There is a reason this review is slightly late. For years the blue hedgehog has been on a downward spiral of gaming drossdom. This led us to believe Sonic Generations would be like any other game in the Sonic series. As such, we weren't in a huge rush to play it.
As such we ignored the game, let it drift on into the sunset with all the other Christmas build-up releases. For Sonic fans such as ourselves this was difficult. We were Sega kids, growing up with that iconic song from Green Hill zone echoing through the sitting rooms of our childhoods.
The second we got our hands on the game however we couldn’t resist the temptation to stick it into our Xbox and get playing. Then it began to sink in, could there finally be a Sonic game that isn’t such a horrendously bad ordeal it makes us want to go on a one man hedgehog massacre?
In with the old, out with the new
Remember what made Sonic so great? We do. SPEED! That rush you got from blasting through a level, perfectly timing jumps and dodging enemies was quite unlike anything else on consoles. At release Sonic, despite being a side scrolling platformer, was such a drastically different experience to Mario games that they were incomparable. This unique gameplay is something that Nintendo’s offerings have retained to this day. Sonic however has ditched everything that was great about the original games in favour of cliches and hammy cut scenes.
Sonic Generations finally, after so many years of pain, rectifies this. It is almost a statement in itself as to all the bad design and gaming that previous Sonic games produced. It almost mocks what came before it, returning to the purist possible Sonic experiences, both in retro and modern day form.
Herein lies Sonic Generations’ only really major flaw; that in returning to its classic form it takes gaming back ten years. It doesn’t push any boundaries, found any new gameplay styles or throw out any good new ideas. This however we can forgive, partly because we remain starry-eyed over a decent Sonic game and can only hope that the team behind it will continue to improve with each release.
Sonic the timelord
The premise behind Sonic Generations is fairly simple. Whilst celebrating his birthday, the modern day more lanky iteration of the hedgehog gets sucked up into his past by an enemy called the Time Eater.
He ends up in something called the white space, which acts just like the castle in Super Mario 64, where he bumps into his younger classic self. The resultant experience is a game that splits itself between modern day and retro Sonic.
The pair explore the white space, completing two different versions of each level at a time. These versions exist like a homage to the best of the originals and the best of the modern day games. This means side scrolling fun with classic Sonic and that 3D third person racetrack approach to things with his modern counterpart. Both play out equally well, although we have to say the first time we played a level through as classic Sonic, the remixed soundtrack thumping along, it was about as awesome a retro experience as it gets.
Single player and beyond
There is plenty to get stuck into in Sonic Generations other than just the usual get to the end of the stage approach of the games. You get things like time trials, races (against some Sonic favourites) and rival battles. All these wont move you forward in the game but act to bolster the experience and provide fun interludes to what can at times feel like a rather speedy train ride towards the end. These also give you points to spend on an in game shop, which in turn can be redeemed for collectibles and even access to old Sega games.
One of the only real shortcomings of Sonic Generations, other than its slightly uninspired, if fun approach to gaming, is that it can quickly become boring. Every second we played we enjoyed, but we knew what we were getting and as such grew tired of seeing what was round the corner in the single player mode.
Sonic Generations put a bigger smile on our faces than most of you can imagine. It is the Sonic game that fans of the hedgehog have been waiting for. It is also something that Sonic Team can finally be proud of and the culmination of a few recent attempts and eventual nailing the formula. What lies next in store for Sonic we don’t know, but things are definitely back on track.
The best way we can think of describing Sonic Generations is as the game Duke Nukem Forever should have been. It is a testament to everything that Sonic is about yet still feels fresh and modern. Just the right balance of retro without being dated, a difficult balance to get right and one which Sonic fans, should not miss out on.