Let me start off by stating that Sonic Unleashed looks amazing as it is flying by at supersonic speeds and it has to be the best looking Sonic the Hedgehog video game ever made. The scenery, character animation, and locations all pop with color and detail that is nice to look at when you are standing still, but truly amazing when it is screaming past the screen at incredible speeds.
Sonic Unleashed starts with a 3D animated cartoon that rivals the detail level and quality of a Pixar movie and really gets you excited to play the game. This intro movie details how Sonic gets his werehog powers, why the planet is broken into seven continents, and sets you off on your journey to fix everything that Dr. Eggman (Robotnik) has messed up again. If you want to see a sample of the quality of the intro movie and get a teaser of what is to come in Sonic Unleashed, then check out the Sonic the Hedgehog animated short film “Sonic: Night of the Werehog“.
After watching the intro of the movie and seeing the preview screenshots and trailers I was really excited to play Sonic Unleashed. I enjoy platforming games and have really enjoyed the Ratchet & Clank series over the past few years and was hoping that Sonic Unleashed would be as good as or better than Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction. Well, I don’t think Sonic Unleashed totally beats Ratchet & Clank, but some of the levels in Sonic Unleashed are truly amazing and fun to play. The problem with Sonic Unleashed is that other levels are not as much fun and some get very frustrating, since you may fall or miss time your jump just because Sonic is moving too fast or the camera or controls just don’t seem in sync.
I know that platform games involve a lot of jumping from one platform to the next, hence the name, but this style of game gets frustrating when you get halfway through a level and continue to fall and lose a life at the same point over and over again. After you lose your set number of lives you then need to start all the way back at the beginning of the level again, knowing that you will be dying again and again once you get to the same spot. Most of these spots even disrupted the flow of the levels.
One level comes to mind where you are speeding along as Sonic the Hedgehog and over halfway through you get to a spot where you have to pop balloons and jump up platforms that are moving. This area of the level totally stops the high-speed high jinks and has you trying to jump from platforms while trying to pop a few balloons to get to a ring. I must have tried the same area at least twenty or more times before passing it. Maybe I am just terrible at platform games, but it was getting to the point where I wanted to stop playing because of the frustration. Games are not fun anymore when they get frustrating because you keep dying because the controls don’t work perfectly or the jump has to be perfectly timed or you fall and die.
I have also read different articles about Sonic Unleashed where the author complained about the Sonic the Werehog stages and they stated that they were boring and too slow. I will agree that they are a change of pace from the nausea inducing Sonic the Hedgehog blazing fast levels, but other Sonic games also had slower levels. Even the original Sonic the Hedgehog game for Sega Genesis had levels where you were not blasting through the whole thing. If all the levels in Sonic Unleashed were the high-speed Sonic the Hedgehog levels then people would’ve said that the game is just all high-speed running and doesn’t have any variety. I didn’t mind the Werehog levels and having to battle enemies by punching, grabbing and throwing them around the environments like in a beat ‘em up game. But, I have to admit that I enjoyed the high-speed Sonic the Hedgehog levels more.
Sonic Unleashes music is also well done and features intro music performed by Jaret Reddick of the band Bowling For Soup titled “Endless Possibility”. The rest of the music ranges from instrumental music that is dramatic and empowering to rock licks and other upbeat tunes from around the world that keep the game fun and upbeat. I enjoyed the music while playing the game and don’t have anything bad to say about it.
The sound effects in Sonic Unleashed are also well done and fit the characters and environments that you will adventure through. The voice-acting is decent and reminiscent of other Sonic the Hedgehog games and this might be good or bad depending on your opinion of the previous games. There is a lot of fully spoken dialog, but also plan on reading a decent amount in the game, since all of the characters you meet in the towns you will need to communicate with by reading. This wasn’t that bad and there are a lot of people to talk to and having them all have spoken dialog may have increased the production expense of this game a lot. A lot of the people you don’t even need to talk to unless you want to get some additional back story, but some of them you will need to talk to if you want to progress through the game.
In the extras that you can collect in the game they have even more details about all the people in the towns that you meet and back stories about them. Some people may want to read all of this, but I am guessing most will just pass it by. I guess it is nice to have this for the person who is a huge Sonic the Hedgehog fan and wants to know every little detail about every character in the game. You can also unlock concept art, music, and videos by collecting items while you play through the game.
As I touched on above, the controls in Sonic Unleashed worked well most of the time, but have issues some times that cause frustration. There were plenty of times when I fell or died because I couldn’t get the camera at the right angle or I misjudged a ledge or just couldn’t interact with the character quick enough. I told my wife while playing the game that I felt like certain areas of the game required more luck than skill to pass. But, Sonic Unleashed controls are a lot better than Sonic the Hedgehog for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 that was released a few years ago. I played the demo of that game multiple times and always felt more out of control than in.
I have mixed emotions about Sonic Unleashed, I wanted it to be an amazing game and in some respects it is, but in others it missed the mark. The intro movie and high-speed levels are really enjoyable while they are moving along at blazing speeds and not being interrupted by tedious jumps. The Sonic the Werehog levels are also a nice change of pace, but a few of the puzzles and jumps became more frustrating than fun. The graphics look amazing and this is a game you want to pull out to show your friends the power of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but it just doesn’t seem as polished as it could be. It is definitely a step up from the last few Sonic the Hedgehog games and hopefully a great sign of what is to come.
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