Sega does what Nintendon’t right? As much as Sega wanted to push this idea, they often found themselves copying exactly what Nintendo was doing. Kart racing? Yep! Then came Nintendo’s board game party series, Mario Party. Sega saw the success it was and put together Sonic Shuffle for the Dreamcast in 2000.
Crosstix dug out the game out and invited myself, TB, and our friend Bones over to play it through. How was one of Sega’s last games as a console maker?
The game kicks off with a long cut scene that brings all the characters together. They chase cards through a busy city only to become digitized, or something. Throw in some random thing about harps breaking, portal stuff, eggs, and other lame crap and you have the plot here.
After choosing your character, map, and how many stones to collect, you set the order through slot machines. This is to keep up the shuffle, or gambling, motif. Probably because “party” would have been too close of a copy from Sega.
The board is littered with tons of icons that make little to no sense. There are tons of routes to go and little direction for getting there. When it becomes your turn, you use playing cards that you drew to move. This becomes strategic so that you can save the cards you need and get where you need to go while avoiding negative spaces. The system makes less sense than D&D to a newbie.
Party games boil down to one thing, and one thing alone, the mini games. Sadly, this is where Sonic Shuffle really falters (like the game wasn’t already?!). Each mini game is an amazing amount of luck. The games tend to be overly complicated with poorly written explanations. The key to a party game genre is to have players be able to figure out games fast so they have a chance. Simple and addictive is best here.
We did start with a simple game called Thor’s Hammer. Collect most rings while avoiding lighting to win. The obnoxious part is that it does not keep track of how anyone is doing so you do not know if you are winning or losing. Do I try and defend my lead or get risky to catch up? Who knows!
Our second game was Sonicooking. One player vs the others. The single player tries to fry players and collect rings that fall out. Several more screens of instructions for everyone on how to move. Then when we got in the game the controls made no sense. Nothing matched the description before and we were all wonder, do we collect the coins? Are they falling out of us? Is the one player trying to knock the coins out? These are just a few of the mini games, but the problems inherent in these two were present throughout.
The issue for Sonic Shuffle is that everything is centered on chance, vagueness, and of course randomness. I guess that fits the gambling motif. Everything feels random except for one thing, the computer cheats. This usually feels like a copout for a player sucking at a game, but here it is true. We set the computer AI on one of the easier settings. Early we just assumed that the computer knew what it was doing and the rest of us did not know what the symbols meant. As the game progressed, the computer nailed every roll it needed and dominated the mini games. As we went on and figured out how to play, it became clear that the computer used its knowledge of our cards to get the exact numbers it needed to pick up the best items and the win. Long story short, do not play with a computer in the game.
How do I put this delicately? The game sucks. The story is lame, to be expected for a party game. The mini games have poor controls, explanations, and are simply not fun. The computer is a low down dirty cheat with five aces up its sleeve. The only reason to play this game is to laugh at how pathetic this Mario Party knock off is. Sega, next time make sure to at least accomplish what NintenDO and realize why NintenDON’T do some of this trash.