Sonic and the Secret Rings

Hedge(hog) your bets as the deepest, fastest and, er, bluest Sonic game yet comes your way

Just like the tarmac-melting Erinaceinae himself, Secret Rings is picking up pace as it approaches release date, skewering subtle game mechanics on its spines faster than a greedy NGamer team member stabbing at the marshmallow bowl in a chocolate fountain.

Original fears that Sonic's latest speed-a-thon was a bit on the shallow faster-faster-I-wanna-go-faster side of things are unfounded, as a hands-on session revealed objective-led gameplay and a pimp-my-hedgehog modding system.

In a style akin to Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam players face repeat run-throughs of the levels, completing different objectives each time. Things start simply, with reach-the-goal or beat-the-clock missions, and grow trickier as you traverse the courses while attacking a certain number of enemies, picking up particular level-specific objects or, for the first time in Sonic's ring-addled life, not picking up any rings. In essence the levels remain the same; it's your approach that will alter.

Mach my day
Which probably explains the new skill system. Experience points gained from completing tasks are used to purchase new attributes. These speed Sonic up to eye-melting mach-numbers or - if you're a wimp - slow him down for a stroll, give him the jumping ability of a Jonathan Edwards type or imbue him with enemy-smiting flame attacks. Over 100 adjustments will be available for fine-tuning your hog.

Skills can be grouped in one of four ring slots, each with a points limit placed on it to stop you from overdosing on abilities - one horrific ability miscalculation saw our Sonic turn into an uncontrollable whirling dervish, literally crapping fire while screaming all the way to his nasty demise.

Certain combinations will help with particular tasks, so while one ring slot may hold a treacle-slow attribute with a tighter handling upgrade for precision movement tasks, another may only contain speed-boosts that will help Sonic tear through the very fabric of time and space.

Seemingly the deepest Sonic yet. We can't wait.