Sonic: The Core Design and Beyond pt.2
Monday, January 26, 2009 at 11:41PM
Richard Terrell (KirbyKid) in Action, Genre, Level Design, Platformer, Sonic

The issues I detailed in part 1 of this series apply to almost all of the 2D side scrolling Sonic games with the exception of the Sonic Rush series for the Nintendo DS. From my experience, I've found Sonic Rush Adventure to feature the best core design of the 2D Sonic games because of how it deals with the design drawbacks that have plagued the series and how it creates counterpoint centered around the RUSH mechanic.




The following are reasons why the core design of Sonic Rush Adventure has refined the roller coaster style level design creating depth and counterpoint out of the essence of Sonic.


The RUSH (SUPER BOOST) mechanic:

RUSH, the mechanic that gave the popular and critically acclaimed series its name, is the primary innovation that saved Sonic by addressing and diminishing many of the issues of Sonic's 2D core design. By hitting the Y button, the RUSH mode is activated. While in this mode, Sonic (or Blaze) instantly accelerates to their maximum speed. While RUSHing, the player is also invulnerable to enemy attacks. While this may seem like a deconstructive mechanic that over simplifies Sonic gameplay, it actually helped focus the core gameplay.


The Trick System:


The Level Design:


The core design is platforming, racing, action.


  1. Players want to race to the finish. The RUSH mechanic speeds things along.
  2. Enemies (though simple and shallow) threaten the player creating a type of contrary motion.
  3. Players can RUSH through these enemies safely.
  4. To continue RUSHing, the player must maintain the tension gauge. The decaying gauge is another type of contrary motion.
  5. To fill the gauge, players can do tricks and become vulnerable.
  6. To get to the end of the level more quickly, players must reach and maneuver between alternate paths.
  7. Failing to reach an alternate path can result in being forced to take a longer path (the final type of contrary motion). To make up for lost time, players can RUSH thus returning to step 1.



In the end, the core design of Sonic Rush Adventure lends itself to extremely fast paced roller coaster levels where players have to manage the push and pull of every action along the way. Keeping it all together and reacting to changing situations is a rush in and of itself. If you stick to the paths, all the individual, simple elements layer together to create a flexible gameplay experience that's functionally similar to a music rhythm game like Donkey Konga or Rhythm Tengoku. But once you realize that the truest path is however you make it, it's like unbuckling yourself from the roller coaster seat at the top of the incline and flying away.


Article originally appeared on Critical-Gaming Network (
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