SonicN Hands-On Impressions

We try out Sonic the Hedgehog's first N-Gage adventure.

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SonicN is the latest appearance by Sega's speedy blue mascot on a portable game system. The spiky one has been successfully making the rounds on a variety of platforms since Sega shifted to third-party development. SonicN stands out from the previous games thanks to its status as a launch title for Nokia's upcoming N-Gage system. We tried out a preview version of the game to see how it's coming together.

SonicN is based on developer Sonic Team's most recent portable Sonic game, Sonic Advance for the Game Boy Advance, and features a slightly new approach to the traditional Sonic the Hedgehog formula. This time out you'll be able to play through the game as a number of characters. In addition to Sonic, you'll be able to select Miles "Tails" Prower, his faithful two-tailed sidekick; Knuckles the Echidna, Sonic's sometime nemesis; and Amy Rose, Sonic's love interest, nay, stalker. The characters will each have unique abilities to help them through the game. For example, Tails is able to fly for brief periods, Knuckles can glide for short distances and climb up certain structures, and Amy will make use of a large hammer to attack enemies and increase the height of her jumps. Your main goal, as always, is to thwart the plans of Dr. Eggman by collecting precious stones called chaos emeralds, which have been an integral part of his plans for the past decade or so.

You'll find two modes of play in SonicN: a normal game and time attack. The main game is a linear series of themed zones broken up into two acts and a boss fight. Time attack is essentially a race against the clock to complete any stage you've already cleared in a shorter amount of time. The core gameplay remains the same in both game modes and stays true to the accessible mechanics that have been a staple of the franchise. You'll move your character with the directional pad, jump with the 5 button, and perform secondary moves such as attacks with 7. The simple controls are fairly responsive and will let you blaze through a level as quickly as you can, dealing with enemies and avoiding obstacles without much of a hassle. You'll collect gold rings to gain an extra life and protect yourself from harm, and so long as you're holding on to at least one gold ring, you won't lose a life when hit by an enemy. You'll also be able to collect a variety of power-ups that will provide shields, limited invulnerability, and speed boosts.

The game's presentation is coming along pretty well but is still a bit rough around the edges. The overall level of detail in the graphics compares favorably to the Game Boy Advance version and actually appears to feature slightly richer color. Character animation is good and retains the personality that is key to the individual characters. The environments offer a good amount of variety and feature little touches to suit their themes. For example, you'll see snow falling in the Ice Mountain zone and fireworks going off in the distance in the Casino Paradise zone. On a side note, the game defaults to a letterboxed display mode, but you can change to full-screen at the touch of a button. There are, however, some rough spots on hand as well. The game's frame rate is a bit inconsistent in places, which can make some of the platform jumping harder than it needs to be. The audio is also in need of some cleaning up, as the game sounds tinny.

From what we've seen so far, SonicN is shaping up to be a fairly solid platformer and a decent first outing for the series on the N-Gage. The game looks good, plays well enough, and offers a decent experience overall. While we would have liked to see a multiplayer mode included, especially given the N-Gage's Bluetooth capabilities for wireless multiplayer and the fact that the original Game Boy Advance game featured a versus mode, the game is fine for what it is. Hopefully Sonic Team will have time to give it an extra layer of polish before the game ships. SonicN will be available for the N-Gage this October.

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