Of the billions – yes, billions – of games that came out for the Nintendo Wii, there were maybe 10 worth owning. That ain’t good maths. I’ll tell you now, Sonic and the Secret Rings isn’t one of them.
After Sonic Heroes, I was still in a state of denial about the rapidly declining quality of the series. I needed something to play after beating Twilight Princess, and Wii Sports wasn’t bringing enough heat in that department (and was impossible to play in a rickety house at night quietly). I had hoped, against both sanity and rationality of the times, that Sega did their homework and made something suited to motion controls, or at least the joystick and D-pad.
Here’s where I am a magician that pulls back the curtain to reveal that this rabbit is dead and should’ve been buried long before it ever made it into my hat of lies.
Sonic and the Secret Rings follows any of the other 900 million motion control shovelware titles that didn’t tighten the control with their motion. So the player has to do three times as many motions to have any sense of control. That’s not how motion controls should work!
A book of Arabian Nights tales ensnare Sonic into its pages, which leads him against several worlds worth of levels. For the first time, the blue hog is an auto-runner that gathers momentum as you direct him as best you can. You have a jump and a dodge left or right, but with zero joystick control, you cannot begin to imagine the frustration inherent at even tepid speeds.
You will find yourself hard up against fallen architecture or even an enemy and your damage will keep sinking deeper and deeper until it hits bone. Your runs will end in wall-splatting fatalities that send Sonic bouncing backwards. Not all of your marches end in such a disaster, but it’s a staggering amount that knocks your desire out of the park in no time. Boss fights are a huge showcase of this problem with precise controls required at all times. As a result, I didn’t go through a single fight without encountering a full game over screen, which meant losing between 3 to 5 lives depending on my streak.
Progression through the levels and separate zones is awkward to boot in Sonic and the Secret Rings. Instead of just taking everything in order, you have to meet certain stipulations before further levels will open to then get the World Rings to then take on the boss. You’ll almost certainly have some backtracking to collect more rings or to find secret branches in weirdly-angled levels to turn down.
To say the least, very few of the decisions in Sonic and the Secret Rings holds up to much scrutiny. I do applaud the Sega team in their desire to go away from Robotnik as the main adversary for a few cups of coffee. Because of how lame the controls are, you never feel threatened by the main villain so much as you do the technology, sapping the payoff of victory entirely.
Musically the game fares a bit better with the constant Arabian derivatives actually coming across fairly well thanks to the originality. That’s clearly the goodwill vein Sega meant to mine here with everything since it all steps so broadly of the standard flair, but only musically does any of that positive intention actually land.
Sonic and the Secret Rings just never does enough to rise above the shovelware on the Wii. It says something pretty vital to me that in this age of constant revamps and remakes, there was never a Sonic Wii Collection redux to even the Wii U. In hindsight, this was almost certainly not the time to experiment to this extreme amongst the worst run of Sonic games in history.
No matter which day it is ever, until the end of time, this is not the ideal way to experience what the core of Sonic the Hedgehog should be in the main games.
Sonic and the Secret Rings Score: