Speeding through time
Review Sonic the Hedgehog celebrates his 25th anniversary this year and consequently, Sega is touting yet another title where the blue-speedster takes centre stage. According to the company, Sonic Generations broke Sega's pre-order records as the most anticipated Sonic title in 20 years. Hmm, and there I was thinking the heroic hedgehog was a spent force…
This place is bugged
Generations takes a trip down memory lane, piecing together elements from titles of yesteryear. Unfortunately, it feels a little rushed at times, held together by a weak plot which appears to have been created in order to glue the different game snippets together. Still, I shouldn't be too harsh, as Sonic was never that plot-centric anyway.
To sum things up, a new bad-guy with ties to Dr. Eggman/Robotnik, interrupts a surprise Birthday party and throws a spanner in the works of time, scattering Sonic's furry friends throughout different points within his history. While searching for them, a slimline Sonic bumps into his chubby old-self and teams up to do a Quantum Leap to fix what went wrong. Set the parameters and it writes itself, I swear.
Zoned out on the green
Featuring expected elements from chequered loop-the-loops to bouncy spring-board thingamajigs, the game is a constant reminder of days when Sega made consoles. From Mega Drive to Dreamcast, reminiscence is all part of the Generations game. The soundtrack, packed with familiar Sonic tunes, once again inhabits your head for days like some forgotten mantra triggering memories of repeated gameplay from bygone years.
The game itself splits into three eras spread over nine worlds, each tackled first by the classic chubster in 2D platform style, followed by contemporary stick-figure Sonic in a more-modern 3D environment. Things kick-off with the evocative Green Hill Zone, revamped in HD glory. It's a wonderful spaghetti junction of possible routes. However, there's little time to choose one, as Sonic's addiction to speed seems to have worsened over the years, rushing through levels like the ground is made of hot coals.
Don't get me wrong, Sonic was always about speed, but I don't remember him ever being this fast. Yet, continuously crashing through 3D levels made me think the handling could have been better. Still, it's an exhilarating experience and Sonic Generations actually encouraged me to dust off my Master System and sit down with the original 8-bit version for a few days.
Moving through Sonic 2's Chemical Zone and Sonic & Knuckles' Sky Sanctuary was just what the doctor ordered. Indeed, as a lover of all things old-school, it's no surprise I enjoyed the 2D levels more. For me, Sonic should be a straight-forward platformer, as I have to confess this 3D nonsense with homing attacks and ground-pounds never floated my boat in the first place.
Gimme a lift
As the game progressed into newer realms, such as the awful 2006 revamp Sonic the Hedgehog, my attention waned somewhat. Still, a gripping 2D version of Crisis City – where surrounding buildings crumble as you race past – has majestic aesthetics and there's plenty of mishaps and level-changing incidents to spice things up.
The design should be seriously applauded here. Colours are vivid, graphics are beautiful and due to the sheer intensity of speed, at times it felt like someone had spiked my drink with a teaspoon of booger-sugar.
The traffic jam was a blur
Unlike classic days of boss battles every third level or so, Generations features just four throughout the entire game. While confusing sometimes, they're not exactly difficult to conquer, either. There's a return of Chaos Emeralds too, unlocked through the boss beefage, as well as rival battles against Sonic clones, such as Shadow and Silver. Remember them?
In one sitting, albeit roughly six hours, I managed to get through the entire game. Of course, Team Sonic has bulked it out with collectables, bonus skills and challenges, although most of these are pretty lame and it would take a dedicated fanatic to pursue complete perfection.
Whale of a time
It's no Sonic 2, but serious fans and kids too will still find plenty to enjoy. Despite switching off mentally and speeding through levels, I still found it more engaging than mindlessly gunning through middle-eastern streets as a soldier in various FPS games of late.
While disappointed with the majority of Sonic titles over the last decade or so, it's refreshing to see Team Sonic address what makes a good game, even if it has just revamped a collection of familiar levels in HD quality. While it still frustrates in places, Generations definitely resuscitates a character we used to love who'd undoubtedly run out of breath somewhere down the line. ®
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