It’s become something of a running joke, albeit a bittersweet one for aging Sega fans, that Sonic the Hedgehog games simply aren’t what they used to be. Sega have, tried, God knows they have, to “reboot” the franchise on more occasions than I have digits, each to dismal avail – remember 2006’s Sonic the Hedgehog? If you do then I’m so, so sorry. Sonic Unleashed, much to no-one’s surprise, does not buck this trend. Not in the slightest.
Oddly enough, the game actually begins promisingly, the menu screen booming with an epic orchestral score echoing Mario Galaxy’s before Sega deliver a genuinely exciting opening cinematic depicting Sonic destroying an entire interplanetary fleet for no reason other than it being cool. Unfortunately, things go downhill from here.
Every reviewer under the Sun had already chosen their scapegoat for this game months before it was even released; the (grammatically-monstrous) “Werehog” which Sonic transforms into whenever the sun sets. See, this means that every level has two versions – a normal, speedy, Sonic-starring daytime version and a hideous insipid wretch of a third-person brawler during the cold, lonely nights.
The latter has Sonic the… sigh, Werehog lumbering excruciatingly slowly around a desolate series of rooms whilst endlessly hammer buttons. The… Werehog handles like a constipated brick, his levels riddled with infuriatingly pedantic platforming jaunts and coma-inducingly tedious block puzzles which resemble broken, Bizarro versions of your typical Zelda conundrums. Even the music in the nocturnal levels is bad; the elegant themes of the daytime stages replaced by what appears to be the Aladdin soundtrack played repeatedly in a ten-second loop. For a franchise desperately in need of a fresh start these levels are counterproductive and – quite simply – unnecessary
Indeed, the Sonic-starring levels actually aren’t that bad. Granted, they’re more on-rails than X: No Way Out, but at least they’re breezy, exciting and do not require any boxes to be pushed about by a furry-faced twat. However, they’re almost impossible to actually get to – the game’s hub system is so needlessly complicated that you have to fly to a continent, walk through a city, enter a portal, sacrifice a goat, summon the dark lord Gr’zlak The Bloodbringer and solve a block puzzle to actually play a level. It’s almost stunning sometimes how determined Sega appear to be to undo any good left in this decrepitly hollow shell of a release.
This is not the Sonic of old, friends. This is some deranged, ghoulish imposter who killed and skinned the Sonic we knew and loved back in 1997 and went on to wear his skin like some horrific suit, Ed Gein-style. Ladies, gentlemen – we cannot let this man win. Please, do not buy this game. Instead, go to http://www.sttiggywinkles.org.uk and look at some hedgehogs – you’ll probably see more there than you do in this game.
Godspeed, Sonic. Wherever you are.