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1995-2000
GamesFirst! Magazine

SonicShuffle_cover.jpg (11681 bytes)


star06.gif (4104 bytes)star06.gif (4104 bytes)star06.gif (4104 bytes)

by Sega

BOD01-01.jpg (6087 bytes)The party game genre, recently resurrected on consoles with Mario Party, comes to the Dreamcast with Sonic Shuffle. Yup, bond with your friends and annoy your enemies with this one. Sonic Shuffle will have you and three buddies running around game boards rendered in 3D, collecting Precioustones, and competing in veritably wacky minigames. It’s a riot for the first three hours. After that, you’ve either completely succumbed to Maginaryworld and its delights, or you’re already wondering what else is on TV and wondering where your friends went.

BOD03-01.jpg (5902 bytes)The Shuffle looks nice. Using the cel-shaded 3D look, pioneered in Jet Grind Radio, the game has a fun visual feel that is fitting to the overall style. The game is played on a series of boards. Each game board is themed: Emerald Coast, Fire Bird, Nature Zone, Riot Train, and Fourth Dimension. These are carried out in pretty traditional graphical motif, and have fitting mini-goals associated with them, such as rescuing a dolphin and repairing an engine. Our fave characters (except Amy, who sucks) are represented: Sonic, Knuckles, Big, a Chao. So the basics are covered in the way we’d expect and want.

BOD0Z-01.jpg (6046 bytes)Sonic Shuffle is also weirdly complicated. The VMU is ingeniously used to display your hand of cards, which you use to move, battle, and various other things. All player interaction with the game and other players is carried out for the most part through these cards. When two players land on the same space, they duel, collecting and throwing away cards. When you land on a Precioustone you battle a monster by drawing a card. And you use the cards to move, of course, so they’re important. To mix things up, you can also choose at any time to pick a card from another player. You don’t know which card you’ll get, but you steal one away from a potential threat. Sometimes you’re forced to draw from another player’s cards because you’ve run out; cards aren’t re-dealt until each one is played.

CMG51_1-01.jpg (2730 bytes)Still with me? Now, you’re moving around these boards to collect Precioustones. The story is: Precioustones are the crystallized dreams of everybody, and a bad guy named Void has stolen them. You have to get them back by voyaging to "Maginaryworld" and playing Sonic Shuffle. In addition to Precioustones, you collect Force Jewels. There are a couple dozen or more different Force Jewels: Speederald, Hypnotite, Stopnite, Deletite, etc. They have various effects, such as speeding up movement, incapacitating other players, teleporting, and the like. You can either buy Force Jewels with rings that you’ve collected, or earn them in Mini-Games and Mini-Events.

MG001_2-01.jpg (4789 bytes)Mini-Games involve all players and there are a lot of them. They range from frying players in pans on giant ovens, to stomping them with big robot legs, to performing live in concert and making psychic predictions. These are, without a doubt, the best parts of Sonic Shuffle. They don’t just have you hitting buttons as fast as you can or winging the controller around in circles. It helps to have played a game at least once to have an idea of what to expect, but you’re not really going to get a lot better at them with a lot of practice.

MG013-01.jpg (3143 bytes)It sounds pretty convoluted, but it actually plays out pretty well. There’s no need to describe game mechanics so in-depth to novice players, even. The game does a good job explaining what to do, and a single mistake or two will only ruin your chances when you’re playing against the evil, biased AI. (The Dreamcast is thinking, and it’s cheating.)

SMG51_1-01.jpg (4665 bytes)Sonic Shuffle might be just the thing for kids’ parties – when the goal is just to stay up all night and not stop playing video games. With some knowledgeable configuration of the game, adults might be able to tolerate it for a very short game. But while the Mini-Games are fun and the graphics are cute, the game just gets too long. It’s kind of like playing Monopoly or high stakes Risk – really fun for the first couple hours, but just tedious after that.

SMG72_2-01.jpg (5072 bytes)To top it off, in order to open extra characters and features you have to play the single player Story Mode. If there is anything worse than playing Sonic Shuffle with a group of increasingly grumpy and cynical Twenty-Somethings, it’s being the single increasingly grumpy and cynical Twenty-Something playing Sonic Shuffle all by yourself. And once you realize how horribly, obviously biased the game is toward computer-controlled opponents, it will make you never want to touch it.

So, this is one for the kiddies. They’ll probably have a great time with it. Sonic Shuffle offers lots and lots of playing time; too much for some. It’s incredibly cute and may be just the thing for the "spin-da-night" crowd. Unfortunately, us adults will have to wait awhile before we get a good console party game for ourselves. Maybe we can look forward to Conker’s Bad Ass Hootenanny? At least a good version of You Don’t Know Jack?

Shawn Rider

Snapshot

Ups: Lots of minigames; cute graphics; four-player support.

Downs: Games get incredibly long; pacing is too slow; only single player in Story Mode; AI cheats.

System Reqs:
Sega Dreamcast

 

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