After recently selling two positively unpleasant “Sonic” games, “Sonic and the Secret Rings” and “Sonic Colors” (the latter of which seems to be well-liked by everyone on the planet but me), and the fact that I am considering whether or not “Sonic Heroes” and “Shadow the Hedgehog” should be wished away into the cornfield, as well (“Twilight Zone” reference…), I started to wonder if I was losing the affection I used to have for “Sonic” games. Strangely, after playing such bad “Sonic” games to ensure that they were indeed sell-forever worthy, I got in the mood to play “Sonic Unleashed” and was pleased to find that I still found this game quite delightful to play.
This game once again has Eggman causing the world trouble, this time by breaking the planet apart in order to release a creature called Dark Gaia. With the release of Dark Gaia, people begin to act strangely at night, and poor Sonic finds himself turning into a fluffy , but powerful werehog every night (with strangely elastic arms, which I suppose is useful, but also very goofy, making me cringe for a while until I got used to it). The game involves Sonic traveling to different continents of the world trying to restore them, all with the aid of this strange little creature who can’t remember who he is, whom Sonic dubbed as Chip.
So unlike other games of the series, this game involves two forms of gameplay, the regular gameplay we’re used to during the day, with Sonic showing off his mad hedgehog speed, and at night, you play as werehog Sonic, which is much more about platforming and beating up enemies. These much more slow-paced levels seem out of place in a “Sonic” game, which, in the past, always revolved around Sonic’s speed. Sonic’s ability to run through these levels a hundred miles an hour is what sets these games apart from other platformers like “Mario” or “Kirby” (the former of which, for me, seems to revolve around Mario’s terribly slick shoes). And so it seems a bit strange to split the game up between normal “Sonic”-style levels and slow-paced enemy-fighting-fests. To top it off, there are hardly any day stages compared to night ones. Most locations have one day stage and at least three night stages.
As a result, some may say this game failed as a “Sonic” game, as most of the gameplay has nothing whatsoever to do with the Sonic we’re used to. It would be like a “Mario” game where Mario gained extraordinary speed and sped through levels (possibly without his slick shoes, too). I’m not entirely sure why Sonic Team decided to make this game barely like a “Sonic” game at all.
And yet, at the same time, I enjoyed it. It can barely be called a “Sonic” game. In that area, it really did fail. But, as a game, I think they still did a good job. I really enjoyed the game. I like the locations, based on various places throughout the world, like Rome, China, and of course, islands and deserts and ice places like any self-respecting platformer would have. The music was a delight (I don’t like the rock and rap they keep having in “Sonic” games lately, and this one uses more traditional video game music). And then there’s, of course, the gameplay.
First off, the day stages are the most fun. They are the fast-paced levels all “Sonic” fans love, and I find these to be some of the most fun “Sonic” levels I have ever played. Anyone who’s played a “Sonic” game is familiar with such levels, so there’s not much else to say. There’re just great, and they’re quite challenging, too, if you want an S score.
What is different about this game are the night stages, and while they aren’t as good as the day ones (werehog Sonic is so slow compared to regular Sonic), I still had a good time with them, when they weren’t frustrating as heck. These levels involve platforming, as I said, which is the best part of these areas, plus I like the locations. All the while, you should also be on the lookout for secret items (which appear in the day stages, as well, but with the faster pace of those stages, you don’t really spend time looking for them so much, as you usually just happen to run through them before you really even registered they were there). These items get you tips, music, videos, and my favorite, concept art. These stages also make good use of the Wiimote (for the Wii-users like myself), and while I’m getting a little tired of the Wiimote, they manage to make the ways you move the controller more varied, which makes it less tedious, as it’s not simply shaking the Wiimote to attack, but moving it in a circular motion and swinging it and other such things.
What I don’t like is how annoying these levels are. And the fighting. I hate the fighting. Okay, sometimes the platforming could be frustrating. Sometimes there are weird jumps that you fail, and these weird jumps make me mad. But, the fighting is what makes the night stages drag on at times. So many enemies. Wave after wave sometimes. And these dumb bees you gotta chase down because they’re so fast, and you are swinging the controllers around like a moron trying to hit them. And those wizards prove to be pretty nimble, as well. And then you repeatedly get stunned when these enemies off to the side decide to shoot electricity at you. And don’t even get me started on those big enemies with the clubs. Just, come on. I mean, really. Usually, I could handle the fighting, but sometimes it was just… Yuck.
But, really, it is a fun game. Overall, it is. I couldn’t help but be delighted by it, while at the same time baffled at their decision to have so few day stages in comparison to night. Honestly, the night stages were likely a bad idea for a “Sonic” game, even if they were usually fun. But, at least balance it out with regular stages. Or better yet, have the emphasis on the day stages, not the night ones. It is a “Sonic” game, after all, and the game should focus on, well, itself. The night stages were just too much of a departure from what we expect for it to take the main focus of the game. (The final world has one day stage and five night ones. Five!) I’m fine with some changes being made to the gameplay of these games, or at least, I’m fine with variety, if they decide to do some different things again in the future. They just can’t forget that they are making a “Sonic” game.