Sonic the Hedgehog, you know that spinning, jumping guy? Well, he's starring in another game. This time instead of the usual side scrolling adventure, or the find the ring adventure of Sonic 3D, we're treated to a racing game with a twist. In SonicR you get to choose from Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, or Dr. Robotnik to race for the Chaos Emeralds, and of course 1st place.
SonicR supports DirectDraw and Direct 3d. These graphics are decent for a game that was never meant to be a racing simulation (ex. Nascar 99), and was never meant to blow everyone away (ex. Need For Speed 3, Dethkarz). SonicR's graphics can all be summed up in one word, "Cute". Surprisingly the description also fits the rest of the game very well. There are a few things which stand out in the graphic area: some of the effects, such as water, could have been improved a lot more (ex: adding transparencies). When you fall into the water in SonicR there is no splash and once you are underneath the surface you turn into this little round sprite which was very unappealing. In SonicR there are 3 different weather conditions, all with decent graphics. Rain, snow, and normal sunny weather are the range of conditions which you will experience. The graphics for SonicR are better than any Sonic game I have seen yet, but this is hardly on par with modern PC games.
SonicR's sound is certainly nothing worth screaming about. There is no EAX or A3d support, as expected but the wide variety of sounds used are fairly well implemented. Of course you could've added A3d support and hear when a person is running behind you, but I really don't think that's expected of any racing game, yet. The sounds in SonicR include simple sounds such as the dings when you pick up rings, the sound of a door opening, and the little plonk when a person jumps. The sound effects are very reminiscent of the classic Sonic games so Sonic fans will recognize them well.
When it comes down to gameplay this game is fairly constant with its high's and lows. SonicR is just like any other racer: run around a track in an attempt to gain 1st place. The individual characters each have their strengths and weaknesses, which you must learn to exploit. For example, Sonic is the fastest max speed but he lacks in everything else and Knuckles is the good old all around character. For each character there is a special move: Sonic can double jump and Tails can fly. There are 4 original tracks and 1 bonus track. You can choose from the original 4 racers as well as, eventually, 5 bonus characters which you unlock through completing tracks and recovering all the chaos emeralds that are hidden within each track. There are 2 different ways to play the single player game: the grand prix, which is just racing against computers, and the Time Trial. The twists and turns are very well placed in the tracks and there are even some loops just like in the old sonic days. In the tracks there are many paths to choose from which can be considered both a positive and a negative. On one hand it adds to the replay value and on the other hand it makes it possible to get quite lost. You may end up running around in circles. The worst part of this game is that it doesn't introduce anything that we haven't seen yet in a racing simulation.
I find at times that it is a little too easy to beat the computer. At other times it is just a little to hard to make a proper turn. The replay value is greatly increased by adding bonus characters and bonus tracks. With multiple paths to choose in the game and multiple secrets in each track, it'll keep you busy for a while.
SonicR offers spilt screen two player mode and four spilt screen vs mode for 2 or 4 players. The game offers two modes of play: basic racing and a game in which you must collect five balloons before anyone else. The Race mode is 3 laps around the track and whoever comes out on top wins. The Get 5 balloon mode is you and your friends run around and try to find balloons hidden in the course. Whoever gets 5 first wins. SonicR offers nothing special in multiplayer mode and I found it gets pretty boring after a while.
The phrase "ages 9 and up" comes into my head when thinking of SonicR. The graphics point to that age group as does the gameplay. At times the game presents hard to execute turns on the race track but other than that the difficulty is not very high. However, for some odd reason I enjoy and I guess I do fall in the "and up" category. SonicR is one of those games that you would just like to have around after your sick and tired of running pedestrians over (Carmageddon 2) or fed up with shooting monsters in the head (any one of a number of first person shooters).