————————-But if you cannot guess the spoiler, seek medical help urgently———-
In the middle of a field, Sonic stands by a large, red car at the side of a tarmac race track. He watches as Eggman, Tails and Amy drive past him on the road. He looks round and then jumps into his vehicle, he faces the camera and makes a thumbs-up sign with his left hand, signalling his readiness to start racing.
Sonic, Tails, Amy and Eggman all entered a driving competition. They competed in a series of four races, which each competitor accumulating points based on performance. At the end of the races, three flags were raised on flag poles showing which driver was the winner, the runner-up and third place.
This review was based on the version of the game released as an extra feature as part of the Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut game and not the game originally released on the Game Gear.
The story for the game was non-existent and had little impact on the game. The story was, like many racing games, based on the characters competing in a series of races and a winner being decided. The story ends with a short animated sequence showing flags raised on flag poles, which displayed the characters who reached the first, second and third positions. There were also short animated sequences to show how the winner’s story ended, based on which character the player was controlling. The story was very light, but this was expected for this genre of game as the focus was on the player racing against other opponents and reaching the first position, rather than an adventure to defeat an enemy and undo evil actions.
The gameplay of the game was similar to other racing games. The player competed against other opponents (which could be computer-controlled or controlled by another player) to follow a track and reach the finish before the other competitors. The race tracks also formed a loop so that the races consisted of multiple laps to extend the time spent racing. To increase the difficulty, the player’s speed significantly reduced if they attempted to drive on ground outside the track and they stopped fully if they collided with an obstacle placed at the side of the track. The game also placed power-ups on the tracks to help the player, these power-ups were always placed on the centre of the road and mimicked power-ups used in other Sonic games. These power-ups included invincibility (the player’s speed increased and they were not delayed if they collided with obstacles), fast speed (the player’s speed greatly increased), springboards (which caused the player to rise into the sky and spin, which somehow increases their speed and ability to follow the track) and rings (which allowed the use of the character’s special ability).
An unique feature of the game was the use of the “drift” ability. This ability (utilised when the player pressed the button to turn in a direction and then pressed the button to accelerate in quick succession) allowed the player to turn corners tighter. This allowed the player to turn corners at a faster speed, which helped reduce their racing time.
The game had three difficulties: Green, Yellow and Red. Each difficulty used the same stages and obstacles, so I was unsure what made each difficulty harder. My only assumption was that the player competed against faster opponents during the harder difficulties and less power-ups were available for the player to use. The player could only view the animated sequences that completed the character’s story by finishing first during the Red tournament.
The game used four characters: Sonic the Hedgehog, Tails, Eggman and Amy. The four characters presented with the same racing technique and controls, although I was not sure if the characters had different abilities (such as increased speed or better control). The computer-controlled characters appeared to have a set hierarchy in terms of ability, Sonic was usually the fastest, followed by Eggman, then Tails and then finally Amy.
There did not seem to be much difference playing as the different characters, other than each character had an unique special ability. The special abilities could only be used if the player had collected at least two rings, but the player could not activate them themselves, instead it seems the character used the ability when they felt it was necessary. Sonic’s special ability was that his speed increased, Tails was able to jump into the air and spin for a few seconds, Eggman launched bombs that stopped the opponents and Amy threw small hearts that did not seem to do anything. I found the special abilities useful in the races, however, they would have been more useful if the player could control when they were used.
There were a number of different gaming modes. The main mode was Chaos GP, which consisted of the player competing against three computer-controlled opponents in a series of six races to win the most amount of points and come first. One mode was Free Run, where the player can select a character, stage and difficulty and achieve a best time. The final mode was Versus, where two Game Gears could be linked together and two players raced against each other.
I, personally, did not enjoy the gameplay. One reason that my enjoyment was hindered was personal preference. I can understand the appeal and feel limited pleasure competing in racing games, but I generally feel that these games are not as exciting and involving as other games. Another major reason that this game contained limited appeal was because of a needlessly difficult aspect of the gameplay. In racing games, being able to see the road ahead was vital in allowing the player to understand the layout of the track and drive their vehicle to follow the road. With this game, however, the player was only shown a little of the upcoming track, which meant they could not react sufficiently to any turns in the road. Road signs were used to alert the player to any turns, but these were only used for sharp turns, were confusing if there were a series of turns up ahead and also acted as an obstacle if the player collided with them.
There were six stages in the game: Green Hill, Marble, Spring Yard, Labyrinth, Star Light and Scrap Brain. The differences between the race courses were largely aesthetic (the backgrounds and designs for obstacles were changed to reflect the theme of the level), although the later levels were more difficult to follow. Interestingly, a large portion of the screen featured a background image to represent the horizon. Green Hill resembled a race on a bright Summer day in front of a clear ocean, large mountains and beautiful waterfalls. Marble was a race in front of rocky mountains, with small, stone ruins at the base, underneath a purple sky. Spring Yard was set near orange buildings, with tall mountains in the distance, seemingly during dusk. Labyrinth was set, while the sky had an orange glow, in front of a range of buildings built with yellow squares and decorated with red crystals. The Star Light race took place in front of green grid-like structures, with distant lights brightening the black sky. The background to Scrap Brain featured grey and red industrial buildings that seemed to reach into the distance.
There was little difference between the three levels, other than changes in designs, except the race course for the later levels were more complicated, with more turns. There were no themed obstacles or changes to the gameplay in the different levels. The caused the game to feel more like a straight, realistic racing game, rather than a fantastical competitive game (like the Mario Kart series of games). Weirdly, the names for the race courses resembled the names for the levels from the first Sonic game released on the Mega Drive, although the “Zone” part of the name was removed. I, personally, enjoyed the different designs for the racing levels and the increase in difficulty, however, I felt the game could have expanded on the themes of the levels to make the races more playful.
The graphics for the game were fairly low quality. The backgrounds and character designs were quite heavily pixelated and the bright colours used to decorate the tracks felt a little blinding. There were also a number of strange visual effects, such as the obstacles at the side of the road seemed to move in weird ways as the player drove past. The background does not increase in size as the characters drive towards them, but it did scroll sideways as the player turned, giving the impression that the characters were racing in a large round container, rather than in an actual environment. The game was, however, effective at showing the objects get nearer as the player followed the track and the other racers did appear to change in size based on the player’s distance to them. Some of the graphical limitations, however, could have been caused by the way I played the game and the game’s graphics could have been better when played on the Game Gear. I, personally, found the graphics low quality, despite some good effects.
The music for the game was fairly low quality. The music was quite high pitched and did not have much impact on the game.
In conclusion, I did not find this game enjoyable. I, personally, did not enjoy the gameplay, although this was due to a mixture of personal preference and limitations in the design of the game. I enjoyed the level designs, although I felt that the game could have used the themes of the levels to inform the individual level designs in a more effective manner. The graphics were fairly low quality, despite some good effects, and they did make the game blinding during play. The music had little impact on the game.
In my opinion, I did not treat this game in the way that would be the most suitable. Rather than try to experience the game fully and complete it fully, it would probably be better to treat this game as some quick enjoyment for a few minutes. There were some elements of the game that were frustrating when I was trying to come first, but I found I enjoyed the game more when I took a more leisurely approach. The Grand Prix mode only took around ten minutes and there was the option to compete against a second player. I would suggest that any players who try this game should just try to enjoy it as a race, either alone or with another player, and treat it as a fun excursion for a little while.