Platform: Xbox 360
Review Date: 9/22/15
Celebrating the 20th anniversary of "Sonic The Hedgehog," this game brings together Classic Sonic from the Genesis era and Modern Sonic from the post-Dreamcast era into one overlapping adventure. An evil being known as the Time Eater causes the worlds of Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic to collide and intermix, and also freezes the life and color out of everything. Somehow, the two Sonics avoid this fate and end up working together to unfreeze the world and free their friends. Or something like that. None of it makes much sense, but all that matters is that Sonic's speed and the Chaos Emeralds are somehow involved. What follows is a fun and colorful adventure that revisits several levels from Sonic's earlier games, presented in both 2D (for Classic Sonic) and 3D (for Modern Sonic). As you complete each level, Sonic's friends are unfrozen, challenge levels become available, and boss fights are unlocked. Defeating a boss gives you access to more levels and the cycle repeats.
Admittedly, I found the first couple hours to be horrendously uninteresting, as the Green Hill and Chemical Plant levels from "Sonic 1" and "Sonic 2" are so overly familiar. The challenge levels are annoying and the first encounter with Dr. Eggman (I still can't get used to that name) is extremely aggravating, but after that, things become much more interesting. The levels get increasingly difficult, but not impossible, and the second boss is refreshingly easy to defeat. By the time you reach the third boss, all of the levels have been unlocked and you've pretty much seen all that the game has to offer. At this point, if you're still hungry for more, you can replay the levels for points and bonuses, search for alternate routes, clear the remaining challenge levels, or unlock the original Sonic game and play it on a Genesis emulator. All of this variety is what makes the game so accessible and enjoyable. There's plenty of challenge and difficulty if you're looking for it, but all I care about is getting to the goal and enjoying the scenery along the way.
The game is not without problems, though. The most obvious one is the overbearing music, which attempts to mix themes from each level into a seamless musical montage. The results aren't pleasant. Additionally, some of the classic music has been remixed into annoying new compositions that distract from the gameplay. Secondly, Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic behave very differently, so constantly switching characters leads to a lot of confusion and control issues. Classic Sonic seems to have some momentum issues that I don't recall from the early days, which makes sticking landings overly tricky at times. And of course, the biggest problem with Modern Sonic is the hyper-sensitive steering, fixed camera, and the tendency to plunge off of blind ledges. Modern Sonic remains as annoying as always and shouldn't be allowed to talk. The silent Classic Sonic is much cooler in this regard. Additionally, Amy shouldn't be allowed to talk at all, and she's presented as a complete dingbat. "Thank you for saving me! I thought I'd never get to flirt with Sonic again!" Seriously, who writes this crap? But once you get past all of that, the real joy of the game is just taking in the gorgeous art direction and level design, and reveling in the sensation of speed that Sonic is famous for.