Sonic Unleashed Review
Xbox 360 | PS3 | Wii | PS2
Sonic Unleashed box art
System: PS2, Wii, X360, PS3 Review Rating Legend
Dev: Sonic Team / Dimps 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: SEGA 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Nov. 18, 2008 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Sonic Jekyll and Hyde
by Nathan Meunier

Poor Sonic. The speedy blue hedgehog has had a bit of a bumpy transition from the 2D days of old to more modern 3D adventures. That hasn’t stopped the Dimps and the Sonic Team from attempting to introduce new gimmicks in a bid to solve design flaws plaguing previous console entries in the time-worn series. You’d think tinkering with the formula enough would eventually produce a winning result. That may very well be, but the series still has further to go before it once again attains greatness. Sonic Unleashed is a mixed bag that will please some fans and greatly anger others.

Sonic Unleashed screenshot

Most will agree: the foundation of what makes Sonic the Hedgehog games so fun is the speed. When the original game came out years ago, it was competing with lots of other titles with stronger platforming elements. Being able to curl up into a spiky ball, build momentum, and literally blast through levels in a furry blur set it apart from other games of the time and established Sonic as a tour-de-force. Throwing unnecessarily sluggish platform aspects into a game that prides itself on speed tends to muck up the entire design. Sonic fans that have been itching for more of a successful return to the form of the classic games will get half of their wish granted in Sonic Unleashed. The other half, while interesting, is a sizeable disappointment.

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The opening cinematic looks amazing. It’s packed with plenty of action to setup the plot for Sonic Unleashed. After explosively battling his way through an armada of ships containing evil robots and massive munitions, Sonic confronts Dr. Eggman and gets him to agree to put an end to his nefarious ways. Of course, this lasts about five seconds. In one fell swoop, Eggman catches Sonic in an energy beam that blasts down to the plant. The beam awakens Dark Gaia, cracks the planet surface like a giant jigsaw puzzle, whacks out the Chaos Emeralds, and transforms Sonic into a werehog. Switching back and forth between his new beefy form and his plain old self as the sun rises and falls, Sonic joins old pals in globetrotting to restore power to the gems and put the world back together.

Sonic Unleashed screenshot

In many ways, duality plays a big part in the game. Unfortunately, this is the very thing that’s going to divide players’ opinions about the hedgehog’s latest outing. Split between daytime and nighttime levels, the gameplay changes substantially in each. When the sun is up, Sonic’s adventure is speedy and joyous. You’ll race through levels at breakneck speed, collecting coins, leaping around, pummeling badguys, zipping through the trademark loops, and navigating the crazily winding courses in a way that almost perfectly nails the marriage between the classic 2D levels and 3D. The perspective begins in a third-person view with the camera sitting just behind Sonic. However, it also frequently changes during some portions of the course to offer a more traditional side view of the fast-paced platforming action. The transition is seamless, and it works beautifully.

At nighttime, Sonic transforms into his werehog form, and the gameplay undergoes drastic changes that almost completely grind the fun to a halt. In the nocturnal levels of the game, of which there seem to be many more than necessary, Sonic is a sluggish, hulking beast that relies on his big, dumb fists instead of any semblance of speed. Exploring levels at a snail’s pace, you’ll hunt for items, break a lot of stuff, navigate some platforming obstacles, layout baddies, fiddle with some minor puzzle solving, and muscle your way through areas that feel like they take twice as long to complete as the daytime levels. Along the way, you can collect energy from enemies and broken objects to level-up and earn new attacks, which is at least one cool addition.

Sonic Unleashed screenshot

Screenshots / Images
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