Unless you've been living under the kitchen sink for six years, you've probably heard of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega's zippy blue mascot. Well, Sega Entertainment has finally brought the spike-haired wonder to the PC with their new release, Sonic CD.
Sonic CD is a translation of the 1993 Sonic the Hedgehog CD for the Sega CD console system. It's a typical side-scroller: you know the drill - you speed through board after board of flashy eye candy and collect trinkets (coins, rings, jewels, etc.), eventually confronting the supreme embodiment of evil in a final showdown. More specifically, in Sonic CD you assume the role of a cute little hedgehog and attempt to conquer the mischievous Dr. Robotnik, who has stolen your girlfriend, created an almost innumerable army of robotic creatures, and constructed a Sonic cyborg twin just to piss you off. Sonic runs, Sonic jumps, Sonic's eyes bug out when he is about to fall off a cliff ... but that's about it. Sonic CD is uninspired at best and the constant sequence of level, level, boss, quickly becomes tedious and monotonous.
Among the best features of the Sonic the Hedgehog series for Sega game consoles were its fluid movement and its feeling of true high speed as Sonic peeled around the surreal landscape. Even on a Pentium 133, Sonic CD was a bit jerky, and numerous CD accesses slowed the action in a few spots. Overall, the graphics are colorful, attractive, and true to the original, but the slowdown really hurts playability. Even worse, the bonus stages, originally psychedelic, reality-altering experiences unto themselves, are flat and dull in Sonic CD.
Even with all of its downfalls, Sonic CD does have a few tasty treats. Unlike the console version, your game is automatically saved at the end of each round. (There was nothing more frustrating than losing your last Sonic near the end of the final stage and having to start from scratch.) This would generally be a good time to look out for flying controllers, game systems, and televisions. Also, there is a nice variety of levels, each with a unique look. My personal favorite is the pinball machine-inspired level with numerous bumpers and flippers allowing you to catapult Sonic around the screen. Within each level, Sonic can also travel into the primal past or industrialized future of that level by triggering a Time Warp. This can be very useful, as Sonic can find and destroy Dr. Robotnik's Enemy Transporter in the past, thereby eliminating all enemies in past, present, and future levels.
Unfortunately, these treats aren't enough to make Sonic CD stand out as a unique gaming experience. Those who have played Sonic on a Sega game system will find nothing new here, and PC gamers who enjoy side-scrollers may be disappointed with the performance of Sonic CD. The repetitive gameplay, combined with a $50 retail price, make Sonic CD a mediocre title at best. Unless you're a true Sonic fanatic, avoid this one.