You’ve got to feel sorry for Sonic. After starring in not only the quickest, but some of the best 2D platforming ever thought of at the start of the 90s, his recent career has been spoiled by some horrific jumps towards genres that Sonic’s unique talents simply aren’t suited for.
Which all makes the initial stage of Sonic Unleashed so exciting. Sonic has his breakneck speed stashed in his sneakers once again, and the levels that make use of this age old gaming mechanic do start to edge ever closer to the kind of gaming brilliance we were all enthralled by nearly two decades ago.
When the camera slides to a side on viewpoint, it truly is an enjoyable experience. Apart from the strange decision to add side stepping to your shoulder buttons which takes some getting used to, this is the kind of true Sonic brilliance that hasn’t been seen since the Sonic Adventure titles way back on the Dreamcast. Admittedly the level design, which frequently sends you hurtling into a set of spikes at a horrific speed, isn’t exactly tip top. But that can be forgiven when things are so fast paced and exciting.
Unfortunately, the decision was made deep within Sega towers that somehow we desire much more. This time Sonic transforms once the sun sets into a gangly, dark, “Werehog” who is constantly desperate for a scrap.
These Werehog levels are - to put it simply - rubbish. After this nightly transformation Sonic is slow paced, and little more than a generic beat-em-up star, eager to bash in the skulls of the stupid enemies that stumble into your eye line. These stages consist of little more than stumbling around and repeatedly bashing the strongest attack button and waiting for the enemies to fall. Dull as week old dishwater.
The muddying of the waters continues with the hub portions of the game. It’s in the various hub stages that not only will you select the next stage to contest (you can easily fast forward in time, meaning you don’t need to wait half an hour for night to fall when your next mission is one for the Werehog) but you’ll come face-to-face with Sonic Unleashed's basic RPG elements.
Wandering around these hubs, you’ll be forced to talk to the various NPCs dotted around the zone. Not only is the dialogue universally terrible, but the additional side quests - which you’re never really sure if you need to do or not - are some of the most tedious and dull examples of gameplay available on a modern day console.
On the plus side, Sonic Unleashed does contain a fairly attractive visual style. While the NPC characters are horribly voiced, they at least offer some visual satisfaction. Similarly the speedy true Sonic styled levels possess some cracking blur effects that make already attractive levels all the more appealing.
Once again, Sega has decided that what wedon’t want from a Sonic title is the kind of swift platforming brilliance we all remember so fondly.
While the few levels that do pack similar mechanics are fairly appealing, the appalling Werehog beat-em-up style stages, and the dull extras added by the tedious NPCs make Sonic Unleashed yet another Sonic starring title that deserves to be left sat on the shelf.