Product Type: Sega Wii games
Newest Review: ... doing things such as punch or even jump on your enemies but it all depends what enemies you are up against. Sonic in the day doesn't figh... more
Just don't play Sonic at night...
Sonic Unleashed (Wii)
Member Name: Anti
Sonic Unleashed (Wii)
Date: 24/07/11, updated on 25/08/11 (31 review reads)
Advantages: Day levels are fast paced, well-designed and have excellent controls, great graphics
Disadvantages: Werehog levels slow and frustrating, average story, Wii version missing some levels
Sonic Team haven't had the best of luck with the Sonic 3D games in the past decade, ranging from the apparently decent 'Sonic Adventure' on the Dreamcast to the abysmal 'Sonic the Hedgehog 2006'. Fortunately, the 2008 release Sonic Unleashed is a slight return to form after the latter disaster. We have the fast blue hedgehog with attitude zooming through 3D stages as Sonic fans have always begged for, but now interspersed with beat-em-up, action-based levels implemented. I'm a fan of both Sonic and beat-em-ups and decided the game was worth a shot. What I found is that there are few glimmers of hope here in 'Sonic Unleahsed' which would finally manfest in 'Sonic Colours' two years later, but enough flaws to warrant it as far from great.
So, what dastardly plan is Robotnik- er, I mean Dr. Eggman- conjuring up in 'Sonic Unleashed'? Well, he has gathered the Chaos Emeralds and, using his satellite and the gems' dark energy, fires a massive beam onto the planet which breaks it up into fragmented continents and an evil entity called Dark Gaia. Meanwhile Sonic, who had been chasing after Eggman and is exposed to the dark energy, is transformed into a "Werehog" at night. Landing back on a part of the planet, he meets up with Tails and a new dessert-guzzling mascot with memory loss whom Sonic names Chip. Together they set off to restore their planet, learn about Chip and reverse the Werehog transformation. As you can see, the plot is okay and nothing mindblowing, as with the characters. Of course this is to be expected since you know Sonic, Tails and co. from the other games, but you will find Chip equally as annoying, especially he will be your (forced) tutorial guide at the beginning of the game! On the other hand you don't play the Sonic games for their plot, but for the platforming and speed, so it's not really important here.
The transformation of Sonic means that the levels in this game come in two types- Day and Night levels. Day levels have you controlling Sonic as per the old games- speeding as fast as he can, homing on enemies, collecting rings, going over loop-the-loops in their dozens, and so on. The Wiimote and nunchuck controls (you can also use gamecube or classic controllers) are fairly simple: control stick to move, A button to jump, B button to quick step (move immediately left or right), Z button to slide (for drifting) and shaking the Wiimote to home on enemies. These are easily the best aspects of the game, especially given that the developers have struggled to do this in 3D in previous instalments. The raw, intense speed of Sonic and bright backgrounds will certainly remind players of the old-school Sonic. It just goes to show the series can work in 3D this generation. The problem? There are much fewer Day levels than Night ones and for some reason a few levels have not been put into the Wii version (but are in the 360/PS3 games), resulting in a 60/40 ratio.
So instead we have the Night levels making up the bulk of 'Sonic Unleashed', probably because Sonic Team wanted to push this side of gameplay as the main selling point. Night levels are essentially a shift into the beat-em-up genre where Sonic, being much slower and having stretchy arms, goes round the levels scaling buildings, breaking boxes and fighting swarms of enemies. You depend more on the Wii's motion controls on these levels both to defeat enemies and swing from one platform to another. Defeating enemies on each level allows you to collect Dark Gaia points, which unlock more powerful moves for combos. Ultimately the combat is repetitive, not helped by the fact that once you move into an area with enemies barriers keep you there until all foes are defeated. Although Beat-em-up games are going to be repetitive, that doesn't really excuse the slow-paced gameplay in a series primarily known for speed. It annoys me how Day and Night levels are so disjointed. You don't move from the end of the day level through dusk into night but start the level with Sonic immediately in Werehog form, as if they're part of two different games connected by the story. All that the two types of level have in common are the collection of rings, basic movement controls and the score and ranking system in place at the end. Another thing that's been segregated is the hub-town quests. To proceed through the story to the next level you must go round different parts of a town on a text-based map asking the locals about stuff that could have been put in a cutscene or left entirely, which feels like padding.
However, I do think the graphics in 'Sonic Unleashed' are pretty good, with the Day levels and their bosses having excellent designs. The night levels are mainly coloured dark purple (even most of the enemies) and mostly look the same as each other even across continents. Music is decent too, with themes easily fitting the level at hand: Day levels have more upbeat, breezy tunes and night levels are jazz-heavy. Also in the night levels a new piece of music started up whenever you encountered enemies and this soon got annoying to listen to.
'Sonic Unleashed' had so much potential to help make Sonic finally break the 3D curse. Indeed it does do this in less than half the game with the Day levels being exhilarating and fun, but the Werehog levels and controls let it down by taking up too much time of the game despite it being an interesting if unsuitable premise. Unless you're a big Sonic fan I'd either rent this game, get it at a bargain price or play the 360/PS3 version (those have downloadable content and more daytime levels). Otherwise leave this and try out the later Sonic games instead.
(Also on Ciao under the username Anti_W)
Summary: Split decision. Daytime Sonic is brilliant platforming. Nighttime Sonic is a shoddy beat-em-up.