It’s Mario Party, but with Sonic. And with cards, instead of dice. Now you know what game you’re getting into, and that you really shouldn’t bother with this one.
So, here’s the second Sonic game for the Dreamcast. It was co-developed with Hudson Soft, which created the first eight Mario Party games. I’ll go ahead and be blunt: I don’t care for Mario Party. The one I’ve played the most is Mario Party 4, and there were very few mini-games I liked in that one. Maybe that’s the worst one; I don’t know. But I’ve played a round or two in two or three other Mario Parties, and they’re all the same sort of thing. Stars! Stars for everyone! A star for you, for having the least number of stars! And a star for you, because you have such lovely hair. In the end, it feels pretty random who ends up winning the whole board game. I enjoyed WarioWare Mega Party Games much more, if you need an alternative to go for. Or, hey, stick with a Hudson Soft product and pick up Saturn Bomberman plus a multi-tap for 8-player bombing party fun. Now we’re talking!
Sadly, my review today is for Sonic Shuffle, which I feel was a game put together for the sake of having an online-playable game featuring Sonic. Sega was gradually bringing out more online games for its 56K modem-powered console, starting with the amazing puzzle game ChuChu Rocket. (Now there’s a great game to play with three friends! Play that instead.) But it seems there must have been a big problem that arose, because… Sonic Shuffle never had online play! For whatever reason this feature never materialized. So, you’re just going to have to play this game with three friends on the couch. Is it any fun?
Uh… not really. There are a couple good things to say though, so I’ll start with those. First, the graphics are quite nice! They went with a cel-shaded look for the characters, reminiscent of Jet Set Radio. And then the levels themselves (“dream worlds”) are quite imaginative and colorful. The game boards are a lot more fun to look at than the ones I’ve seen in the Mario Party games I’ve played. Also, I rather like the setup of each player having a set of cards for moving across spaces. This makes the game slightly less determined randomly, and you can actually utilize some strategy in where to go and what path to take, based on the cards you have on hand. You can even take the risk of stealing a card from one of your opponents, to see if you can get something more useful than what you have on you. To make Sonic Shuffle work best, I recommend having four human players, and having each controller with a VMU in it. This allows everyone to look at their personal VMU screens to see their cards, rather than having the cards displayed for all to see on the TV screen. How about THEM apples, Wii U? A little screen for *every* player to use!
Okay, now on to the bad.
- If you have a computer opponent, your life is now constant misery. It doesn’t matter what difficulty level the computer is set to–the computer will always cheat perfectly, stealing whatever card it needs from you whenever it feels like. It’s lame. Lame, lame, lame!
- Loooooaaaaading tiiiiiiimes suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.
- To play a mini-game, you have to land on an event space. So, it’s possible to go many turns without ever playing a mini-game… Which makes a long boring game into a very long boring game. (On the other hand, if you make it a rule that everyone always try to land on an event space, you can actually end up playing a decent amount of mini-games? I wish the boards were set up better to encourage more mini-game playing though.)
- There are only a few 2 vs 2 and 3 vs 1 mini-games. Would have been nice to have more of those.
- Battle spaces. You spin a card and time it right to get a higher number than the enemy, so you–aw, who cares, it’s stupid.
- Mini-events. Sometimes when you land on an event space, you trigger an event. It’s a waste of time, because it’s just reading a short story.
- As for the mini-games themselves, they’re definitely hit or miss. Some are pretty fun, some are really dumb, and many are just sort of okay. The funnest one, if you must know, is appropriately titled Fun Fun Sonic. You bounce on trampolines. It’s stupid, but my folks and I always got a laugh out of it. Runner-ups: Zero G Snap Shot, Eggbot’s Attack, Over the Rainbow, and Sonic Live.
And… that’s enough. Next game!