Sonic Shuffle is the latest Sonic game from Sega, and sees Sonic, Tails, Amy and Knuckles finding themselves in the middle of an odd story, and at a mysterious place called Maginaryworld, which has areas including Emerald Coast, Fire Bird, and Riot Train.
At the start of each stage, Lumina (the fairy) asks you if you want to be guided around the map, and shows you some of the specifics to each board, such as a space with a crocodile that can only be crossed when it's mouth is closed, and a tortoise that has to be raised up out of the water for you to pass.. You also occasionally get paths totally cut off, with killer whales smashing through sections of the board on the Emerald Coast level.
After a short while playing, you'll get to hear one of the biggest catchphrases from the game, "What evil invention should I use on you this time", said by the eeevil Eggman (Dr Robotnik) just before he does something really nasty to stunt your progress in the game, or, sometimes he actually does something nice, followed of course by his nasty laugh.
Eggman does anything from changing all of the spaces into question marks for 5 goes, reducing or enlarging the size of ring spaces so you get more or less rings, showing your cards to other players, and generally helping to keep the outcome of things a bit random.
Landing on a Battle ring takes you to a one-on-one battle with one of the many weird and wacky creatures. To beat the opponent, you have to make sure your card is higher than the opponent, and if so you win.
Once a player gets to a precioustone, a battle takes place, and as long as you beat the opponent, you get to win the precioustone, and Lumina goes on to announce where the next precioustone is, followed by Eggman dropping a 16ton weight on the person furthest away.. thanks a lot, Eggman.
The visuals in Sonic Shuffle are pretty impressive, they look a bit like Sonic Jam on the Saturn, but with the obvious improvements that the Dreamcast makes possible. The graphics are also crisp and cartoon like, which makes playing Sonic Shuffle a real pleasure - there's something about the charachters which gives them a life like feel, instead of just a collection of pixles on the screen.
One of the bad points about Sonic Shuffle is that the game can take an age to play, especially with people who aren't too sure of what to do.. However, it's not too bad in one player mode, as the computer charachters take their turns pretty quickly.
The game doesn't have the same fast-paced feel to it that previous sonic games have had, and if you are expecting a platform style game, then you definetly won't find it in Sonic Shuffle, but what you will find is a pretty well thought out game, with a selection of mini games, battles, and plenty of Sonic magicary!
Gameplay seems more ideally suited to younger gamers, or for the times when you want to pass an odd few hours with friends in front of the TV.
Sonic Shuffle isn't as good as some of the past sonic games (probably because they were so impressive), and with Sonic Adventure 2 coming out later this year, Sonic Shuffle will become over shaddowed, but it's still well worth buying - even if it's only so you can walk about for the next week constantly hearing Eggman's voice in the back of your mind saying "what eeevil invention should I use on you this time"!Overall score: 6 out of 10
Players: 1 to 4
Recommended Price: £39.99
Available: March 2001Buy Sonic Shuffle from Amazon