Sonic and the Secret Rings

Of all the outdated franchises littering store shelves with rehashes and cash-ins these days, no intellectual property is more in need of a redesign than Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog.

Following the abysmal “Sonic the Hedgehog,” a so-called “next-gen” title for the Xbox 360 and PS3, Sonic makes a dash to Nintendo’s hot new console with an innovative game built from the ground up for the Wii.

In “Sonic and the Secret Rings,” the player holds the Wii remote on its side like a steering wheel, tilting it left and right to guide Sonic through various stages. The mechanic works fairly well, and it’s comforting to guide Sonic through stages that actually feel like 3D equivalents of the exceptional 2D levels from the original games on the Genesis.

The camera remains fixed behind Sonic at a reasonable angle, and visibility is rarely an issue – when moving forward, that is. Most stages require a little backtracking, and walking backwards isn’t exactly Sonic’s forte. In fact, walking shouldn’t be part of a Sonic game at all – he is a supersonic hedgehog, after all.

After clearing a level for the first time, multiple challenges are unlocked, such as making it through the stage without dying, or clearing it in a certain time window. Unfortunately, difficulty ramps up oddly, going quickly from moderate to borderline insane, turning off even older gamers who don’t prefer rote memorization or sadomasochism in their games.

“Sonic and the Secret Rings” is easily the best-looking title on the Wii, graphically outperforming even “Zelda.” It’s a shame that’s where the praise for the game’s presentation ends. The original soundtrack features some of the most disturbing modern rock ever created. Most tracks emulate Linkin Park in ways that no one should have to hear.

Some songs are self-aware enough to laugh at, though. Lyrics such as, “Who’s gonna rock the place? Sonic’s gonna rock the place!” are cringe-worthy but laughable.

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Considering the absolute drought of Wii titles this month, “Sonic” is a serviceable action platformer with enough depth to hold interest for a while. But serviceable is the best adjective to describe this game. It’s clearly a step in the right direction for the Sonic franchise – it returns to the series’ roots and is easily the best 3D Sonic game.

But with the utter lack of quality in the others, that’s like being the best “Barbie Horse Adventure” game.