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Sonic Shuffle

Score: 75%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Party/ Action

Graphics & Sound:

I have issues with Sonic Shuffle, but none of them are in the graphical department. The game uses cel-shaded techniques a la Jet Grind Radio to animate the characters, and it feels like youíre watching a cartoon or something. A very slow-paced cartoon, but a cartoon nonetheless. The maps are generally quite nice-looking as well, if a little too convoluted for their own good. And the mini-games range from plain-Jane to quite sweet, graphically. As a general rule, though, Shuffle is pretty.

The same canít be said for the sound. The voice acting isnít terrible, but the lines that they speak are (donít translators check this stuff over?!), so a lot of the speech sounds unnatural. And the music is undoubtedly the weakest in Sonic history -- generic, unremarkable, unmemorable. I can still hum the theme from the first Sonic game, but I couldnít do three seconds of any song in Shuffle. Supplying your own music is suggested, as sound doesnít play much of a part in the game.


Gameplay:

And, unfortunately, neither does skill. Sonic Shuffle tries to be the Dreamcastís Mario Party, but it ends up falling flat. While thereís a little enjoyment to be had, the horribly cheap A.I. and drawn-out load times will probably make you look somewhere else for your entertainment.

Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Amy are thrown into Maginaryworld, and there they have to save the Precioustones from the evil Void. Whatever. The object of each map is to collect the Precioustones that appear, one at a time, on specific spots on the map. Each space on the map has some feature that youíve got to learn, and proper use of those spaces can be the difference between winning and losing.

Instead of using dice, in Sonic Shuffle you use a deck of cards. There are four of each number from one to six, a few Special cards, and an Eggman card (isnít that Dr. Robotnik?). When itís your turn, you can play from your cards or your opponentís, but theirs are face down. Mind you, that doesnít stop the computer from cheating. Even on the Easy setting, they have a habit of picking the exact right card from someone else to land on the Precioustone space or whatever they need to do -- itís really disheartening to see.

Most of the spaces on the board either give or take away rings from you. There are also spaces where you must do a Battle, where the highest number flipped wins. And then there are the eponymous Mini-Game spaces, where you dive into mini-games a la Mario Party and try to best each other. These games can be 1 on 3, 2 on 2, or a free-for-all. Some are fun, some are not; some are hard, some are easy. There are a whole lot of them, though, so they tend to stay fresh.

You can also play the game with up to three other people, although you canít do the single-player campaign like this. Any missing folk are taken over by the computer -- for maximum enjoyment, youíll want four human players so that the cheating is kept to a minimum.

The problem is that the game just isnít that much fun. Mini-games donít happen often enough when youíre playing to win, the computer cheats like crazy, and the gameplay itself is, in the end, uninspired.


Difficulty:

This completely depends on who youíre playing against. The CPU will stomp you, simply because it cheats like crazy. Donít expect to do too well in any game mode when playing against your Dreamy. When youíre playing the game as you should (with three friends), the game becomes much more enjoyable, as friends arenít quite as psychic as the CPU. We hope.

Game Mechanics:

The control in the game, for what itís worth, is solid, with simple buttons to use items, move, and whatnot. Each mini-game has its own controls, so make sure you read the instructions before you play -- some have buttons you wouldnít know about otherwise. The basic game mechanic of the game is flawed, however. Using cards as a basis of movement is fine, but donít let the computer magically know exactly what everyone has. The load times are also pretty bad, making the delays between player turns even more dull.

While itís not the worst party game, neither is Sonic Shuffle all that great. It really requires four people to be truly entertaining, as playing with the computer is an exercise in frustration. The load times also dampen the enjoyment. If you simply must have a Mario Party-style game for your Dreamcast, this is whatís available, although youíre better off buying the real thing for your N64 or picking up some of the many party-geared titles for the PSX. Hell, even Armada is more enjoyable in large groups than this. In the end, Sonic Shuffle deals us a losing hand.


-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Windows Kohan II Sega Dreamcast Skies of Arcadia

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated