N-Gage Review: Sonic N

Another port from a Game Boy Advance game, N-Gage players will find Sonic N familiar. It's a direct translation of Sonic Advance, a fantastic 2-D title in the series. Any flaws here are due to the hardware, and in this case, it's nearly enough to ruin the playability.

What makes Sonic N enjoyable are the levels. Detailed and varied, running through as one of four characters is a treat, and shows how well this franchise can proceed without 3-D. While there's nothing here to stun longtime fans, it's always fun to find all the little scenarios Sonic Team has created to fling the title character around in the stages while still making the player feel like they're in control.

This is a short game, and if you're familiar with the layout, it shouldn't take more than an hour. Technically, you need to collect all the chaos emeralds (why are these still laying around after all these years?) with each character to truly complete it, but the bonuses are minimal at best. If this is your first experience, expect to spend around two or three hours.

On the N-Gage, Sonic N brings a second layer of challenge: the vertical screen. There are two viewing choices, one in a squished letterbox view or cramped full screen. The graphics are not re-done for the letterbox mode, and look pixilated. Enemies blend in with the backgrounds, and screen size is ridiculously small.

Playing full screen makes it impossible to see an incoming enemy since the horizontal view is limited. Sonic's speed has always made this difficult, but with the screen eliminating any chance of avoiding death, this is inexcusable. Given how sparsely populated the enemies are in every stage, there are only a few times where this is a major issue. However, it's enough to feel cheated by the hardware's orientation.

It's a shame too. Aside from that, this is a superb translation. The speed, graphics, and control are perfectly represented. Slowdown is rare. Stages are well laid out, though with only a few minor surprises. Bonus levels are a pleasant technical showcase, and scattered throughout the game in order to ensure there's a little replay value.

It's not hard to figure out that this is a Sonic entry far better played on the Game Boy Advance. If that's not an option, and the technical hurdles don't bother you, this is one of Nokia's easiest sells for their console. It would have been nice to a see a completely new adventure for different hardware, but if we're going to get ports, this is (almost) the way to do them.

(**** out of *****)

Comments (4)

oliver:

Interesting what gamers will tolerate. For me the screen choices were a deal breaker. I couldn't ever decide if I wanted to play as a horse with blinders on or that pixelated letterbox mess. I just was never able to get past that. At the same time once I got use to the control of SSX I was able to have some fun and look past the horrific graphics.

You don't understand, Matt likes to suffer through games... and movies.

As I post the review for the latest Sci-Fi Channel flick, Ken comes up with that comment. Creepy.

Oliver, I had issues with the screen. I really did. However, after playing through the whole thing as Sonic, I can say it only killed me twice, and I didn't make the same mistake repeatedly. I was stunned when I read some other reviews (IGN, Gamespot) and how they ripped this one apart. They even complained of frame rate issues. Never had that problem.

I loved it. I can understand if someone has issues with the screen, but I don't see it as a game stopper.

oliver:

all I was saying is that for me I had more fun with SSX (which you gave *) than Sonic N even if Sonic N ran smoother and might have even been a better game I just had a hard time dealing with Sonic and a vertical screen... maybe the whole thing was mental

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