Quelle surprise – Sega has served us up another rubbish Sonic game. Oh, sorry – this one is actually good. Force of habit, there.
The plot sees ‘90s short and stubby Sonic and modern lanky Sonic hurtling through time, where they meet in a colourless world which acts as a hub. Both are playable and have different skills – ‘90s Sonic can spin-dash along the ground while modern Sonic can boost and use a homing attack. Old-skool Sonic’s levels are mostly viewed from a side-on perspective, while modern Sonic’s levels are more action-focused and designed with his skill-set in mind, including numerous third-person sprinting sections in which the shoulder buttons are used to dash out of harm’s way.
You can also customise Sonic’s skills to your own liking by purchasing upgrades, such as the ability to start each level with a speed boost or to keep hold of five rings whenever you’re hit by an enemy.
The first batch of levels are taken from the Mega Drive classics starting off with a dash through Green Hill zone then moving onto the Chemical Plant and finally Sonic & Knuckles’ Sky Sanctuary. The second batch are redesigned levels from Sonic Adventure 1 and 2 and Sonic Heroes, while the final set is made up of levels from Sonic Unleashed, Sonic Colours and the dire Sonic the Hedgehog from 2006. Each has been given a glorious makeover with new sections, more detailed backdrops and arranged musical scores. It frequently looks sensational, and clear signposting helps to prevent any frustrating deaths.
The only duff level out of the bunch is Crisis City – a dull jaunt through a ravaged city that has no variation from start to finish. Each level has multiple paths, thus adding replay value, and you can also try and beat other people’s level times online. Another online mode involves trying to get as far as you can in 30 seconds. A marker is placed so others can see how far you got.
Bosses have clearly had a lot of thought put into them, displaying a great deal of creativity. The challenges too, of which three must be beaten as a bare minimum for each world, are really nicely designed and varied. These range from having to finish certain levels with just one ring to tackling levels filled with jumbo-sized badniks. Perhaps the best challenges though are the ones where you have to summon Sonic’s friends for help. Blaze can put out fires to help you progress in Crisis City while Amy can use her hammer to help Sonic get to higher areas.
Fans are well looked after. The hub has musical notes that you have to chase and catch which unlock classic Sonic music and each level also has collectable tokens that unlock artwork. Another bonus is the original Mega Drive Sonic, which can be unlocked once enough skill points have been earned. Even the cut-scenes have been nicely handled and aren’t as cringe-inducing as before. It is a little odd though that ‘90s Sonic is mute but ‘90s Tails chats away to modern Tails during some scenes. Just an observation.
Imagine if Nintendo were asked to make a Sonic game. This isn’t far from what it would be like – it’s incredibly polished and well thought-out. Would we have liked to have seen more levels from the Mega Drive era? Certainly, but at least their absence gives Sega plenty of material for a potential sequel.