Admit it -- no one wants to hear that a Sonic game could ever be less than decent. Well, the truth hurts but it has to be told. Sonic R shares the same common problems that other less-than-decent games seem to have that hinder gameplay in more than several ways. Sure, it's in 3D but eventually after playing it for awhile you're not going to bother continuing on.
Speaking of 3D, it's better than say, Die Hard Trilogy for the PC, but what happened to the effects, the lighting and full use of 3D technology of the times? It certainly wasn't implemented in this game, unfortunately. When pixels jump at you or clipping problems and graphical glitches block your view, you're going to lose every race! As a matter of fact, you're going to wonder where every player is and why you've mistaken the water for a mirrored floor. The rain and snow effects on the other hand are pretty interesting and appropriately fashioned as big bubbles for a sort of cartoon look. Unfortunately, the game suffers from missing special effects and details like dynamic lighting, gouraud shading, transparency and motion trailing. It also has a horrible-looking map along with the smudged text and numbers on the screen. The graphics overall are just not good enough.
The animation on the other hand is semi-smooth. Unfortunately, the background fades in with obvious trepidation while the camera angles start to produce headaches or disorientation. Speaking of camera angles, you control three different views but there is hardly any difference between them! And how about that big black border surrounding the screen as you shrink the size from full to small? Why couldn't they have made it an actual window under Windows? As well, the speed is not as fast as Sonic should be even though the frame rate isn't totally bad. Being a simple game, you'll find no cut-scenes, intros or any of that jazz, much to the disappointment of those who anticipated such; after all, there's really no excuse for a 1999 game to lack these things.
Another annoying aspect rears its ugly head as you simply play the game with either of the controls, be it keyboard or joystick/joypad. In other words, don't worry about bracing yourself -- flaky turning and overcompensating corners will occur nearly 100-percent of the time. And your attempts to jump over flat polygonal walls will prove futile, as collision detection seems to present itself in places you can't afford to risk having obstacles in the way. When the rain comes pouring down, it's even worse as you appear to skid all over the place and losing total control. Jumping around isn't always used here and there is practically nothing you can do in this game that you can do in the other Sonic titles, namely bopping on top of objects to receive more rings or getting smacked by an enemy. Also, there is no reverse or backward move, so instead there is a ducking move that has no place in this game, as it serves no purpose.
The main issue with this game is that most of the time you won't know what you're doing or where you're supposed to go. The simple fact is that there's no concrete evidence of your goals! What's worse, the path you take isn't always logical. Even collecting enough rings doesn't seem to open up the right paths so you'll basically be stuck in the game (some levels badly obscure items you need). You'll be asking yourself, "Why am I playing this game?" Some areas are so twisted that it just doesn't make any sense. Sure, it's non-linear but be realistic about it, at least!
Also, the multi-player mode seems to lack all of the methods of play that is mentioned on the box and on their website. I can't even set up network play or dial out with my modem because there's no way to do it, and without instructions, what's the point? That's right, there isn't any instruction manual in the box for crying out loud! It's just some useless insert that shows you how to insert the CD into the CD-ROM drive and then how to click on the executable file. Other than that, it shows you how to contact them for support... how quaint. Not!
Another pet peeve would be the minor inconveniences that turn into major pains. For instance, you cannot exit the game unless you get to the Options screen! And while you're inside the main menu and all of the submenus, you are only allowed to scroll with the joystick or arrow keys in one direction. As well, there is no way to get past the company logos at the beginning of the game, alluding to a waste of time.
Fortunately, there may be one slight glimmer of hope... or maybe not. Credit is due to the exact replication of the original Sonic the Hedgehog sound effects, including the jumping springs, sparkling rings and bopping bounces. However, the game disregards the use of spatial sound, stereo effects and even background ambience. What's new is the voiceover in the game, not from the characters themselves but from an announcer who hardly has anything to say whatsoever; it's nearly non-existent yet probably better off not even having if anything because no one is going to care anyway.
The music is quite funny, actually. You've got your vocals and maybe three songs at the most. And the ones that exist either cleverly loop themselves or are two hours each! It's okay and sort of similar to the songs in Sonic Adventure, but is rather silly and not particularly appropriate for this kind of game.
Perhaps playing other human players will help enhance the enjoyment, but honestly it doesn't really matter when everyone is having a hard time controlling the game. And with simple graphics and sound, as well as other useless or missing features, Sonic R should stand for Sonic Rest in peace! For those fans of the mighty blue ball, try it but don't buy it. For other action and racing fans, don't even bother with this one. Seriously.
Graphics: The graphics department is left behind in the past, as the developers didn't care about eliminating glitches, clipping problems, horrid camera angles and sloppy textures. The frame rate could have been better as well. There are a ton of effects missing from this game as well as a bad use of 3D hardware acceleration. In fact, it looks like purely software-rendered.
Sound: Despite the accurate Sonic sounds, the rest of the effects or lack thereof are too simple to even care about, save the funny musical score. Although the vocals tend to pump up the pace, the excitement level still suffers to the hands of the game engine, thus rendering the sound department useless.
Enjoyment: There couldn't be a worse rendition of a game that mocks the Sonic franchise as does Sonic R. Poor control, confused goals, weak features and inconvenient navigation makes for an awkward and fruitless experience. Plus, missing multi-player options such as LAN, modem and serial play smacks of deceit on the part of the marketing folks. Perhaps that is why they used Expert Software, leader of "frugal" products, to churn out this mess onto the public's shoulders. This burden does not fall on deaf ears, however.
Replay Value: Other than playing against one more friend who has to physically be there right next to you with another controller, the replay value is not even a thought when it comes to Sonic R. You wouldn't want to play it in Single Player mode anyway when obviously you'd lose time and time again due to horrible controls.
People who downloaded Sonic R have also downloaded:
Sonic Riders, Sonic Mega Collection Plus, Sonic CD, Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island (a.k.a. Sonic 3D Blast), Sonic Heroes, Sonic & Knuckles Collection, Sonic Adventure DX (Director's Cut), Sonic Robo Blast 2
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