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Sonic Generations review

AT A GLANCE
  • Best Sonic game since Sonic 2
  • Frequently spectacular and thrilling
  • A speed-runner's dream
  • Low-speed 3D control is still bad
  • Filler mission quality varies massively
  • Classic Sonic won't be returning (sniff)

Control freak

However, the challenges highlight the game engine's biggest shortcoming – the control. I think by now we can all agree that 3D Sonic is never going to control as well as 3D Mario, simply because he moves too quickly. Ironically, it's the low-speed control that's weakest, seeing Sonic struggle with the simplest of small jumps, falling short of easy platforms and dropping out of the sky when his inertia abandons him mid-jump.

If that sounds annoying, it is. But where other Sonic games look broken as a result, Generations rarely looks mega-messy when you're doing it wrong. And I'd even go so far as to say Modern Sonic's side-scrolling sections actually feel more authentic than Classic Sonic's. Weird.

Above: Grind rail, stunt rings... but that jump is the right height. No, I'm serious

For the Sonic connoisseur (or 'fussy old bastard'), the physics are not 100% authentic for either character. Despite the name, Classic Sonic only ever really feels right when you've got the running boots on. At normal speed, the young hog is a little sluggish to pick up speed from standing, especially when you're jumping between moving platforms. Plus he feels like he's affected by gravity a little too much. 

Modern Sonic actually feels more like 16-bit Sonic as his jump is higher, but of course he has the homing attack and Rush-style dash. Neither of them behave like old Sonic over hills or round loops and neither would last five seconds in the boss fight of Sonic 1's labyrinth zone.

Of course, if you've never played a Sonic game made before 1999, you'll likely champion this as the best Sonic game ever and accept the characters' movement as simply 'how it is'. And I must stress, when it's all moving at full speed, the game doesn't need any excuses. Anyone looking at it when it's going at full tilt would have to agree that it's simply spectacular. Check out this run through Green Hill here to see what I mean. Warning – it may melt your face.

My actual speedrun record so far is a 1:39.47, but that uses the drift move in an unattractive, scenery-rubbing fashion, which makes the game look less awesome than it actually is. I'm sure things will get even faster with more exploits as soon as the world gets its hands on the final game. Why? Because you can't go as quickly in the demo as you can in the final game. If you're eagle-eyed, you might have noticed there's a little icon at the start of the video when 'Go' appears on the screen.

Above: Did you notice this? Wondered why you didn't see it in the demo?

Well, this is a new 'skills' system. After each stage, you're given points based on your performance, which can be spent on abilities in a shop in the hub world. Each skill has an ability point cost, and seeing as Sonic only has 100 points, you can only equip a few at a time. Some are really useful, like making dropped rings stay on the screen for ten seconds before disappearing, while others like the one final extra life that kicks in when you hit zero are pretty pointless (continues are infinite). However, you can save up to five different sets, which makes speedrun success a little more personal.

Staging a comeback

I can't emphasise enough just how slick the main levels are. Perhaps Crisis City is too reminiscent of Sonic's lowest low, but that aside, level design here is of the highest order. The new Chemical Plant seems to get more fun with every play, perhaps due to the way it flows better when you're hitting the shortcuts right. City Escape and Speed Highway are both superb, and Seaside Hill from Sonic Heroes is a non-stop thrill ride – possibly my favourite level after Green Hill. Even the mega-hard Planet Wisp has grown on me with repeat plays, probably because I'm no longer dying every few steps now.

Above: Seaside Hill is an absolute blast, full of secret routes and awe-inspiring set-pieces

There are five red rings hidden in each act, which means every level has significant replay value. Going back through the game to hunt them all out just goes to show how brilliantly-constructed the levels are, with hidden routes requiring seriously sharp eyes and reflexes to uncover. Sky Sanctuary wasn't a favourite of mine at preview stage, but now I've seen all the routes it has to offer, I positively adore it.

I understand memorising levels isn't everyone's cup of tea, but while it undeniably aids success here, I'd still say that 90% of the special routes in the game can be found first time if you're quick enough on the jump button when you see a hoop or a platform appearing above you. And with so many little shortcuts strewn throughout the levels, there's a constant feeling of success once you start doing things well.

Stop doing it wrong

The game is undoubtedly at its best when you're doing what it wants you to do - but conversely, at its worst when you're not. As a case in point, Speed Highway is amazing, but can require too much understanding of the game's rules and controls for novice players, resulting in many deaths and a distinct lack of 'fun' as a result.

But when you've got jump, dash, boost, ground pound, lightspeed dash, roll, rev up, corner drift and slide all readily available at any time for Modern Sonic, you can't just keep mashing buttons and expect it to do what you want.

Above: You may well look confused, Classic Sonic. You're gonna have to deal with all of this, one day

When you're playing it right, it's clear that Sonic Generations has been designed with an abundance of care and patience that's been lacking in Sonic games for too long. Of course, it helps that it has 20 years' worth of ideas to cherry pick from and augment, but it's got plenty enough original ideas too.

One thing that did disappoint me, however, was the last boss. I won't spoil anything for you, but with mobile tutorial Omochao switched off, it took me four goes to work out exactly what I was supposed to be doing, and even when I did, it seemed very haphazard. And just before the fight's over, the game gives you another new controller command to use, explaining how to use it (even with Omochao switched off) while you're supposed to be fighting. It's a pity, because the Death Egg, Silver and Metal Sonic bosses are good. Not so much the Shadow one, but… well, it's Shadow, isn't it?

Above: Fortunately, Shadow left his gun at home. That would've really spoiled the party

More Info

Available Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, 3DS, PC
Franchise: Sonic the Hedgehog

66 comments

  • Darkhawk - January 17, 2012 12:33 p.m.

    howlongtobeat.com has it pegged at 6 hours. Not sure if I'm willing to bite at such little content.
  • Jaces - November 4, 2011 3:21 p.m.

    BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHAOs?!! THE CHAOs!!!! Last best sonic game was Adventures 2, end of story. Aside from that, great review and I'm stoked to get back into the Sonic universe, getting this for sure.
  • rongunz - November 3, 2011 5:42 a.m.

    to the reviewer, NOTHING touches Sonic 3 & Knuckles. NOTHING. Seeing Super AND Hyper Sonic (as well as Knuckles) was like seeing Super Saiyan 1 and 2 Goku from DBZ -- EPIC. Get Blue Spheres was THE GREATEST way to get emeralds and the elemental shields consisted of awesome. I don't recall Sonic 2 having ANY of those.
  • mothbanquet - November 5, 2011 3:08 a.m.

    Couldn't have said it better myself. Who can forget soaring through space itself in the final, secret Doomsday Zone, always a few rings away from plumetting to the planet below? Simply amazing stuff.
  • GR_JustinTowell - November 11, 2011 6:19 a.m.

    S&K with Sonic 3 *used* to be the game I held up as being the greatest platform game ever made, and I agree that stage is awesome. But I feel time has been kinder to Sonic 2. Its zones are more memorable, it's still super-distilled, compared to Sonic 3 having the elemental shield powers etc... and the Sonic 2 special stage is SUPERIOR to Sonic 3's globe/orb challenge.
  • Dere - November 2, 2011 5:20 p.m.

    I stopped reading when the reviewer implied that Sonic 2 is the best Sonic game ever. Best Sonic game MY ASS. Sonic 3 & Knuckles is superior in EVERY possible aspect, and Sonic 2 the most overrated game in the series, as it doesn't have enough speed for a Sonic game. No, seriously. The only "speedy" Zones in it are EHZ, CPZ and CNZ. That means that only 3 out of its 11 Zones are speedy, with the rest of them being slow and boring as ****. People just can't see this because they're blinded by nostalgia. I loved Sonic 2 when I first played it as a kid, but I can't stand playing it anymore due to the aforementioned fact that most of its stages are dull and slow, and the fact that they take longer to complete than the fast ones makes them feel like they're longer. S3&K > Sonic 2
  • Fruitbat - November 2, 2011 7:57 a.m.

    I just polished off Sonic Colours 100%, and despite its annoyances it's been a blast. Here's hoping for a Sonic Colours 2. Speaking of which, how many of the Wisp powers are present in the Generations version of Planet Wisp? And do they have the magnificent accompanying riffs from the Wii game?
  • GR_JustinTowell - November 2, 2011 3:25 p.m.

    You get the rocket as Modern Sonic and the spikes as Classic, if I remember correctly.
  • Vordhosbn - November 1, 2011 4:11 a.m.

    I would have been surprised if anyone else was chosen to do this review. Been looking forward to it, and the only thing I was hoping for in a new "classic style" game is plenty of challenges and rankings to perfect, filler or not, it's what keeps me putting a game back in the system rather than selling it on completion. Going by this review, it'll definitely be one of the 3 or 4 "awesome" games I get before next year, which means some other AAA title is going to have to be left for the bargain bin days. I just started playing Timesplitters again, so I guess MW3 can wait :P
  • heznave1 - November 1, 2011 4 a.m.

    Great review, Justin! Very thorough indeed.
  • psycho ninja 4 - November 1, 2011 2:03 a.m.

    I'm still debating piking this up but this looks like it actually might be worth it, and i've been waiting for that for years.
  • Phoenix_Gamma - October 31, 2011 6:10 p.m.

    Yea...I'm gonna take the opinion of someone who gave Sonic-the-Less-Inspired-Than-New-Mario-Wii a 9 with a shot of penicillin. I'll wait for this to hit the bargain bin.
  • Thequestion 121 - October 31, 2011 2:35 p.m.

    That was an excellent review :)
  • soranamineforever - October 31, 2011 12:36 p.m.

    I'm rather glad my pre-order didn't go to waste here; I almost talked myself into cancelling it and going with Uncharted. But honestly, 20 years of Sonic in one game is too awesome to resist, especially considering its actually playable. And yes, Do A Barrel Roll indeed.
  • 510BrotherPanda - October 31, 2011 11:59 a.m.

    I don't mean to sound like a cynic, but this review smells a lot like excretions taken from Towell's big blue Sonic suit... Also, Page 2's "movement stats" section read like a piece of Towell's race car game reviews...
  • XanderGC - October 31, 2011 11:58 a.m.

    Fantastic review. This might be a Sonic game worth picking up for me if it wasn't for the fact that when I played the newest demo I breezed through Classic Sonic with ease and I didn't die once, but Modern Sonic was way too unwieldy for my taste and I had far too many unexpected deaths. Oh Classic chubby Sonic how I miss thee.
  • taterboob - October 31, 2011 11:44 a.m.

    Holy crap! The best since Sonic 2? The game that caused me to abandon Nintendo in the 16-bit era? That's pretty high praise. Between the incredibly positive reviews and finally getting around to playing the awesome demo, I'm really hyped for this game. I'm actually kinda looking forward to it more than Uncharted 3 now. What's this? Me excited for a Sonic game? Did I time travel back to 1994?
  • Squander - October 31, 2011 11:25 a.m.

    awesome review, Justin!!! how about trophies and achievements - are they motivating?
  • GR_JustinTowell - October 31, 2011 12:06 p.m.

    The trophy list is pretty standard, rewarding you for bringing colour back to each area etc. But there are about four hidden ones that I didn't find. However, while there is a trophy for getting S grades on all the main levels, there doesn't appear to be any reward whatsoever for S-grading the whole game. I even drew a little map to make sure I had S-graded all 90 gates. Sure enough, I counted 90, but nothing happened. I was hoping for another megaton unlockable like the Green Hill Zone at the end of Sonic Adventure 2. But then... I suppose *everything* is as fan-pleasing as that single level was, so I don't know what else I could have really expected! Aside from Sonic X-Treme. I know it was never going to happen, but I still hoped, just in case :)
  • Squander - October 31, 2011 3:39 p.m.

    wow, thanks Justin for your prompt answer!! mate, u spent quite some time with that game - everything S-graded: amazing :o no reward for that sucks big time. Another megaton...hmm I just imagine playing as modern Sonic the "Green Hill Zone" with a badass version of that trashy "Sonic Boom"-Song (Sonic CD) :) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ugrbwst7foI awesome <3 However, as long as no one platined that game there is still hope :) Waiting for my special edition that I ordered at Amazon Germany! Hell yes!

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