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  • TSS REVIEW: Sonic The Hedgehog (2006)

    Official TSS Review of SONIC the Hedgehog ('06).

    It has arrived. After changing the formula with Sonic Heroes and getting mixed responses, the 'Team have gone back to basics and stuck with what works. The result is a mixture of Sonic Adventure's town stages and level structure and Sonic Adventure 2's involving plot lines. Now we've hit the next generation of consoles, does the tried and tested work in Sonic the Hedgehog?

    Well, you would think so, but it's all a bit of a mixed bag. From the moment you turn on the game you're introduced to a series of wonderful cutscenes. As ever, the CG team behind these stunning pieces deserve awards or something. Impressively, sequences using in-game graphics look amazing too. The differences between CG and in-game cutscene is very slight, you really couldn't tell the difference.

    The story is involved and very entertaining, and if you can forgive the plotholes here and there (and the irritating "Lose-Princess-Save-Princess-Lose-Princess" structure of Sonic's Episode), it can easily rival Sonic Adventure 2 for its mature premise and ultimate foreboding in the Last Episode. Voice acting is your typical Sonic fare - they should probably all button it. Jason doesn't put a foot wrong as Shadow though, and Mike Pollock does Eggman further justice. Lacey Chabert's role is really rather token but she makes the most of it.


    The levels are varied and have many decent challenges within them.

    One thing this game has nailed perfectly is the personality and animation of the characters. The graphics are pretty basic for a next generation console, but for a Sonic game they are more than adequate. The one thing the series has lacked until now is a decent representation of the characters' personalities. The moment Sonic bounces into view in Sonic 2006, you know our cocky hedgehog is back. Hell, we even like Shadow again now, as his new role is pretty badass. Seeing Omega do hilarious standby animations by rotating and scratching his robotic belly is a joy to behold when passing the time.

    While looking superb, the characters control pretty well too. For those new to the game, it can be a bit of an adjustment as even Sonic is considerably slower than in past games. This is not a bad thing; in fact it’s perfect. Unlike Sonic Heroes or Shadow, where moving forward a little bit would result in you speeding off with little traction, the inertia here from walking to running speed suits Sonic just right. Sonic’s attacks have been stripped so that only his bounce attack and homing dash will actually destroy enemies. Just jumping does nothing, which is just a little bit irritating. There will be times when the bounce attack is executed when trying to do a Light Dash, and the Spin Dash can only be used from standstill. Otherwise, Sonic plays pretty well. Just not with as much accessibility as we’d have liked.

    Shadow plays much better without guns. He has a homing attack melee move, which can knock down an enemy’s health bar considerably. This is a great move because we really, really hate enemies with health bars in Sonic games. They shouldn’t exist. Far from being cheap, it makes your level flow a bit better. The vehicles work much better too, although you will hate the town missions involving jeeps and motorcycles. It’s not without its moments of tedium but simply put, the Shadow the Hedgehog game should have played like this.



    Silver adds a new dimension to the game that is enjoyable to play.

    Silver’s the new kid on the block, and his levels are very enjoyable. You can pick up items and lob them at enemies, use your PK to cross-large areas and hover across gaps. It’s a welcome gameplay addition, and it’s just a shame many of his levels are marred with slowdown. Each character has a special meter for powers - Silver can use his PK energy to lift items, Shadow can use Chaos Boost to perform major attacks, and Sonic can customise his abilities with shoe gems purchased from the shops. Obtaining new abilities via shop is novel, but very simple as you always collect more rings than you need. Aside from Silver, you won't be using your special abilities most of the time, as Sonic's gems usually just get in the way and Shadow is more than adequate without Chaos Boost.

    Amigo characters are annoying at the worst of times, with jumps not harming enemies, leaving them to defend themselves using crummy close range moves. Knuckles’ attacks you can get the hang of, but it’s no great shakes, while Tails’ item box bomb instead of his tail whip is just plain lazy. The amigos serve to be more frustrating than enjoyable; especially considering Knuckles/Rouge can’t even jump off a climbed wall 90% of the time.

    Town stages have always been a matter of taste. In Sonic Adventure, they added a good break from the stages and were small enough to easily explore. Having said that, some people hated the adventure fields. If you were one of those people, you’ll really hate the town stages in Sonic the Hedgehog. They are much larger this time, and some inexplicably so – the Forest is almost deserted and to get from an urgent story mark to another will cost you at least five minutes walking for what seems like an eternity. It’s bad enough coping with massive empty areas with Sonic or Shadow, but it’s less kind to Silver, as he doesn’t even have the fortunate bonus of speed on his side. The sooner you unlock the levels and town missions in the main menu for easy access the more bearable it all gets.


    The bosses are superb, but the gameplay can sometimes leave you frustrated.

    The levels are more impressive visually, which is just as well really. When playing though, they can prove to be super frustrating due to a massive difficulty curve – whether it’s because of cheap deaths or actual honest challenge, we can’t even ascertain, as both are pretty big culprits in that field. Playing the stages through the story mode just becomes a relentless endurance test to see how many lives you can survive on.

    Zippers don’t always catch Sonic on scripted areas, for instance, and mach speed areas – while fun at first – are barely controllable, particularly when jumping. It can make play frustrating at times, but it’s not all bad news. They are all nicely designed, with level gimmicks and good presentation to overcome different obstacles in the game, and when it works, it works really well.

    White Acropolis has you sneaking past searchlights to reach Eggman’s base, and Crisis City is an awesome apocalyptic future stage. And the bosses are truly great, although reused far too often - Mephiles is an awesome enemy to battle against as Shadow.

    The graphics and presentation is unfortunately not flawless – there is noticeable popup in both stages and town levels. This can frustrate in stages such as Aquatic Base, where on sections walking around on a big metallic ball, you cannot determine whether laser grids are on until you’re too close to them. Even in town missions such as Shadow’s Buggy Training suffer chronic popup, whereby goal rings don’t even appear until you’re really close to them. Makes getting an ‘S’ rank a bit of a hopeless endeavour.

    Tragically, the problems don’t end there. Even in parts of the game where nothing is happening, you will experience slowdown the likes you’ll have never seen before in a Sonic game. For some bizarre reason, a few robots shooting rockets at you will make the game grind down to a crawl. This is most noticeable in Silver’s stages, as he’s already pretty slow anyway.

    Sonic Team didn't even fix what was messed up in games since Sonic Adventure. Yes, we have to talk about that camera again. Admittedly it's not so bad in places, but it can be really horrible in others. The L Trigger can cure most problems, but there will be moments where you will want to look behind you as you're running another way - say, a Boss battle, where the L Trigger isn't relevant. Manual control of the camera is poor and slow in this instance, and the auto-snaps it makes can be a pain, especially when using Tails or Rouge's sniper mode if you happen to miss an enemy.

    There are some more amazing glitches that should never have left Sonic Team's sight, such as jumping constantly using Sonic's purple shoe gem whilst in a shrunken state, which will allow you to climb vertically forever and ever. Add to this horrendous loading times that put even Sonic Shuffle to shame – the game has to load four times in total when engaging in a town mission – and the problems with control and you get possibly Sonic Team’s most rushed game yet. It feels so unfinished, that it can almost put you off playing the game entirely just in protest to the developers daring to release it like this. Not even Shadow the Hedgehog felt so bad at times – you could shoot off like a rocket on ice, but at least that game was complete.


    The engaging story and exciting features are marred by lazy programming and rushed code.

    Once you get stuck in though and decide to ignore the massive faults in this game (and trust me, for even a Sonic fan this will take a lot of ignoring) you’ll find a decent enough adventure. When it works, it works well, and being able to access missions and stages from the Trial menu will make the game a lot more bearable than traipsing through the massive town stages.

    And the music is just about faultless. Instead of constant rock-influenced themes, we’re getting a little more variation with the stage soundtracks. Wave Ocean’s music brilliantly captures a tropical vibe to the beach stage, while 'The Inlet' is about the best mach speed stage music ever. Crush 40 (minus Johnny) remake 'All Hail Shadow', Zebrahead’s 'His World' is finicky but grows on you, and Remix Factory does an awesome track for Silver with 'Dreams of an Absolution'. Bouncy music and techno rock is pretty much the definitive Sonic soundtrack, and playing music from stages like White Acropolis reminds us not only of Mega Drive compositions, but also of Richard Jacques’ work in Sonic 3D.

    There are plenty of things to keep those wanting to truck on with the game entertained though – the levels are quite difficult all-round. The challenge is a welcome one, and once you’ve mapped the stages in your head you can really enjoy speeding through in an attempt to grab ‘S’ Ranks. The Gold Medals will keep Sonic fans glued for ages because of the difficulty curve and length of the stages, and the two-player mode is pretty good too. The idea of co-operative play is one that is crafted well enough to enjoy the game with a mate.

    In Closing

    The major problem with Sonic the Hedgehog is that it is terribly average. Placing faith in a seven year old gameplay structure is one thing, but Sonic Team haven't even fixed the issues that fans and critics have raised with the format since Sonic Adventure. In fact, they seem to have created a whole host of new problems that weren't even present in any past 3D Sonic before it.

    Sonic the Hedgehog contains a few sparkling moments of brilliance, many moments of mediocrity and the rest is just plain average. A Sonic fan can find lots of fun here, but if the laziness of the production is too much for you then you can still find joy in the story and levels themselves. It's by no means a terrible game, but it's certainly not a great Sonic game. 'Sonic Adventure' was good in 1999, but it won't cut the mustard anymore. It's time the Hedgehog evolved.

    NOTE: This was given a score of 6/10 at time of original publication. We have converted its score to the below 5-star rating based on this score, and adjusted to best represent the original intent and sentiment of the overall article. This is not a re-scoring of this review.

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