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Sonic the Hedgehog Review

Developer: Sonic Team Publisher: Sega
Release Date: November 17, 2006 Also On: PS3 and Xbox 360

SEGA’s speedy blue hero has been in a bit of a rut these days. Sonic Riders sped down a path of mediocrity. Before that, Sonic yielded the starring role to his rival Shadow in 2005’s “so-bad-you-can’t-even-laugh-about-it” Shadow the Hedgehog, which “earned” more than a few “Worst Game Of 2005″ titles. Even farther back, he teamed up in a disappointing stint in 2004’s Sonic Heroes. In fact, many would agree that Sonic’s glory days are fading farther and farther away by the second. Well, 2006 has rolled around and Sonic Team and SEGA are at bat again, hoping to knock a Sonic game clear out of the park and back into the hearts of those devoted SEGA fans. By releasing a demo of the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog on Xbox Live Marketplace, SEGA is allowing fans to check out what they’ve done to the little guy and his adventure.

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Unfortunately, at its early stages, Sonic the Hedgehog still doesn’t clock in with good results. The Xbox 360 demo is a very short one–Matt Evangelista, fellow Game Freaks 365 editor, consistently beat it in less than two minutes. While it took more time than that to really explore the forest level that SEGA has provided, the gameplay offers very little new and what is offered is hampered by slippery controls and one of the worst cameras ever to plague a 3D platformer. For such a fast protagonist, you’d believe that many things surrounding Sonic would move quickly, but almost nothing does. The camera moves so slowly that it’s more than a fault, it makes the game nearly unplayable. Sonic’s homing attack that was made popular in 1999’s Dreamcast launch title, Sonic Adventure, now sends him flipping very slowly upwards after contact with an enemy or object. Enemies don’t move around much, fire slowly, and provide very little in terms of a challenge. Alternatively, Sonic himself is as speedy as ever, but the other speed faults make this fast pace awkward and uncontrollable, not twitchy and fun like the Sonic series is known to be.

Visually, Sonic the Hedgehog looks great. The level looks pretty large and it’s full of details in its vegetation and rocky mountain cliffs. Sonic’s enemies still look somewhat unimpressive–the robotic models just aren’t very daunting, and other things like the eagles that fly Sonic around look out of place and lack the colorful quality that Sonic has. In terms of animation, Sonic The Hedgehog is hit-or-miss. Sonic goes a little too quickly into his slide stance, but his flipping and spinning is just as blazing as ever.

So far, it seems that Sonic the Hedgehog mixes the perfectly fine concept of Sonic Adventure with the uncontrollable, awkward controls of Shadow the Hedgehog and even some of the annoyances of Sonic’s racing dud, Sonic Riders. If the latter flaws are worked out and the former is kept intact, Sonic the Hedgehog could turn out to be quite a good platforming game when it speeds to retailers on November 17th. It’s coming out on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 while Sonic and the Secret of the Secret Rings is coming to Nintendo’s Wii…eventually.

Written by Cliff