A quick 2D side-scrolling adventure, in every sense of the word.
Every gamer has at least some memories of a Sonic game; he is one of the biggest gaming mascots the world has ever seen and has a global following to match. The series has gone through many changes over the years from the 2D retro classics right up to the not so classic adventure games of the past few years. This time Sonic takes a step back and truly returns to his roots in Sonic DS. A fast-paced 2D side-scroller that not only takes place on one screen but puts the DS and it’s dual-screen capabilities to full use. Every time you begin a level you will find yourself on the top screen but as your progress through the roller coaster like levels you drop in and out of both screens pretty frequently, whether it is via a huge steep slope, a spring board or some expansive crevice. This is a great use of the system and makes for some pretty frantic gameplay; I’m sure fans of the series wouldn’t have it any other way. Unfortunately this new gameplay mechanic is not without its problems, you will often find yourself falling down holes or falling into enemies because you just couldn’t see where you were going and this becomes a major problem in some situations.
Sonic DS isn’t just about hurtling through levels at the speed of light though, this time around your skills will be tested that bit further as the game implements new abilities. Perhaps the most prominent of these is the dash-attack which grants you the option of boosting even faster with a turbo-charged bash of your Y button. This not only makes you quicker but also destroys the majority of enemies that stand in your way. While this does take the need to jump at enemies away in most cases you will need to rely on your reflexes to give that Y button a whack before you go charging into your enemies. It isn’t always that simple given the fact your boost will run out with excessive use, you can however fill your meter back up by performing an array of tricks. These can be executed with certain button combinations in certain situations, for example tapping your R trigger 3 times in quick succession whilst grinding will result in some fancy spins. Fill your meter to the top and you will temporarily gain unlimited boosting ability which can come in rather handy.
The story centres around two characters this time around, Sonic obviously playing the main role and a character by the name of Blaze The Cat makes her debut outing. Both these playable characters have almost identical attributes and abilities which is highly disappointing, the fact each respective characters campaigns are identical only the zones are set out in a different order doesn’t help either. Each zone that a character completes results in a boss battle with the sinister Eggman which scraps the 2D concept and delves you into an impressive 3D battle. None of these battles will challenge you too any great extent, it’s all about memorizing some pretty standard attacking strategies. Sonic DS also brings back the retro bonus stages which play out within some funky looking half pipes, once completed you’ll earn yourself a shiny chaos emerald.
In addition to the single-player campaigns you can also take part in a multiplayer racing mode, while this only supports up to 2 players you can still play with only copy of the game. The first player to complete certain selectable zones wins; while this isn’t the most enthralling of modes it does make for a nice contrast to the story driven counterparts. Each level is sprawled with power-ups to make your opponents lives as hard as possible, including one that scrambles their control system which is always fun.
The graphics within this game aren’t all that groundbreaking by any stretch of the imagination; they do however look sharp and create a sense of immense speed with no apparent slowdown issues. The characters are presented in high detail as they speed along some pretty colourful looking levels, each with their own vibrantly varied themes. The audio holds up pretty well also, it’s just a shame many of the sound effects were recognizable from Sonic games over a decade old. The soundtrack does a brilliant job though and the high-tempo tunes really fit the fast-paced action rather well.
All-in-all Sonic DS does recapture some of the magic the series created way back when, unfortunately some of the levels are badly designed and become rather frustrating when you have to replay them through no fault of your own. Also the characters are just too similar which results in a story mode that doesn’t have much lasting appeal and a multiplayer that doesn’t have much variation. If anyone is looking for a quick (in every sense of the word) 2D side-scrolling adventure that spans not only one but two screens then this is most certainly the game for you.