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Sonic Unleashed (Xbox 360) artwork

Sonic Unleashed (Xbox 360) review


"I wasn't expecting much from Sonic Unleashed going into it for the first time. After the wreck that was Sonic '06, I'm surprised I still ended up buying this title when it came out. I guess when you've been a Sonic fan ever since the original's release, it's hard to abandon the series. Even as I was going through Unleashed's first few stages, I still had my doubts. I was disappointed that Sonic Team decided to, yet again, include adventure fields, called Town Stages here. I was eve..."



I wasn't expecting much from Sonic Unleashed going into it for the first time. After the wreck that was Sonic '06, I'm surprised I still ended up buying this title when it came out. I guess when you've been a Sonic fan ever since the original's release, it's hard to abandon the series. Even as I was going through Unleashed's first few stages, I still had my doubts. I was disappointed that Sonic Team decided to, yet again, include adventure fields, called Town Stages here. I was even more irritated when, after wasting 10 minutes talking to everyone in the first town, I realized this didn't benefit me in any way, gameplay-wise.

To further my annoyances with Unleashed, the Werehog stages weren't that thrilling, as well. Jogging through town at night, beating up monsters by continually mashing the X and Y buttons, pushing blocks around, and getting from one platform to another by using Sonic's ability to stretch his arms is not what I play Sonic games for. It's almost like they wanted to make a new Ristar game, instead. Doesn't help that the same tune keeps interrupting a stage's theme every time you encounter enemies. It sounds neat the first time. It begins getting old the 5th time. By the 10th time, you wonder how this repetition even got past the game testers.

But I pressed forward.

Why?

The one thing that constantly made me happy was playing the Day stages. The moment Sonic said "Here we... GO!" in Unleashed's first real Day stage, Windmill Isle Act 2, I was immediately hooked. As a catchy guitar/violin theme played in the background, Sonic sped down the city streets. With only a few rings collected, I hit the boost button, and Sonic went charging past buildings at even greater speeds. His surroundings became blurry, and to complement just how fast he was going, the music started getting more distant, as if it had a hard time keeping up. Before I knew it, I was running through Dr. Robotnik's robots, destroying public property, going in and out of loops, and riding the rails. And even though I died four or five times playing that stage for the first time, I was having fun. I was very upset that I didn't get to replay the level right away, but when the opportunity finally came, I went back and played it, over and over. And over.

What's scary was that it was just the first stage, too. I thought there was no way they would be able to top this in the following Day stages. But they did, variety-wise. At one point in the ice stage, you'll hop into a sled, and it'll drive you down hills where you'll have to time your jumps right to avoid spike pits, and eventually, you'll even ride on top of a giant whale. It feels criminal to only mention one thing from Rooftop Run (more like Fun), but one cool moment that occurs right at the end of the stage is when three robots fly ahead of you. You can't reach them, because they keep their distance, shooting lasers in your path. How do you destroy them? By using Sonic's rise to fame: speed. By boosting towards robotic foes on the ground, you'll launch them into the air, and, if your timing is right, knock them into one of the flying machines, destroying both in the process.

As fun as it is to just speed through entire levels using the boost, though, it's not always the wisest thing to do. It's like getting the speed power-up in past Sonic games and foolishly run forward without a care. The exact same situation is going to happen in both cases: you're going to get hurt. I'm sure there are people letting out a collective moan at that, complaining that Sonic games were originally about speeding through each stage as fast as possible, and that nothing should really get in their way. I just could never understand this. If that was the case, explain the second Zone in the very first Sonic game. Exactly. Besides, speeding through each stage and getting them over with on the first try isn't very smart in Unleashed. First of all, you won't have the chance to memorize each stage's huge layout, which consist of multiple paths. Second of all, speed isn't always required. If you're going to boost all the time, then say hello to Mr. Spiked Floor and Ms. Bottomless Pit for me.

Oh yeah, the darnedest thing happened to me halfway through Unleashed.

Maybe it was because I was enjoying the Day stages so much, but, as I was getting further and further into this game, I actually started to enjoy the other aspects of it. Crazy, huh? The Werehog stages, while still as dry as before concerning the fighting, got a bit better. Its platform segments continued to get tougher as you make progress; I've lost count the amount of times I almost fell down a pit, only to be saved by a last second arm stretch. What shocked me the most, however, was the amount of time I ended up spending in the Town Stages doing side quests, which was usually around an hour or two before going to a new stage. I know Sonic '06 had them as well, but you were so ticked off at the game as a whole that you wanted to flip off anyone that asked for your help. Doesn't hurt that the people around the world seem more lively and have more personality in Unleashed.

Almost everyone has a running gag, making you check what everyone's up to after you finish a new stage. There's a wandering, shy salesman you'll constantly bump into, who has a puppet Chao do most of the talking for him. Whenever you get a conversation started with the guy, you usually have the option of being kind or scaring him off by threatening to eat him. One side quest eventually starts off in the third town/tribe, where you meet this woman looking for her soul mate (or Hunk Hunt, as one character referred to it). You help out by asking all the men in the tribe, but with no one interested, she ends up going all over the world, with you helping her out whenever you see her again. I don't want to spoil it, but let's just say it has an amusing conclusion. The creepiest side quest, however, happens between a business man and a little girl. Every time you see the guy in a different town, he wants you to deliver a present to her. He also tells you to keep it a secret so that there won't be "complications". At first, I thought this would end with him being the father she never knew. Nope. Just some pedophile.

This is probably the closest Sonic Team has managed to translate the "feel" of the old Sonic games into 3D. There's no stupid ability to play as four or five characters like in past games (it was a sad day in video game history when you weren't allowed to play as Super Sonic until you go fishing), all you get are Tails, Amy, and the new character, Chip (Sonic's version of Scrappy Doo), in minor roles. There's really only one gimmick in this game, the Werehog, and it's not bad. However, in a 3D sequel where the traditional Sonic stages are top notch, you really wish the gimmick wasn't included at all. Just imagine how awesome a new Sonic game would be if it only had these types of stages. No gimmicks.

Sonic Team, you're almost there. Don't mess up now.

*looks at Sonic and the Black Knight*

Damn it.

Rating: 8/10

pickhut's avatar
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JANUS2 posted December 11, 2008:

I enjoyed this review. You should enter it into my XMAS CONTEST!
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pickhut posted December 11, 2008:

Thanks. And I'll think about it.
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True posted December 11, 2008:

Xmas Contest?
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pickhut posted December 11, 2008:

Here.
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True posted December 12, 2008:

Thanks, Hut.
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Lewis posted December 18, 2008:

Do you live in a cave and feast on fish heads?
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pickhut posted December 18, 2008:

I actually watched that yesterday and felt, even for him, he was overreacting too much.
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Lewis posted December 18, 2008:

Not played the game so I can't comment, but I laughed more at that than I have at any ZP reviews since the Alone in the Dark one's fabulous "...before a monster launches at you and starts chewing yer nipples off" line.
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Lewis posted December 18, 2008:

Can you overreact just the right amount? Strictly speaking?
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pickhut posted December 18, 2008:

Yup.
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zippdementia posted December 22, 2008:

Do you live in a cave and subsist off raw fish?

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation/472-Sonic-Unleashed
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pickhut posted December 22, 2008:

Um...

So, I'm confused now. Is this topic about Janus's contest or Yahtzee's Sonic Unleashed review?
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Lewis posted December 30, 2008:

Been playing this, then. It's really not very good. :(

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