This is a written review and not one of those fancy video reviews, so you’ll have to just imagine my disapproving tone when I ask: ‘Sega, Sega, Sega – what have you done to Sonic?’
There was a time, long ago, when Sonic the Hedgehog represented the height of gameplay. Fast paced, to the point and more colourful than a crackhead’s daydream, Sonic was a delight to an entire generation. We were part of that generation and we loved every minute of it, but since then things seem to have gone downhill a bit.
Part of it is just the natural advance of technology. The linear paths and split-second precision required for Sonic meant it was always going to have problems in the 3D world and when the world moved beyond the Mega Drive and voice-acting became attainable there was going to be an obvious dilemma for Sega too.
Another part of the problem of course was Sega trying to exploit the franchise too much, like Nintendo with Mario or Eidos with Tomb Raider. We knew it was a bad sign when the company got rid of the awesome ‘Seee-gaaa’ introduction.
A huge issue for Sonic Unleashed though isn’t the over-use of the brand or that the game is struggling to find a niche in the world of 3D action-platformers, it’s that the developers have tried to really give Sonic a proper, cohesive story. They’ve tried to give it a logic behind it that ties the Sonic world together into something understandable – and, to be honest, they just haven’t done it very well.
The story for Sonic Unleashed starts off OK, with a suitably adrenaline fuelled CGI cutscene which sees Sonic once more defeating the evil Doctor Eggman and his fleet of spaceships. It starts to go shaky near the end though when Sonic is hit by a laser that corrupts the power of the Chaos Emeralds, using their power to create enough negative energy to awaken Dark Gaia – an evil entity that had lain dormant within the world.
Oh, and there’s an amnesiac winged-dog-thing called Chip that insists on following you around too for the oh-so-obvious identity twist later. Comparisons between Jar-Jar Binks would be a fair way to equate how annoying he is, by the way.
Not that any of that is story explained of course – all we see if a ghost-thing splitting the world apart, Sonic turning into a were-hog and Eggman laughing evilly. The manual explains much of this in more depth admittedly, but the fact that it isn’t overtly laid out for the player at the start is a tad befuddling.
Mercifully though, the plot is at least mostly ignorable and aside from the overwhelmingly tedious quests that appear in the free-roaming sections of the game the game tends to put a fairly firm divide between the gameplay and the exposition. You’re either running at break-neck speeds through the actually fun parts of the game or you’re dawdling between NPCs in the level-hub sections, uncovering more of the plot and contemplating breaking your own neck. The latter half of the game is definitely weak, but at least the fun parts of the game aren’t punctuated by more awful voice-acting for the most part.