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There was a time when a new Sonic game was much anticipated and the battle for supremacy between Sonic and Mario the talk of the playground. Those days are long gone. Sega's endless use of the character in titles of increasing mediocrity has seen to that.
It was only a matter of time, therefore before everyone's favourite spiky blue hedgehog turned up in his own iOS game. This time, though, there's a difference: instead of racing around a horizontal scrolling platformer, Sonic must make his way up a series of vertical platforms in a game without falling.
Taken at face value, Sonic Jump doesn't appear to offer anything that's not already available on the App Store. The purpose of the game is to leap constantly upwards, using platforms to propel yourself to the next one, collecting rings as you go. Miss a platform and you will plummet to your doom. It's Doodle Jump with Sonic.
Despite taking its basic gameplay from Doodle Jump, Sonic Jump introduces a couple of new gameplay mechanisms that actually help to set it apart for a little bit. First of all (in finest Sonic tradition), you have to collect as many rings as possible as you leap around. This adds an extra risk and reward element to the gameplay. Do you just use the safe platforms (which offer the chance to collect fewer rings, but are easier to reach) or do you try for the trickier areas, where there are more rings, but you are also more likely to die? This adds a bit more depth to the gameplay which is perhaps lacking from Doodle Jump and stops it from becoming quite so repetitive quite so quickly.
The second element is even simpler: levels are finite. In Doodle Jump, you simply keep going until you die; the longer you last, the higher your score. In Sonic Jump, your goal is to reach the top of a level so that you can move onto the next one. This small change gives the game a much better structure and improves its playability. There is a greater sense of purpose to your jumping around (also helped by the story which unfolds as you progress) and the aim of the game becomes more than just beating your high score.
You could argue that the game doesn't make particularly good use of the Sonic licence. Sonic games should be all about speed, pinging from platform to platform at insane speeds. Whilst the basic elements of Sonic are there (Sonic himself, ring collection, jumping), the game is not particularly fast and you could very easily insert any other Sega character without losing a great deal.
In fairness, the developers have tried their best to tie this game to Sonic. Background graphics level names and layouts are all inspired by earlier Sonic games and there is an unmistakably Sonic look and feel to everything. This will make things instantly recognisable for Sonic fans, without making it inaccessible for newcomers to the series. It's just that the element of speed (which for me defines Sonic) is lacking.
At least the game looks and sounds good. As you would expect, the visuals are bold, bright and cartoon-like. Sonic himself is the usual mix of cuteness and attitude and all the other creatures are well animated. The game runs very smoothly and there is no lag in the graphics (which would have been catastrophic for this type of game).
Sound is good, too. There are all the jaunty tunes and effects that you would expect and these are fun to listen to without becoming repetitive. I tend to play many iOS games with the sound turned off/down as it can quickly become annoying. It's testament to the sound in Sonic Jump that I enjoy playing it with the volume turned up - at least a little.
Controls also work well, because they are simple and accessible. Sonic himself is moved by tipping the iPhone/iPad from side to side with jumps controlled by pressing the screen. The controls are very responsive and, unlike some games that use the device's accelerometers, you don't need to tip it massively to get the required movement. This means that it doesn't suffer from the problem many such games do where the device has to be tipped so far to one side that you can no longer see the screen. Instead, the controls are simple, well-implemented and responsive, meaning that this is a game which anyone can just pick up and start playing.
What you get with Sonic Jump is a reasonably fun game. It might not be terribly original but it keeps you entertained - at least in short bursts. As with Doodle Jump, I do find that I don't want to play this in bursts of more than about 10-15 minutes as it soon becomes repetitive. It's also a game that I will go for weeks without playing before I come back to it. The key thing, though, is I do occasionally return to it, unlike many other iOS games I own which lie dormant, simply taking up space. It's an ideal casual game for when you have a spare five minutes, since levels are short and there are natural break-off points built in. Played like this it's a short burst of fun.
It costs around 69to download (although it has been as high as £1.99) and you can't really complain about. It's just about different enough to Doodle Jump to justify both titles, too; the small but significant changes to the gameplay really make a difference.
The truth is that if you're a Sonic fan, you probably downloaded this as soon as you read the game's title. Yet even if you're not it's still a fun little game that justifies the cost and space on your iOS device.
© Copyright SWSt 2013