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Guest writer Adam Fast brings us a fireside chat about Sonic unleashed. A game that revived many happy memories, but ultimatley seemed unable to create new ones for him or his offspring.
Settling down to play Sonic Unleashed in the living room became a dangerous experience for my family. Just as Sonic has two distinct forms in this game so did the quality. When good it reminds of the old early 90's magic, but when bad it crushed my experience into the reaches of hell.
Although the classic 3D Sonic levels made a return, they were just as flawed and as bad as the slower Were-hog levels - both of which became utterly boring for me and the family before the game was a couple of hours old.
It didn't start off so bad - in fact the opening cut-scene, as confusing as it was for newcomers, was a gorgeous display of impressive visuals and helped to draw everyone into the experience. Sonic's new sidekick is there to draw the kids in but, just like most sidekicks, he irritated anyone who was over 10 years old. The first few levels were also a good experience mainly because they were easy to get through and failure was a rare occurrence - as someone else commented 'it was a bit like riding a bike with guide wheels whilst being stuck to the floor'.
But this feeling of safety never lasted and I only had to get a few more levels in before things fell apart. The 3D Sonic levels (which went by so fast that it made them difficult to watch), became too difficult to control. Handing the controller to lesser mortals wihtout ninja reflexes resulted in lips being bitten and tantrums being thrown - the majority of which came from me.
The best part of this side of Unleashed is when you don't have to really control the game. Every so often there came a stretch where Sonic would seemingly just run, jump, skid, jump some more, collect all the rings, pop up again and then look cool - all without me doing a thing. Then, all of a sudden, these levels became incredibly difficult towards the very end and I quickly discovered that Sonic had the dreaded 'Game Over' screen after all my lives were lost.
It was a slightly better story in the other half of the game. Due to plot devices Sonic turns into a Were-hog during the night - the big, hairy, bristly bad-ass side to Sonic which transforms the game into a brawling, God of War-style clone. It's a good change of pace and it certainly kept my interest up in-between the 'true' sonic levels. Perhaps surprisingly, these were the levels that kept my family's interest the longest whilst playing - you could complain that the controls were a bit iffy (which I did constantly) but they were far easier to use than the normal Sonic levels because they were about 1/10th of the speed.
However, the game throws all this away with some disastrous controls and a mixture of plainly boring levels and restrictive platforming. When someone asked why the Were-hog couldn't grab onto an obviously reachable surface, but could easily swing over poles, columns and even enemies to reach specific ledges a mile away, there wasn't much I could say in the game's defence.
And when I finally beat up enough (Copper-Pan looking) enemies to get to the end of the level, I was met with some of the most tedious boss battles I've yet to face. Having traditional roots is all well and good but when it means going through the same attack patterns for over five minutes every time you reach the end of a level, then you begin to question what the point is.
In the end, after many hours of single-minded determination to reach the final levels, it was game over for Unleashed. It would be too easy to say the entire game is awful, because it shows flashes of that Sonic brilliance which enthralled me as a child - but it cruelly shatters the hope that this could be a good game by its awful level design, plain irritating boss battles and boring story. I had hoped to show my family how Sonic was a character to rival Mario or even Banjo & Kazooie - but the blue hedgehog failed to live up to any expectations and, as such, becomes a game to avoid.
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