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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 February, 2004, 07:50 GMT
Sonic's latest is headache for oldies
Games that require a combination of speed and repetition are becoming increasingly tiresome, says Daniel Etherington of BBCi Collective in his weekly games column.

Screenshot of Sonic Heroes
The pace is just too much for an oldie
Back in the early 1990s I spent many an hour playing Sonic The Hedgehog 2 on Sega Game Gear.

The essential simplicity of the game - 2D, speedy side-scrolling action, ring collection - made it immediately accessible.

This further consolidated the character's status as an icon, which was pretty much what he was designed to be by Sega: in other words, an identifiable hybrid of Mickey Mouse-style company logo and Mario-style in-game mascot.

But by the time I was visiting the 3D world of Sonic Adventure 2 on Dreamcast in 2001, it all seemed a bit hectic.

Cute combat

Inevitably, the modus operandi of the game had to evolve for the franchise to stay fresh.

But it was overcomplicated with the ever-expanding supporting cast, combo moves and huge - undeniably dramatic - game worlds.

Screenshot of Sonic Heroes
For me, once I get beyond the thrill of the game's exquisite environments, there is just a headache waiting. What does the opinion of one old fart matter though?

Either that or I was just getting a bit old. I have a niggling feeling that it might be the latter.

With its squeaky-voiced tutorials, kids' cartoon characterisation and cute combat, Sonic Heroes, the latest in the long-running series of more than 30 games, is very much designed for a younger demographic, officially six-to-11 year olds.

That is the group which follows the animated adventures of such Japanese franchise characters as Dragonball Z, Pokemon, Digimon and Yu-Gi-Oh!, collects the merchandise and, I assume, bickers about high scores in the playground.

For my part, it is not the awful music and tone of the storytelling that give me a headache, it is mostly to do with the pace.

I have never been the most skilled gamer in terms of reaction times, but Sonic really does demand good twitch reflexes if you are to stay on course.

In Sonic Heroes you play as teams of three, made up of characters with speed, power and flight.

Although Sonic Heroes is probably a tad slower than Sonic Adventure, it is still all too easy to hurtle characters over the edges of vertiginous runways, resulting in much repetition of sections of play.

Chart topper

Speed in itself is not necessarily off-putting, but the combination of speed and repetition is something I am increasingly intolerant of in games.

Even Ikaruga, hailed as a slice of classic bliss by many discerning gamers, gave me this vibe.

Screenshot of Sonic Heroes
The combination of speed and repetition is best left to kids
At least in something like F-Zero GX, the speed has a fluidity and continuity.

But my meagre skills result in the Sonic experience being very stop/start - which kind of defeats the object does it not?

Children, with better reactions, more time on their hands, and a higher tolerance threshold, may well be rapt.

But for me, once I get beyond the thrill of the game's exquisite environments, there is just a headache waiting.

What does the opinion of one old fart matter though? The game is topping the charts, doubtless thanks to the pre-pubescent pound.

The nifty Tetris-esque mini-game on the Sonic Heroes official website is more my pace.


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