Slow down, you move too fast.
Sonic Rush Adventure is the latest 2-D Sonic platformer and a sequel to the DS’s earlier Sonic Rush. The game includes many features from the previous game, but it also includes new levels and augments the gameplay of the first. At its core, Sonic Rush Adventure follows the classic Sonic gameplay: run as quickly as you can to the goal through crazy obstacle courses while collecting rings and defeating enemies. It worked well in the early 90s, and with some slight evolution, works well today. Matching the game’s namesake, platforming is very fast, and the presentation is absolutely solid.
The game begins with Sonic and Tails flying over the open sea when a whirlwind sweeps them up. They awaken on a beach and are quickly discovered by a young girl raccoon named Marine. Marine’s speech is overly full of Australian vernacular, making dialog a bit odd to process. The dialog is really unnecessary, as it is slow and uninteresting, a stark contrast with the actual gameplay. Thankfully, dialog can be skipped with the Start button.
Later in the game, Sonic is joined by Blaze the Cat from the previous Sonic Rush, the mystery deepens as to the goings-on in the ocean, and the nefarious intent of Captain Whiskers is made known. After this point, players can play as Sonic or Blaze in any level. The characters play extremely similarly, though Blaze has the ability to destroy certain barriers using her fiery capabilities.
The environments are widely varied, with each of seven major islands including its own theme, from the lush Plant Kingdom to the industrial robotic island. The platforming levels include all of the Sonic staples such as springs, loops, and bouncy mushrooms. The levels are large, often taking several minutes to clear even while running the entire way. Level designs are impressive from both a layout and graphical standpoint, and it’s actually unfortunate that Sonic runs so fast, because the subtleties are easy to miss. Each stage includes many paths, some of which require quick planning to reach. Each island includes two platforming levels, finished off with a boss stage. The boss stages switch to a 3-D view, though the gameplay is still essentially 2-D. The boss levels are pretty standard fare—avoid the boss’s attacks while attacking it yourself.
The trick mechanics from the first Sonic Rush return, which make the platforming aspect of the game much livelier. Sonic can perform tricks while jumping or sliding on rails, much like a simplified skateboarding or snowboarding game. These tricks rack up bonuses as well as filling a dash meter, which gives Sonic the ability to blast through enemies or reach otherwise unreachable areas. At the end of each stage, Sonic is given a performance rating based on ring collection, tricks, and stage completion time, which dictates how many materials, such as metals and gems, Sonic will earn. Tails can use these collected materials to engineer structures and aquatic craft, which are necessary to progress in the game. Each island produces only a certain set of materials.
Islands are accessed by piloting the watercraft that Tails builds throughout the game. Players plot out their course by drawing directly onto the screen. Once the course is set, the game enters a first-person 3-D view, and each craft includes its own mini-game. For example, the first craft is the Jet Ski, and players navigate Sonic by directly dragging him across the screen, collecting rings and avoiding mines. When Sonic jumps a ramp, an arrow will appear. Dragging the stylus in that direction results in a bonus charge. Holding L gives a turbo boost, which not only makes the trip quicker, but can be used to ram enemies. The second craft is a munitions-equipped boat. Players stand on the side of the deck and can switch between bullets, cannon balls, and a flamethrower. Enemies here have several hit points, and players must make it across the ocean without getting their ship destroyed.
There are also several smaller islands found around the ocean. Some of these islands include short stages that make material collection quicker. Other islands can be used as launch points to reach other islands that are too far away to be reached in a single boating expedition.
Regrettably, since the game’s main stages go by so quickly, it seems that the developer, Dimps, decided to artificially lengthen the game by requiring the collection of material in order to proceed. Even if you get "A" ratings in each stage on the first try, that won’t generate quite enough material to build all of Tail’s crafts and other engineering designs. The game’s short length and forced replay are the primary downsides of the title. While the first ending can be reached in only a few hours, the true ending requires collection of all of the Chaos and Sol Emeralds. Chaos Emeralds are obtained by racing a character named Johnny on the open sea, while Sol Emeralds are gained by completing boss challenges. The game also includes a multitude of side missions, which usually involve tasks on levels previously cleared.
Perhaps surprisingly for the genre, Sonic Rush Adventure includes online multiplayer in the form of races to collect rings or clear levels quicker. Players can play matches with friends (using friend codes) or with randomly matched opponents. The game even has online leader boards and local multiplayer. The minigames aren't deep, and are good for quick diversions, but only if you can find anybody to play. Players may overlook multiplayer since it's found at a terminal in a side room of Marine's house, rather than on any sort of main menu.
Overall, Sonic Rush Adventure is full of fun, fast-paced levels. The main mode of the game is a little short, and some poor game structure choices dampen the playability a bit, but that doesn’t erase the fact that the game includes some of the best platforming experiences available. The game’s seamless merging of 2-D and 3-D is commendable, and the additional game modes are fully fleshed-out.