Sonic Unleashed is a game with a dark side. By day it's a screamingly fast revival of the exhilarating, colourful, rollercoaster gameplay that made Sonic such a blast in the early 90s. But at night, Fun Sonic goes to bed and his slow, grumpy, uncontrollable alter-ego makes a thoroughly unwelcome appearance.
The two Sonics clash so jarringly, they seem almost like two different games mashed forcibly and unnecessarily together. Normal Sonic is inventive, exciting and sometimes spectacular, but you've got to put up with some absolute rubbish before you get to play him.
As the moonlit Werehog, Sonic gains a gruff voice, lots of fuzzy body hair and a pair of super stretchy arms. Although he can't run very fast, he can certainly twat monsters with great aplomb, and this he does with monotonous regularity. Werehog levels allow for limited 3D exploration but they're mostly a series of boring fights against rooms full of personality-free enemies summoned by the evil Dr Eggman-née-Robotnik.
You have to defeat them all before you can move through the barrier to the next area's all too predictable horde of monsters. Bash, bash, bash the buttons to perform combo attacks. Hit b to grab hold of a stunned enemy and then bash the sequence of buttons that pop up on screen to do some sort of special move. When everything is dead, hammer away at another button to break down a gate or pull a lever - the game rarely lets you get away with pressing any button just once. Your controller will take a pounding.
The fighting is tedious, and the short sequences of platform-hopping that connect each battle are equally dull. There's something unnatural and counter-intuitive about the way the Werehog moves, making him slip off the edge of platforms and turn with all the grace of a drunken housebrick. Jumping is really badly done, and there are glaring inconsistencies in the control scheme - to jump off a vertical pole you have to centre the stick before pressing the button, but if you do the same thing off a horizontal pole you'll fall to your doom.
If the entire game was like this we'd happily kick it into touch like all the other next gen Sonics and be glad we never had to see it again - but the other half of it is very nice. The daytime levels represent by far the best thing Sonic has starred in since the console world went 3D, capturing the spirit of the original games in a way that no post-Megadrive version has ever managed.
Freed from the camera troubles that have marred most Sonic 3D platformers (and, predictably, are noticeably present in the Werehog levels) the developers have created an impressively playable set of speedy challenges. The viewpoint switches seamlessly from a position in front of or behind Sonic, to a glorious nostalgia-tingling side-on perspective, without ever interrupting the flow of the level.
There are loads of alternate routes to find, and Ol' Blue can be leveled-up for more pace to beat the high-score challenges that imbue the game with massive replayability. Even the QTE sequence bits, offensive though they are, make sense in the daytime. If only we didn't have to endure the worst of the Werehog's nocturnal missions to get there.
A slightly smaller game would have been preferable to one padded out with Werehog.
- Sharp graphics
- Classic Sonic action
- Crappy Werehog levels