When SEGA announced that they were shifting their focus away from consoles towards mobile, gamers around the world collectively recoiled in panic. Was this the end of SEGA as we knew it? Could they bring their existing brands to mobile in a way that respected the source material and the free-to-play economy?

Sonic Runners is the first SEGA game to arrive after their focus shift, and if our early impressions are anything to go by, things are looking up.

sonicrunners2

Currently in soft launch in Canada and Japan, Sonic Runners is an endless runner set in the world of (you guessed it) Sonic the Hedgehog. The game recreates the feel of the series earliest incarnations, but instead of giving players full control, they’ll only be able to jump, with Sonic auto-running his way through each environment.

The challenge comes via obstacles, pitfalls and enemies that the player must avoid, and rings (and gems) that they’ll want to collect. Doing so at ever-increasing speeds, across wildly varying landscapes, has made Sonic Runners a joy to play in our brief time with the game.

sonicrunners5

Outside of the running gameplay, things get a little… let’s call it “unconventional.” At least unconventional by Western free-to-play standards.

Players will spend points to advance through the game’s narrative at the end of every run, occassionally culminating in a one-off boss fight with Dr. Robotnik. (As a 35 year old gamer, I’ll be damned if I’m calling him Eggman.) The narrative elements feels clunky, strange, and out of place – but they don’t take long to skip through.

sonicrunners4

You’ll also spend premium currency on a roulette game between runs that can unlock new “companions,” ie little creatures that will modify the gameplay and bonus structure and follow you around during each run. It’s this element that’s seems meant to hook ongoing players into spending some money, and while it’s too early to really pass judgement, it seems like a fair trade off.

With different companions, different playable characters (which we’ve yet to unlock), and leveling up your heroes, it seems like there’s a lot of game to be had even outside of the running.

sonicrunners3

Of course, what you’ll really care about is the running — and Sonic Runners has plenty. Earlier teases promised a fast-paced auto-runner that pays homage to the early Sonic games, and from what we’ve played so far, Sonic Runners delivers on that promise.

Keep an eye out for Sonic Runners to (hopefully) hit mobile devices worldwide soon.