Now fifteen, The Sonic series appears to be having a typical teenage personality crisis. His 360 debut starts out cheerfully enough, with the opening level (the Kingdom Valley, similar in appearance to the Aquatic Ruin Zone from Sonic 2) being standard Sonic fair.
Then, er, Sonic encounters the difficult goth phase. Did someone say... time travel? Seems they did. Sonic The Hedgehog takes place over several different time periods, with three central characters in on the action. The sight of Shadow the Hedgehog gangsta-ing it up in an armoured tank is as ludicrous as ever, but it's the Silver The Hedgehog parts which go the whole hog.
Silver's antics take place in (sigh) a post-apocalyptic future which has had all the technicolor drained from it. Still, at least Silver adds a new dimension to the game; appreciably slower than Sonic, the shiny new hog can use his telekinetic powers to shift objects around, hurling them either in the path of enemies or using them to knock down bridges or create makeshift platforms to get to new areas. It's this part which does the best job of showing off the impressive physics on display, and tossing huge blocks around - or even smashed-up parts of beaten enemies - is a top laugh.
We still have major reservations though. Sonic on 360 certainly retains the trademark speed - in places, it's so fast it'll melt your face off. But in parts, especially in the Sonic sections, it seems to be a return to the messy 3D Sonic antics of old. The levels are pleasantly non-linear, and seem to hold hidden depths, but the game also seems to have inherited the same uncontrollable woes here and there, with on-rails bits which don't invite the player to join in, and some uninspiring gameplay elements.
That said, it would be unfair to write it off at this point, especially with such appreciable variety between levels. It certainly looks especially attractive in places, a true step up in visual quality from previous efforts. But if Sega doesn't learn from previous mistakes, it looks bound to repeat them.
A confusing plot that would look more at ease promoting the next Final Fantasy, plus generic Sonic confuse-o-play doesn't bode particularly well for The Big S, but it moves smoothly, and with a bit of sprucing it could be quite fun. We'll 'hedge' our bets for now. 'Hedge' as in 'hedgehog'. You see? Oh.