It should have been good. That's what I kept thinking as I played Sonic Shuffle. After all, it is a Sonic game and barring a few missteps (Spinball and 3D Blast I'm looking at you) they are usually pretty good. It even comes from the highest pedigree a party game can have, it was developed by Hudson who invented the whole genre with the Mario Party series. I mean surely they of all people can deliver a party game that stays true to the Sonic's speed and in your face attitude, right? At the very least, it should be a fun multiplayer experience right??? Sadly the answer to both of those questions is a resounding no.
I guess I'll start with the few good points first, so later I can get into a good uninterrupted tirade about the bad. The graphics are reasonably pretty, certainly not the systems best but not too shabby. Also the opening cinema is very well done, easily standing beside the opener for Sonic Adventure in terms of speed and style. Musically it isn't too bad, just as good as Mario Party's in my opinion although that isn't too great a compliment. It does one up that series in the amount of voice over, although the quality of it (or lack thereof) is on par with Sonic Adventure's.
It is baffling how many mistakes Hudson made with Sonic Shuffle given their experience. Anyone who has played a Mario Party game will tell you that the most fun to be had within the game are from the mini games you play after every turn. Sure the board events can be mildly enjoyable, but their main purpose is just to provide a context for the mini games and give more motivation to win them. Considering all this, for the love of God why would they DE-EMPHASIZE the importance of the mini games in here?? You see in this game one must land on a specific space to activate the game and this of course means you may get to play one every few turns IF you're lucky. Oh and don't forget the game spaces don't always take you to a mini game, often they will bring the player into an interactive event where they are presented a brief story and can make a choice. These are as boring and pointless as they sound and sometimes they won't even give you a choice!! Then you get to watch your character make some stupid decision usually and get screwed over by a horribly disguised Eggman. On the off chance you get into a mini game, chances are you won't have fun anyway. Perhaps all the good mini game designers were off doing whatever Mario Party at the time, or maybe they just got lazy but the majority are downright horrible. Most suffer from either unresponsive controls, being overly complex, or just not being any fun. On the off chance you get one of the four or five enjoyable minigames, good luck getting it again anytime soon.
The biggest mistake in Sonic Shuffle has got to be the load times. Remember the pretty graphics I mentioned? Well apparently they came at a high cost because this game has more load times than just about any other Dreamcast game I've ever played. These loads aren't discreet either; they are long, intrusive, and noticeable affairs. They kill any speed the game might have had otherwise and quite frankly there is no reason they should be in here. It is highly unlikely what's here is taxing the system in any way so their inclusion just stands as a sign of the overall carelessness that went into this fiasco.
Believe me there is plenty more for me to rant about in this game like the ill conceived battle system or horrible storyline but by now you get my point. This is a game I would recommend to no one, not even the most diehard of Sonic fans out there. It is not fun in any way, shape or form no matter how many people you're playing it with. The only thing it could ever do at a party is get your quests quickly spouting excuses to leave and reaching for the door.