Only five courses and a limited number of secrets.
Developer: Traveller's Tales
Saturn gamers were pretty leery when they heard that Traveller's Tales was designing the last Sonic game on the Saturn. After all, this was the same programming team that produced the solid if unspectacular Sonic 3D Blast. What people forget, though, is that 3D Blast was a Genesis game upgraded for the Saturn. This time around, Traveller's Tales got a chance to do a Sonic game just for the Saturn, and the results are pretty good.
What you've got with Sonic R is arguably the best looking 3D Sonic environment ever. Where Sonic Jam's museum area was beautiful, it was limited in size, and felt more like a Nights level. Sonic R's tracks look and feel just like classic levels done in 3D. The draw-in, which is unavoidable with tracks this large, is gracefully handled by TT's fade-in techniques. All in all, each of the five tracks is solidly designed, with minimal glitching.
Racing is as deep as the courses are large. Each course has a huge variety of shortcuts, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. If you're Sonic, ducking under the bridge and hopping on a side island is optimal, while Amy's all-terrain capabilities let her cut across whole sections. If you can see it, you can go there, which is both a benefit and a curse. It lets you try to find your own way to race, but can also confuse you with the variety of choices. Don't be surprised to find yourself lost once or twice in the Regal Ruins.
The feature that turns Sonic R into a love or hate game (besides the music), though, is the control. Steering is extremely sensitive, and tends to oversteer too easily. We were disoriented by the wacky steering models until we realized that the control model isn't the same as a platform game. Do not treat Sonic like a hedgehog. Treat him like a vehicle with a Sonic shell on it, and it becomes a lot easier to control.
In the end, Sonic R is a good game, maybe even great, but it's also one that you can get tired of very quickly. With only five courses and a limited number of secrets, it's the Sonic license that'll keep gamers intersted until the Dural comes out. In the meantime, this is still an entertaining diversion.