Following behind the recent re-releases of the Dreamcast Sonic Adventure duology like the orange fox that's been Sonic's partner ever since the brown one turned in his tails, Sonic the Hedgehog and friends returned to the McDonald's scene after almost a decade, this time with a line of handheld electronic games. The primary trio of Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles star in most of the games; also included are newcomer Shadow the Hedgehog and the character Aiai from Sega's Super Monkey Ball.
The handheld devices are very colorful and appealing to the eyes. They're nicely decorated, with depictions of the central characters and the game environment with a front color and a back color and some paint to fill in the details. They're each a little larger than a VMU Dreamcast memory card.
These McDonald's games are very simple ones which take all of ten minutes to complete, if only to master Sky Patrol and Banana Catch. However, each one has a corresponding game which it plays similarly to: Sonic Speedway being comparable to Knuckles Soccer, Sonic Action Game to Shadow Grinder, and Tails Sky Patrol to Aiai Banana Catch.
Sonic Speedway - The concept is most obviously like Sonic Drift, with Sonic driving a car forward on a track. That's where the similarities end, however; rather than being about gaining rank, the main gameplay point here is avoidance of obstacles. Pushing on either the button on the left or the one on the right, True Blue can shift his position on the road one space per click to the left, middle, and right positions. Obstacles will show up on at most two of these positions, and it will be up to Sonic to get out of the way. 4 30-row stages of this - each next one being progressively faster than the last - without 5 crashes later, the game is won.
Knuckles Soccer - Knuckles Soccer differs from Sonic Speedway in that rather than avoidance, goalie Knuckles will move to one of three positions (again left, middle, right) in order to meet and thus block the soccer balls nearing towards the goal. This one can be tricky, because a ball may start at one side of the screen, but can quickly roll to the other, and the player must track its movement and keep Rad Red on his toes. The game is won after 4 stages, increasing in speed each time, wherein 10 balls are caught without missing 5.
Sonic Action Game - This one is more similar to classic Sonic platforming than the others, as Sonic moves rightward with the player pushing the game's single button to have him jump over the platforms that come up. There are single platforms as well as platforms followed by one higher platform which need to be climbed. The game's fatal flaw is that it's very easy to beat the game by simply pushing the jump button over and over to make Sonic do so nonstop. Jumping on 20 platforms without crashing 5 times advances the player a level, and after 4 levels of increasing quickness, the game is beaten.
Shadow Grinder - Taking pretty much the same concept as Sonic Action Game but giving it a Sonic Adventure 2 skin, complete with Shadow the Hedgehog as the main character and the rail grinding feature as his form of travel, the goal of Shadow Grinder is to have Shadow jump over gaps (again, with the game's single button) in railing as he grinds rightward. Here, too, simply pushing the jump button is an easy way of beating the game without actually paying attention to gaps as they come up. Once 4 levels, increasing in difficulty each level, of 15 gap jumps without 10 falls have been completed, the Ultimate Life Form is victorious.
Tails Sky Patrol - A blatant variation on the Game Gear game Tails' Sky Patrol, this game in the series differs in its having Tails fly high, in the center, or low to collect rings rather than to avoid getting hit by obstructions. The level of flight is directed with an up and a down button. Often there will be more than one ring in the sky, which means Tails will have to move quickly and collect multiple rings before he moves another place. This goes on for 4 levels, increasing in difficulty, each one consisting of Two-Tails collecting 30 rings without missing 10, after which the game will be conquered. This and Aiai Banana Catch are arguably the most difficult of this particular Sonic line, and are likely to take a couple tries.
Aiai Banana Catch - Taking a character from an entirely different franchise by Sega, Super Monkey Ball, Aiai Banana Catch is the horizontal version of Tails Sky Patrol. In it, Aiai will move left and right with the left and right buttons to catch falling bananas, often multiple ones falling in the same wave, at the left, middle, or right positions. After 4 levels in which 30 bananas are caught without letting as much as 10 bananas fall on the ground, the simian is successful and the game ends. Though definitely harder than the others, the game can be easier or harder than Tails's game depending on whether the player is horizontally-oriented or vertically-oriented.
The graphics in the game are set with all characters and objects being programmed in their set places. The sound consists of a few bleeps. When a game is won, all graphics and music will flash and disappear in a frenzy, which is a really effective way of letting the player know the game is over.
The games are very simple, but they're quite fun - for about a minute each. Unless one aims to get a perfect score on them, there's little to extend the time spent on the games. Some extra playtime required to beat each game or harder difficulty would have helped, but then the intended demographic for the series is children with short attention spans and little gaming experience. Maybe moreso, if each game were very different from all the others instead of there essentially being three games with three others that are reversals of one important aspect of their gameplay, that might have helped. They still go way beyond what McDonald's games are usually expected to offer, and would give way to other popular electronic game Happy Meal lines - including another Sonic the Hedgehog line one year later.