7.0

Sonic Unleashed (Xbox 360)

Games Reviews Xbox 360
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Developers: Sonic Team
Publisher: Sega
Platforms: Wii, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Sonic franchise still running on fumes...mostly

The sneaker-wearing, spiky-haired furball at the center of Sega’s marquee franchise has had a limp in his step the past few years. As the game’s developers left behind the series’ traditional platforming style of gameplay for 3D, the enthusiasm of Sonic’s most ardent fanboys has steadily eroded. Based on screenshots leaked during the early stage of Sonic Unleashed’s game’s development cycle, this new installment was going to be the comeback that would catapult Sonic back into a full sprint. There are moments of thrilling rightness, but a few horribly misguided design choices overwhelm the experience.

The game's story begins with Sonic’s cackling arch-nemesis Doctor Eggman blasting the world into pieces with a powerful energy beam. In concert with corrupted Chaos Emeralds, the ray also ensnares Sonic, causing him to develop a Jekyll-Hyde-style “werehog” alter ego that shows up when night falls. The levels in the game are split up by day and night with blistering-fast running daytime levels and nighttime bouts of slow-roaming melee combat. If the game were set in Greenland in mid July, this wouldn’t be a problem—the daytime levels are an absolute blast. The sensation of speed in this title makes the original Sonic games for the Sega Genesis feel dull by comparison. Imagine being on a winding, looping, barreling roller coaster where you’re forced to make split-second decisions to steer the car around onrushing obstacles.

The nighttime levels are plodding and slow and repetitious and repetitious. Guide the scampering werehog around levels collecting rings and battling through swarms of robot baddies. (Your reward for clearing out one wave? Another wave.) The puzzles are occasionally clever, but the pace feels positively lethargic when you’re coming off a daytime running level. Compounding this issue is the fact that you have to collect sun and moon tokens in order to access the levels, which feels like being forced to crawl around on your hands and knees in an arcade, looking under dusty game cabinets for quarters that will let you play a quick game before you're forced to go back to rummaging.

Dear Sonic Team: close, but not quite.

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[This game was reviewed on a gamer-certified AOC 2230fH hi-def display.]

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