Friday 10 December 2021

SonicN (Nokia N-Gage review)

Developer: Dimps
Publisher: Sega
Released: 2003

SonicN is a platformer that was previously released as Sonic Advance (2002, Game Boy Advance).

There's seven Zones and you must stop the evil Dr. Eggman from building an Empire by turning all the animals into robots. Four playable characters are available ranging from Sonic (can spin attack after jumping), Tails (can fly in the air), Knuckles (can glide and punch) and Amy Rose (attacks with a hammer). Compared to the smooth GBA version, the low frame-rate is immediately striking here and it leads to choppy scrolling and animation; it also affects your ability to assess jumps as perilous gaps suddenly emerge while the game engine struggles to keep up with the action. The camera offers you either a full-screen (portrait) mode, or a letterbox option; neither are conducive to a comfortable playing experience, as the former blocks your view of upcoming hazards and the latter makes everything too small to see! The sound is equally as disappointing as it's heavily compressed and appears to play off-pitch while painfully stuttering along. Despite the game's technical shortcomings, praise has to be given to the level design which is some of the best in the series; the layouts are incredibly intricate and the multiple paths in each level encourage you to explore. It also feels very parkour-like once you get into a flow which is exhilarating. The only thing I would like to have seen is more risks taken with the locales, as they're all very similar to Sonic's 16-bit outings. The game is short, but the save slots are a neat feature that push you to see the credits with all four characters. Playing as Amy really switches things up in interesting ways too, as relying solely on swinging her hammer makes it feel like an entirely different game.

SonicN doesn't stray too far from the established formula, but the addition of multiple characters warrants several play-throughs. It is a real shame that it's riddled with technical issues though and unless you're a die-hard N-Gage fan it's hard to recommend this over the vastly superior Game Boy Advance version.

Random trivia: The GBA saw two other titles in the series which were Sonic Advance 2 (2003) and Sonic Advance 3 (2004).

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