The first instalment of the Sonic series on the Nintendo DS, and the fourth on Nintendo handhelds, might well be the best Sonic yet- regardless of console. We take a closer look.
Sure, the marriage of the MegaDrive software kings with arch rivals Nintendo was a big turning point in the battle for supremacy with Sony's PlayStation2, but despite some nice titles on the GameCube, the 3D Sonic Adventures felt a little too fast, a little too much on auto-control and lacked that hedgehog vibe. Well, Sonic Rush may be limited to largely two-dimensional platform scrolling, but it delivers in this version.
This is the best game I've seen on the DS since Mario 64, which itself was a port from the N64. To say that Sonic Rush is a 2D game would do it an injustice - Dr Eggman and his cronies all appear in 3D for the end of level boss fights.
Gamplay follows the tried and tested formula - collect the rings, scour levels for secret routes and vie for the chaos emeralds. Blaze, a new character, provides some feline sauciness, as well as a higher flight path and her own routes through the levels. As is the way with Sonic, the fingers work faster than the mind, but the classic moves like crouch, spin and bounce are all here. But that hasn't stopped the games developers adding some new moves too - power-up your boost to smash enemies and hop between rails in a skateboard style grind. All this is by-the-by really. What really shakes things up is the use of the dual screen.
As with Bomberman DS both screens are used during gameplay, to the same affect. No more boring map on the bottom screen. Sonic and Blaze are thrown from top to bottom screen during gameplay, giving more speed, but also the chance to keep an eye out for secrets as that much more of the game is in view. This overcomes the annoyance of the spring/enemy appearing out of the blue when Sonic is at the right hand of the screen and moving too fast to allow enemies to scroll into view.
Bonus levels are always a favourite and the halfpipe that Tails made famous on Sonic 2 is back as a post-boss victory treat. This uses top screen for view and the bottom screen for touch control. Sadly, this is the only element of touchable control on the game, but let's face it, can you really move the stylus fast enough to control this insane rodent?
With the news that MarioKart DS has driven 45% of its users onto the Nintendo Wi-Fi network, it is worth pointing out that Sonic Rush uses this too. Play multiplayer games over Wi-Fi, if you have dual cartridges, or take advantage of the bonus games, available as stand alone levels, where two users can play simultaneously on the same cartridge. You can't say fairer than that!
Good use of the dual screens makes up for the minimal use of the touch screen. Fourteen levels may pass quickly, but go back and you'll find lots to uncover. The new character brightens things up and helps break that feel of one title ported to another machine.
This is a good mix of speed, colour and special moves, all lovingly rendered in largely 2D, but some 3D elements too. Single cart multiplayer racing and Wi-Fi connection makes this a must for DS owners.