenda and band of characters.
For all teams, players must rotate between each of the three characters to choose an appropriate leader: one character will excel in speed (e.g. Sonic the Hedgehog or Espio the Chameleon), another in power (Big the Cat or Vector the Crocodile) and the third can fly (e.g. Charmy Bee or Rouge the Bat).
For example, the fastest character would be the team leader while racing through the surreal, gravity-defying tracks. If a group of enemy robots approach the gang, the gamer would then tap a button to cycle to the toughest member. Then, if faced with a dead-end roadblock, another button tap will highlight the character that can fly up to the next platform (while the other two characters hang on for the ride).
This game is fast -- speeding through the 14 bizarre worlds requires quick reflexes to prevent falling off the narrow, twisting tracks that hang in midair. Staying on course is even more difficult because gamers must also veer to collect power-ups and rings (100 rings will grant an extra life).
Similar to other action titles, characters have an arsenal of moves to choose from during combat sequences, such as a spin attack or head-butting thrust. When things get hairy -- such as being overrun by too many enemies -- players can perform a "team blast" that culls strength from all three characters. The blast gauge must be replenished over time before this move can be used again.
"Sonic Heroes" is a fun ride, but it has its shortcomings. For one, the game's graphics aren't on par with today's console offerings -- sure the worlds are colorful and large, but perhaps the developers at Japan's Sonic Team studios had to sacrifice visuals for speed. Secondly, there are some finicky camera angles that can obscure the view at times; this is an especially frustrating problem when a game requires split-second decisions.
That said, "Sonic Heroes" is a good pick for fans of "twitch" games, and especially for those who remember playing these coveted Sonic games in the early '90s.