I agree whole-heartedly with everything in Ben's review with the exception of his slam on Saturday Night Live alum and comic genius, Adam Sandler. Sonic Shuffle was obviously created to take on Mario Party, only Sega wanted to disguise this by tinkering with it to make it a little "different." That decision doomed Sonic Shuffle to be one of the worst mascot cross over games ever made.
Why does Sega cook up these convoluted plots with their Sonic games? This nonsense about a dream world called the Maginaryworld no less (taken over from a good entity called Lumina Flowlight by an evil entity called Void) was a focus of the game for far too long. It deserved to remain as a distant motivation to complete the game, but Sega pushes it hard as if it could stand up on its own and presumably prop up the rest of the game as well. It should have taken notes from Nintendo. Mario games are about saving a princess, recovering stolen stars or proving who is the best Nintendo mascot. Thats it. And another thing is the voice acting? Why would you want to give your mascots a human voice? It's not like Sonic ever says anything particularly interesting or the person playing him can be anywhere near as entertaining as a Mel Blanc or Dan Castellaneta. The optical disc medium must be the biggest temptation to Sonic's developer, but I think the hedgehog should remain silent like all the mascots that came before him.
Did anyone know that Tails' name is actually Miles Prower? Did it occur to anyone that Mario's full name is technically Mario Mario? These and other musings popped into my head while playing—not because they were particularly interesting, but because I had so much time to let my mind wander. If I wasn't waiting for a friend to finish moving along the board, I was waiting for him to play through a mini game all by himself. It wasn't always game sequences that made you wait either; there are plenty of load screens in the game for you to sit through too. And let's not forget all the non-interactive game events Ben mentioned that are there solely to break up the action even more.
Sonic Shuffle does involve some strategy to its credit. You have the option of stealing cards from other players or using Forcejewels found in mini games along the way to disrupt your opponent's progression along the board or enhance your own. Toss in Special Cards that are essentially wild cards and Eggman (I'm so glad they lost the Dr. Robotnik moniker) cards which can do nothing but bad things to whomever uses them and you have a foundation for great multiplayer gaming. Unfortunately as Ben intimated, by the time you learn all of these rules and potential strategies you will be thoroughly bored by the game.
It's funny how much Sonic Shuffle reminded me of Square EA's recently released The Bouncer for the Sony PlayStation 2. Though developed by different developers on vastly different consoles, their approach is identical. Both games take game genres meant for multiple players to enjoy, limit them to single-player story modes and then incorporate impotent multiplayer options as some sort of consolation. Perhaps it's only Nintendo that believes someone will actually buy a game to play with his or her friends. Regardless, Sega's spin on the party game genre was a huge disappointment. It should have simply tried to rip-off Mario Party more blatantly because at least then Sonic Shuffle would have been fun.