Sega does its own take on Mario Party, with a card-dealing board game. Will the excitement never end?
It doesn’t take ’em long, does it?
Spot a good idea and you can bet your bottom dollar that most developers will find a way to incorporate the winning formula into their latest opus. You can’t really blame them, as the games industry seems founded on the plagiarism – sorry, borrowing – of other people’s ideas. No Missile Command means no Fantavision, no Virtua Fighter means no Dead or Alive 2 – that’s just the way it works. Watch how many cel-shaded games start popping up now that Jet Set Radio has finally materialised.
It doesn’t matter, though, as long as the end result has some credibility, some semblance of originality, rather than being just a jumbled mess resulting from the ‘square-peg-round-hole’ scenario. Sega seems to know this and have injected a little character into their version of the so-called ‘Party Game’. In fact they’ve injected five, with Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Amy all making appearances, Dr. Robotnik showing up from time to time, to unleash his usual brand of havoc.
Once you’ve picked your alter ego, you get to choose what mix of human or CPU opponents you’ll play against. At this point, it’s worth mentioning that the single-player experience leaves a lot to be desired. Even with the ‘High Speed Move’ option selected, you’ll spend at least half your time sitting around, twiddling your thumbs, while the blasted computer acts out its turn. Do yourself a favour and play Sonic Shuffle with a few mates, or not at all. It’s incredibly tedious, otherwise.
The actual mechanics of the game are basic enough. You’re all dealt a hand of numbered cards, from which you pick one and advance through the spaces in either direction. The object is to reach the Precioustone (read ‘Chaos Emerald’) that is invariably located at the other end of the board. The spaces fall roughly into three categories: Ring spaces add or subtract the famous gold bands and can accumulate exponentially, depending on how many successive spaces you land on. Battle spaces are exactly that – you face off against any one of a number of odd creatures and are each dealt a random card, the holder of the higher-value winning the battle. Finally, the Mini Game spaces provide the real fun aspect of Sonic Shuffle, as they engage all four characters in all sorts of amusing and not-so-amusing activities.
And it’s these events that give the game its sense of fun. Sometimes you’ll be floating in zero gravity, trying to get in shot of a timed camera, other times belting round a sun-drenched beach, attempting to be the last man holding a solitary parasol. You’ll probably get to outrun Dr. Robotnik’s Magnetic Ray or perhaps just be breaking through as many combination-locked doors as possible inside of a time limit. There’s a good spread of mini games, but unfortunately, there isn’t nearly enough spaces on the board, meaning that you might find yourself aiming for the event spaces, instead of trying to aim for the Precioustone.
Graphically, the cartoony artwork is wonderful and with all the characters from the Mobius in place, Sonic Shuffle could well prove itself a firm family favourite – at least until Sonic Adventure 2 hits, that is.