The Sonic series has been struggling for years now, with a less than successful transition to 3D marred further by some downright cringe worthy new characters, voice acting and stories, and finally through increasingly bad level design. It’s certainly been a rough road. Sonic Generations aims to change all that and there is no doubt that it succeeds. In fact Sonic Generations is not only the best Sonic title in years but quite possibly the best Sonic title period.
Sonic Generations shines bright with thoughtful and high quality design. From concept to mechanics Sonic Generations sports the very best from previous titles, incorporating both the new and original Sonic’s styles within a cleverly crafted narrative.
The story itself follows the new Sonic and his friends celebrating his birthday when an unknown entity tears through time and space capturing Sonic’s animal companions and fracturing the timeline. The result is a meeting of the two Sonics from the past and the present as they figure out how to free their friends and restore the timeline.
What the narrative allows is for two different styles of Sonic gameplay to coexist, providing a balanced mixture of original 2D and new 3D Sonic levels through nine stages each with an act designated to each style. It’s a great balance. The very first level sees you tearing through a reimagining of Green Hill Zone as classic Sonic before act two sees you tears through the same zone but with new 3D Sonic third-person style. It’s a nostalgia trip that is practically guaranteed to put a smile across your face. Level design is a high point, emphasising speed and showing off a variety of mechanics and related challenges across vast locations. They look fantastic as well. There are more than a few cheap deaths from death-traps though, which inevitably causes frustrations, but for the most part you can dash through each level and enjoy the speed and platforming. It’s Sonic at its very best.
Indeed the marrying of the new and old works in Sonic’s favour and creates the definitive title. What helps is the underlining parody present throughout the narrative. Gestures from Sonic when meting other characters points fun at the more ridiculous characters and dialogue about previous adventures blatantly points out their flaws. It’s very self aware and this is emphasised by the many tweaks to the formula.
The aforementioned improved narrative and level design is complimented by absolutely brilliant controls. They’re tight and responsive, giving you absolute control even at the ridiculous speeds Sonic can reach which, once again, feeds back into the impressive level design which allows you to enjoy such speed. The music is another high point, featuring remixed version of the best tunes from Sonic’s past. There are also some nice audio touches to the presentation that compliments the experience. The music will distort when using new style Sonic’s boost ability and muffle when under water. They’re little details but ones that really count in the overall quality. Visually Sonic Generations looks great, for the most part, only when the action slows do you notice the odd texture lacking in detail, although oddly the pre-rendered scenes with Sonic’s rescued pals is grainy. Otherwise it’s smooth and vibrant.
It’ll take you between five and six hours to complete the story but you could easily double that time with the additional content. Challenge levels offer up something different from the standard level progression, offering mini games as well as entire play-throughs of levels with different objectives and modifiers, such as racing against your doppelganger, achieving a flawless speed run, and even recruiting Sonic’s friends for aid. Only a few of these challenge levels are mandatory to proceed through the story, and you’re given such a vast choice of which ones to play through it never feels tedious and there’s always another option if a certain type doesn’t take you fancy. Moreover it also provides plenty of distractions later on if you feel the need to play through them all. Meanwhile each act has a set of red stars to collect which are strewn across the stage to encourage replay and exploration. These stars are tied with a store which allows you to purchase modifiers such as increased speed when moving uphill, shields or even unlocking the Super Sonic ability after completion of the story. Additionally two online modes provide further replayability. The 30 second mode challenges you to get as far as you can through a stage in just 30 seconds, whilst a standard time attack mode measures the overall time for completing a stage. Each are linked to online leaderboards and prove to be perfects scenarios for competitive Sonic action.
Sonic Generations is a fantastic platformer that successfully incorporates the speed we associate with the blue hedgehog as well as brilliantly marrying the styles of classic 2D and newer 3D gameplay. It is the best Sonic so far; finally this iconic character has been done justice.
MLG Rating: 9/10
Platform: Xbox 360/ PS3 Release Date: 04/11/2011
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of Sonic Generations for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.