Sonic Rush
| Sonic Rush

The world's fastest rollercoaster is the Kingda Ka in New Jersey, reaching 206 km/h. Pretty impressive, no? Not when you compare it to the fastest living creature on Earth, which as it turns out, is a bird. The Peregrine Falcon reaches 350 km/h during its dives, which puts any rollercoaster to shame. But then light comes along and ruins everything – 1,079,252,848.8 km/h exactly.

The problem with speed though is what happens when you want to turn a corner. A rollercoaster has rails, the falcon can change the shape of its wings. Even light diffuses.

When playing Sega's new 2D side-scrolling platform game Sonic Rush however, your instinctive reaction is just to keep the right button pressed down and hope for the best, because right from the get go, you're sprinting. Each of the undeniably wonderful looking levels kicks off with a running start, so you're already at full speed by the time you take control of Sonic. And as the level speeds by, you realise you're doing little other than watching. This is where the problems start.

The fact is that underneath their glossy facade, Sonic Rush's levels are painfully designed. You'll fall to instant deaths, you'll rush straight into walls, and you'll be puzzled about where exactly to go next. It seems you're somehow expected to know the layout of each level before you play it. Of course, you don't. You have to play them over and over until you finally get it right and can get the most out the game.

This would be fine, of course, if the game taught you how to improve, so that each mistake encouraged you to do better next time. But, this isn't the case. Instead, the right moments to jump or decelerate can only be found through frustratingly getting it wrong again and again and again.

So it takes real determination to push through the tedium and start to master the levels. When you do, Sonic Rush does offer short bursts of enjoyment. In particular, Sonic can twist and turn in the air performing tricks to increase your 'tension gauge', which provides you with an extra level of boost. Theoretically, this is the main replay value on offer – maximising your tricks to gain more power to boost with, and hence a faster rush through the levels. But even once you've become an expert – parachuting and grinding your way through the entire game – there are scarcely any levels which feel instantly replayable, and so the whole experience is short-lived.

As for the 'DSness' of Sonic Rush, both of the console's screens are used to display a level. Falling or sliding down as you race across the top screen results in a switch to the bottom screen, as the level continues underground or underwater. It sounds like a sweet idea, but in play it actually comes across as plain annoying. More of gimmick, it breaks your concentration and the flow of the game. Another silly interrupting addition is when the level suddenly becomes blocked off and you have to kill several re-spawning enemies before being able to continue.

More odd is the addition of playable character, Blaze. A cat, he can hover, making it easier for him to reach the places Sonic can't reach. He adds some diversity, but ultimately controlling Blaze is similar to Sonic only slower, so you'll probably end up choosing Sonic and not bothering with Blaze's story at all.

Some variations on the standard theme do work. The boss stages, in particular, are well executed. In contrast to the 2D side-scrolling levels, the boss battles are fought in 3D; completely different from the rest of the gameplay, they're a lot of fun, with the later bosses especially engaging and testing. You'll also find a few special stages on your journey towards the end. These are in 3D too, and play like a race through a tunnel with the camera behind Sonic. This is one of the few times you take control with the touchscreen, dragging the stylus left or right to move Sonic, whilst tapping to kill enemies. They make a nice change from the standard levels, and are more immediately enjoyable.

Overall though, Sonic Rush fails to successfully sell its rush experience. It should be all about speed and excitement, but you suffer too much pain and frustration as you continually die and restart. Even if you're patient and get to the end, you don't feel like you've reaped much reward.

Hardly like the rush of the Kingda Ka rollercoaster then – more the kerplunk kerplunk of its tedious uphill climbs.

Sonic Rush is on sale now.

Sonic Rush

For all its pace, the levels in Sonic Rush are frustrating to learn, and there's little to bring you back once you've done so.