Sonicâ€™s been around a while. Once upon a time, the blue hedghehog, mascot of Sega consoles everywhere, went head-to-head with Nintendoâ€™s Mario. Each had their proponents, and each espoused opinion with merit; depending on your preferences, both series were worth playing.
Thereâ€™s been a lot of water under the bridge since those heady days, however, and while Mario took bold strides into 3D with Mario 64, one of the best games ever made, Sonic stumbled with Adventure before landing squarely on his face. Showing no signs of consciousness since, Sega has nevertheless continued to drag him around and, Weekend at Bernieâ€™s-style, convince us that heâ€™s still alive - despite obvious signs to the contrary.
So here we are, yet again - a new Sonic game. The timing for this one is perfect - for you. For Sonic? Not so much. You see, the latest Mario game - Super Mario 3D Land - just hit this very same console. This is the perfect time to assess its merits as a platform game, with the review of that game fresh in our minds.
The concept of the title is simple; two versions of Sonic - one old, one new - collide in a game that alternates levels between the classic-era Sonic gameplay and the more modern version. Unlike the console versions of this title, the modern sonic levels are still of the side-scrolling variety, however the camera does give you some new angles to show off the boost and attack options that Sonic now has at his disposal.
So how is it? If you havenâ€™t already guessed from the score, or picked up on the thinly-veiled hint a couple of paragraphs back, the answer is... not so great. In fact, thereâ€™s little redeeming this game, and we can only therefore recommend it to hardcore Sonic fans. After all, theyâ€™re used to being disappointed.
So whatâ€™s so bad? Itâ€™s got some cool new stuff, including an online battle mode where you race through levels against people around the world. That bit is even pretty decent, in itâ€™s own way, even if itâ€™s still affected (albeit, less so) by the gameâ€™s biggest flaw: the level design.
Occasionally good, typically poor, all too often horrible, the levels have either been randomly generated or designed by someone whoâ€™s as determined as anyone else out there to bury this franchise once and for all. Too often you find yourself repeatedly attempting sections of frustratingly badly laid out level elements as you attempt to find your way forward.
This frustration is helped in no way by the awful controls. While in full flight, in the better levels, the way sonic (old and new) handles is fine. But when you have to traverse a tricky platform section or perform some tightly-timed jump, it will be hammered home to you how clumsy the â€˜hog is when faced with anything that requires precision or resembles the more laid-back, Mario-style level traversal.
Itâ€™s also short - although, if youâ€™re being forced to play it, this will be a blessing.
But none of those are the most frustrating aspect of the title. The worst thing about the game, believe it or not, is that itâ€™s occasionally good - great, even. These fluid, good looking levels that let the blue blur get into full flight and challenge you to make decisions at 900 miles an hour remind you of just how good the gameplay can get. But, without exception, theyâ€™re bracketed by stupid, clumsy, un-fun frustration-a-thons that will have you wanting to hurl your 3DS at the wall.
Youâ€™ve had your shot Sega. Like Lucas and the Star Wars franchise, every touch you make seems to destroy what little grip we have on our pleasant memories of what once was. Please leave us with the fragment that remains.