Mercifully though, while the story is definitely in need of a re-assessment, the gameplay is a far stronger affair. Well, half the time at least.
Sega’s ill-advised introduction of Sonic as a were-hog is the reason for this split in how enjoyablity, neatly dividing the game into one half super-fast, on-rails racer and one-half woeful Devil May Cry
The first time you actually get to play as Sonic he’s pretty much exactly as you’d expect – speedy, self-indulgent and spikier than a rusty wire brush. You’re immediately introduced to the first, most fun part of the game; the familiar, linear and super-fast racer.
It really is fast too, with Sonic handling more sensitively than a 15 year old goth standing on a bridge. Erk, you’ll think – Sonic moves so fast and so suddenly that he’s practically uncontrollable, I hate it!
Trust us though, while you’ll resent how ridiculously fast he is at first, you’ll come to love it when you push Sonic forwards and start to drive him through the level as best you can. He gets faster and faster until he becomes a whizz, then a blur, then a hi-def blue smear in the centre of the screen. Peripheral vision distorts, gets pulled back and starts to fishbowl.
It’s then that the super-sensitive controls start to make sense. When you can move that fast you’ll need to be able to dodge and weave at the same speed, leaping huge chasms, swinging through loops and executing homing-spin attacks in mid-air to bounce yourself through the super-sonic barrier.
This level of speed put Sonic
will put Sonic Unleashed
out of reach for most casual gamers and kids, but for more seasoned veterans there’s something challenging to be mastered here. The city-scapes and rolling Grecian vistas that the levels are set in may be quite pretty on close inspection, but all you’ll be concerned with is going as fast as you can and reducing that detail to a blur.
While in the classic Sonic
sections players can perform all sort of moves and tricks and can collect rings to provide some extra speed-boosts if they need that extra kick. You can grind along huge sky-bound rails and bounce off enemies like the ball in a haunted pinball machine, all while carrying on with your journey to the finish line at maximum speed.
There are multiple paths through the levels too and, just as with the old Sonic
games, the game often rewards players who have either the quick fingers to take a shortcut or the dedication to try a level a second or third time. At the end of each and every level you get a breakdown of your score that details how fast you went, how long you took and how many rings and so on you got, all of which culminates in a level rating.
Getting to grips with specific levels however is about more than just personal competitiveness and being driven to mark each area with an A+ though. Learning the best routes and how to handle them is also key to getting the most experience for Sonic, as Sega has introduced some rudimentary RPG stat-tweaking for players to fiddle with too.
There are two sections to this levelling up; one for classic Sonic and another for
were-hog Sonic, each of which has their own unique stats. For classic Sonic, these stats you can tweak how much boost he can hold, how fast he moves and so on. For Sonic’s were-hog alter-ego you get to adjust his various combat skills.
Combat skills? In a Sonic the Hedgehog
game? Yeah, we know