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. Its a riot for the first three hours. After
that, youve either completely succumbed to Maginaryworld and its delights, or
youre already wondering what else is on TV and wondering where your friends went.
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 wed expect and want.
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 theyre important. To mix things up, you can also choose at
any time to pick a card from another player. You dont know which card youll
get, but you steal one away from a potential threat. Sometimes youre forced to draw
from another players cards because youve run out; cards arent re-dealt
until each one is played.
with me? Now, youre 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
youve collected, or earn them in Mini-Games and Mini-Events.
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 dont 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 youre not really going to get a lot better at them with a lot of
sounds pretty convoluted, but it actually plays out pretty well. Theres 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
youre playing against the evil, biased AI. (The Dreamcast is thinking, and its
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. Its kind
of like playing Monopoly or high stakes Risk really fun for the first couple hours,
but just tedious after that.
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, its 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. Theyll probably have a great time with it. Sonic
Shuffle offers lots and lots of playing time; too much for some. Its 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 Conkers Bad Ass Hootenanny? At least a good version of
You Dont Know Jack?