Review: Sonic Labyrinth (3DS eShop / GG)

Maze craze

Failed game pitches from the 1990s: Madden without the ball. Mario without the jumping. Sonic without the speed. Except someone at SEGA must have thought the last one was a good idea, and gave Minato Giken the go-ahead to develop Sonic Labyrinth for Game Gear.

As the story goes, Dr. Robotnik has tricked Sonic into wearing special shoes that slow him down, and the hedgehog has to collect Chaos Emeralds across four worlds to get his speed back, or something.

If the lack of speed wasn't enough to make you aware this is not your average Sonic game, the isometric viewpoint will do the trick. In each Act you have to collect three keys and take them to a goal gate to advance; after three Acts you face a boss who usually crumbles without opposition. Four worlds and an hour or so later and you've finished the game, save for retrying it in Time Attack mode for fun.

Sonic Labyrinth's big problem isn't that it's slow for a Sonic game — it's pretty slow for any game. Sonic has uncharacteristically stodgy handling too: he doesn't accelerate on his own, so you have to spin dash to build speed and stop in place by pressing a button. Its stop-start nature is an acquired taste, and while there's some smart use of it to push you along narrow paths it feels like a hindrance to live with rather than a skill to master.

Level design doesn't do much to outweigh that feeling, with stages rarely challenging or stimulating. By the time you reach the fourth labyrinth the game falls back on the staple of inter-dimensional doorways, linking doors with no logical reason. We get that they're supposed to be labyrinths that require brainpower to work out, but this is lazy design.

Conclusion

Sonic Labyrinth isn't the total disaster some would have you believe, but it's also not worth £4.50 of your money. Robbing Sonic of his speed, while baffling, could have worked well with better level design, but Sonic Labyrinth is still far from the hedgehog's best.