Eleven years! That's how long it's been since NiGHTS Into Dreams glided onto Sega's Saturn; a cult classic immediately taken to the hearts of hardcore gamers and reminisced about ever since. But the problem with being a hardcore hit is double-edged. While you guarantee a game's place on those Best Ever (Like, Ever!) lists, you're sometimes at risk of not making an awful lot of money from it by aiming it at too narrow a market. You also burden yourself with the weight of expectation - how do you update an iconic title without cheesing off those who loved it first time around?
Little wonder that it's taken 11 years for Sonic Team to figure out how to approach a sequel then. Yet here it is, and in many ways it stays true to the 1996 game. There is still the Peter Pan-like dreamworld, Nightopia, and the double-stranded gameplay still stands. You play through Journey of Dreams as either Will or Sarah, in tandem with the livewire jester NiGHTS, and the bulk of the action is centred on zipping around gleefully colourful levels, looping around pick-ups to gain more speed and taking out enemies. All very familiar.
Starting out from a central hub, you'll access the various worlds through a series of doorways. Events play out for both Will and Helen in much the same order: Wizeman's (he's the big boss character from the original game) henchman Reala is constantly on NiGHTS' case for one thing or another and invariably you'll begin a level as either character on foot, searching for the jester. Once NiGHTS is free, you can then merge with him/her and begin flying around the level.
Journey of Dreams operates in a kind of 2.5D sphere, where you have 360-degree control over NiGHTs but move along a loose rail through a level. In fact, it plays as more of a racing game than an adventure, as you'll actually loop around a circuit as you attempt a task, with a time limit running down. Levels become high-speed memory tests of pick-up locations and time saving manoeuvres as elastic cables catapult you through your lap. It's as a bright, vibrant speed fest that Journey of Dreams succeeds.
After completing a set of goals, you'll enter into a boss fight which requires all of NiGHTs' abilities - paralooping (where you loop around an object to remove it), drill-dashing (performed by hitting B - pick-ups and links keep your speed reserves stocked) and no small amount of perseverance.
There are problems though. Of the three control schemes (the Classic controller, Nunchuk or Remote) the Remote offers the least accurate solution. By holding down A and aiming a cursor, you direct NiGHTs around the screen - in theory, anyway. But it's too cumbersome to really work. It's hard to get a feel for where the invisible boundaries lie, and inadvertently running into them when time is tight is crushing. You're better off using the Nunchuk's stick. And bizarrely, given Journey of Dreams' courting of a new audience, there's an old-school feel to having to start entire levels over again when falling at the last hurdle, which is really annoying.
But on the whole, Journey of Dreams works. It's a sequel that adds more extras without really changing the basics of the original. It might lack a little of its predecessor's slickness but it's still worthy of your time.