Does Sonic The Hedgehog Crash Course leave you rolling around at the speed of sound or does it drop the rings?
For a character that’s almost entirely predicated on going fast, a board game doesn’t really seem like the most obvious fit for Sonic the Hedgehog. Whilst not everything that’s come from the franchise has been faster than the speed of sound, the blue blur rarely features in something turn-based. With that said, Sean McDonald and IDW Games think they have just the thing in the form of Sonic the Hedgehog Crash Course, in which Sonic and his friends race to collect the most Flicky Birds before dashing to the finish.
Sonic the Hedgehog Crash Course is an action selection racing game featuring a dynamic player created track for two to four people. Players choose between Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Eggman (Robotnik to you and me) before dashing around a course to claim victory. With three actions each turn, you can choose between healing damage, moving and taking power-ups. Any action can be repeated if needed, but healing must be carried out first if any damage is present, meaning your options could be limited. Moving does exactly what it says, and is crucial to winning, whilst power-ups can help you or hinder your opponents — normally by causing damage. Playing well will earn you Flicky Birds, and should you reach the end of the current track with the target number, then you win!
The track isn’t predefined beyond the first two tiles which will always be set up in the same way with everything following being player determined. The first person to reach the end of the current track will take a new tile and place it however they wish to continue the track, as well as earn a Ficky. Speed is the key here (Gotta Go Fast after all) as being the first to the end of the current track is the easiest way to guarantee getting a Flicky, but there are other ways to earn the birds and claim victory. There are only a limited number of track tiles and should you run out you can take the tile from the back of the course to continue. If that tile has a player on it, you immediately win the game due to being the fastest hedgehog (or other creature) alive!
Each character also has their own special ability that allows them to earn more Flicky Birds which is influenced by their personality. Sonic earns birds for using boosters multiple times in a turn, whilst Tails gains them by using springs to leap over multiple obstacles. I liked this feature as it gave each player their own way of playing beyond getting to the front of the pack, and made power-ups quite essential.
Power-ups fall into three categories 一 movement, damage, and rings. Movement tends to come in the form of boosters that can be placed in any empty square on the track and move any player forward two spaces if the land on them. Damage tiles normally involve you placing monsters on a square, but can have you using bombs to attack everything on a tile or robots to damage everyone in a row. Rings can be used to earn extra lives once you’ve collected four of them, which absorb damage on future turns. This is very useful, as taking damage immediately ends your turn.
They key to winning is staying ahead of your opponents, which means trying to keep them behind. Movement is important, but using these power-ups is the real way to victory. Damaging your foes will mean they have fewer actions on their own turn, allowing you to stay ahead and reach the next tile first. You can only have two power-ups in hand at one time, but using them is a free action so you can be very aggressive if you want to be. Boosters are also useful 一 particularly for Sonic who gains extra Flicky Birds for hitting two in a single move action 一 but you’ll need to be causing damage to win. You can also achieve this by ‘pushing’ players on the board into a damage tile during your turn if you move into the back of them, and this becomes quite a good strategy if the board fills up with obstacles.
The thing is though, there are often so many ways to be damaged, that the game can be slowed right down as you use most of your actions each turn healing damage. The fact that every tile only has three lanes on it often means that you’ll run into situations in which damage is unavoidable. There are ways around this 一 extra lives and shortcut tiles for example 一 but these crop up very rarely and can’t be relied upon. Pace is crucial to Sonic games and Sonic the Hedgehog Crash Course can be lacking in this department when players are attacking each other regularly. With that said, it does mean that at times it can be anybody’s game. On a couple of occasions I’ve managed to come from last place to take the win thanks to good use of power-ups. It’s just a shame that a game can be bogged down by healing damage.
The component quality is good. Punch card pieces are used for power-ups, damage and Flicky Birds — these all look good, matching the aesthetic of Sonic. Track tiles are equally good looking, with everything being very clear, but there aren’t all the many of them which could lead to a lack of variety if it weren’t for players controlling the course placement. The character pieces are quite the highlight here as they look really rather good, absolutely nailing the look of classic Sonic and his pals. They’re very good quality considering this is a reasonably cheap game.
In spite of its flaws, we had a good time playing Sonic the Hedgehog Crash Course. It’s a great filler game, taking about half an hour to play, and it’s very simple to play. The box suggests eight and older as a suitable age, but our five-year-old had little trouble picking it up, which should give you a good indication of the difficulty of playing this. If you’re looking for something very light with a good aesthetic at a pretty low price, then you could do a lot worse for a family game.