Sonic Unleashed Reviews

Sonic Unleashed

Sonic Unleashed

Ringing the changes.

Reviewing the Wii version of a multi-format release can be a thankless task. It's by far the leading format of this console generation, but too often Wii owners are palmed off with botched ports; games developed for the more powerful consoles crudely squashed into a Wii-shaped box, with half-hearted motion controls tacked on the side.

Every now and again, however, a game comes along where the Wii's limitations prove to be beneficial, highlighting just where the rush to bigger, shinier toys can lead developers astray, and Sonic Unleashed fits that bill. A flabby, meandering hybrid of various ill-fitting genres in its big-boy console incarnation, it's plagued by camera issues and an overly complicated structure that leaves the player shuttling between lifeless locations, trying to work out which level they need to tackle next and what they need to do to find it.

In adapting the game for the Wii, Sonic Team has been forced to drop or change most of the problematic elements from the 360 and PS3. The bloated and largely unnecessary adventure game trappings, for example, have gone, so there's no more wandering around rigid hub towns, triggering random conversations in search of clues. Instead you get a map of the town, and click on each area to see what the people within have to say. You can rattle through the exposition and actually start enjoying some gameplay in the same time it would take to initiate a pointless conversation in the other version.

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Sonic Unleashed

Sonic Unleashed

Poor old hedgehog.

I recently found myself having one of those conversations that always happen when people discover that I make my living sitting around in my pants, playing games. After the obligatory "you lucky sod" outburst, and the slight recoil at the mental image of me in my pants, sweaty joypad in hand, they asked what I was playing at the moment. "The new Sonic game," I replied. "Wow, is Sonic still going?" they asked, before adding "Oh yeah, he was in that Mario game on the Wii."

You really couldn't ask for a more potent example of how far Sonic's stock has fallen. From matching Mario sale-for-sale throughout the '90s, he's now almost forgotten by the outside world, remembered only through supporting roles in Wii games and the charity of his one-time rival. Let's face it, Mario Olympics probably would have flown off the shelves on its own merits. Sonic Olympics? Not so much.

The tragedy is that this slump in fortunes can't be blamed on changing market forces or fickle public tastes. SEGA has simply forgotten how to make the most of its mascot, and while Mario leapt into the modern era with the confident Mario 64, Sonic has been stumbling clumsily through the 3D era, carried along by the dissipating momentum of his glory years.

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