After a slew of disappointing and downright bad games, Sega's speedy hedgehog has finally returned in a game worthy of the Sonic legacy. Sonic and the Secret Rings for the Wii takes the game back to its high speed roots. While you can technically move in three dimensions, you're almost always moving forward whether you want to or not, and lateral movement is limited to taking one or two steps in either direction as you involuntarily sprint down a narrow path. Confined as it may be, Sonic and the Secret Rings works because it lets you run at breakneck speeds through great-looking, fantastical stages. The game is not without its share of frustrations, but Sonic and the Secret Rings is certainly worth playing.
The story in Secret Rings is a slight departure from the usual Sonic the Hedgehog setup. One day while Sonic is sleeping, a genie visits him. The genie is from the book Arabian Nights, which is being destroyed by an evil genie known as Erazor. Apparently, if Erazor amasses enough power, he'll be able to leave the book and come to life to terrorize Sonic's world. Sonic has to put a stop to Erazor's plans by visiting seven different fantasy worlds to collect magic rings that can be used to restore Arabian Nights.
You play the game as Sonic and travel to seven fantasy worlds (plus one tutorial world). You'll travel to a dinosaur world, a floating ruin, a pirate level, and more. Each level has several different challenges for you to complete. The first challenge is simply to run from the beginning of the level to the end, but you'll eventually unlock much more interesting challenges. Some challenges require you to collect a certain number of rings, finish a level before a timer runs out, make it through a stage without killing a single enemy, or just kill a boss enemy. These different challenges add a lot of variety to the game, so even though you'll play each level 10 times or more, you'll find a unique experience each time.
The controls in Sonic and the Secret Rings are simple enough to pick up, but they can also be incredibly frustrating at times. You hold the Wii Remote sideways and tilt it left and right to move Sonic side to side. The 1 button makes Sonic stop and the 2 button makes him jump. With such simple controls, you'd think it would be a piece of cake to guide the hedgehog through each level. The problem is that most of the time you don't have direct control of Sonic's forward movement. Sonic automatically runs as fast as he can, and it's your job to make him jump and weave over and between obstacles. With all that forward momentum, the trick is to time your jumps and sidesteps just right to avoid the hazards in your path. That isn't easy, because the game moves so fast that you'll rarely have time to react during your first run through a level. After you've died and retried a dozen times and have the layout of the level memorized, you might be able to survive. The amount of trial and error required for most of the challenges is a bit extreme, and it will definitely try your patience.
In addition to running, jumping, and grinding on rails, Sonic can attack enemies by jumping in the air and homing in on them. When you jump, you'll automatically target the nearest enemy, and while you're in the air, you can quickly move the Wii Remote forward to home in on the enemy and kill it. You can chain these kills together to clear large gaps or wipe out large groups of enemies without ever touching the ground. The homing attack does make combat extremely easy, but it's used primarily as a way to get from one point to another anyway, so enemies could just as well be springboards or floating platforms instead.