Sonic's games were the antithesis of Mario's. Where Super Mario Bros. required me to control all of Mario's actions, Sonic the Hedgehog asked little more of me than to bear down on the right-direction button, keeping Sonic racing through his games' pinball-table-like levels. He would bounce from bumpers and shoot through loop-de-loops in rapid ricochet, collecting rings faster than Mario ever caught coins.
Like Mario, Sonic made the leap into three dimensions, and the Sonic Adventures were half-hearted attempts at capturing the speed and frenzy of the original two-dimensional games in rail-running 3D worlds. But the feeling wasn't right. After the demise of the Dreamcast, Sonic went "platform neutral." At first this resulted in titles such as the Sonic Mega Collection, where Sonic classics were repackaged for new systems along with some of the hedgehog's lesser triumphs.
But recently Sega has become more imaginative with their mascot, and as he progressed onto the Nintendo DS he added some moves to his classic 2D races. The ability to blast through barriers and lash out at obstacles while jumping made Sonic Rush successful enough to earn a sequel.
Half of Sonic Rush Adventure is the same fast, action-intensive Sonic game. Holding down the right button doesn't get me through. I need to land on enemies and perform aerial tricks, charging up powers and deploying them with rapid, precise timing. The different moves have allowed the game designers to incorporate alternate paths into the levels. If I can twitch fast enough, I even get to explore them.
But the "Adventure" parts of the title slow the game down like sand. Interminable -- and annoyingly childish -- cutscenes show Sonic talking to his friends about... nothing I care about. In between these turgid sections and the game's fast action, Adventure has boat races and pirate skirmishes that don't even compete with the two-year-old Mario Kart DS's racing battles. These thrown-together knock-offs of other videogame styles make Sonic Rush Adventure feel as though Sega has forgotten everything good about their most famous mascot.
THE GOOD: Sonic Rush Adventure makes full use of the DS's dual screens. Even though Sonic is only depicted on one of them, the two-dimensional levels stretch up and down both. Sliding my view around is sometimes the only way for me to notice and access the game's varying paths. And bosses -- thank goodness for a game with old-fashioned mega bosses at the ends of levels -- span both screens, lending a sense of the epic to an otherwise chopped-up game.
THE BAD: There isn't much new here. The maneuvers that Sonic already sported in Sonic Rush are fully utilized. Even the tricks that Sonic can perform while blazing across the ocean are nothing more than weak variants of the maneuvers he introduced in the Sonic Adventure series.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Sonic slums it in a been-there-done-that (quickly) action game that's interrupted by too many tedious talky "adventures" and ho-hum boat battles.