Sonic Rush

Old-school side-scrolling Sonic is back, and cut down to the quick.

As Sonic's marquee titles expand further into 3D, exploring the side-scrolling legacy of the Genesis heyday has been left to portable platforms, so bringing that old-school flavor to the latest handheld seems only natural.

Adventures in Physics
As if one Eggman weren't enough to contend with, a tear in space-time brings another from a parallel universe, pursued by playable character Blaze the Cat. She's the only alternate to Sonic, and you won't find Chaos hunting or world hubs, either: Everything that wasn't about crazy speed, gravity-defying acrobatics, or energizing boss battles has been trimmed away.

The result is a polished, if repetitive, interpretation--a gift for fans sick of side errands, but bad news if you're tired of racing through yet another water or jungle environment. The detailed animation of each mid-air contortion is flawless, and the new transit mechanisms and 3D embellishments are cool, but Sonic Rush's sparsely populated levels and coin-spilling ambushes ultimately feel tired, and too familiar. Performing tricks to refill your power meter could've been invigorating, if only it had been explored further. As it stands, it seems a shallow gimmick.

Two LCDs Are Better Than One
The addition of a second screen actually allays some of this disappointment, as the action jumps haphazardly from top to bottom and back again. The effect is jarring at first, since many of the transitions occur in the middle of some speed-demon stunt, but it also neatly emphasizes the branching paths available to our hero. Each stage grades you on your performance, encouraging you to go back and explore every nook and cranny, and reduce your completion time.

Sonic Rush certainly isn't revolutionary, and it only barely makes use of the touchscreen, but it is a decent distillation of what's kept a sprite-based Sonic alive in the age of textured polygons, as long as you're fine with more of the same.