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38 Reviews

Sonic Generations

Spiny blue

You can't really start a Sonic Generations review without saying something wistful and introspective about your personal history with the series. Something overwrought, about how those sapphire quills came to symbolise a sense of childhood wonder and optimism. How the lyrics to Escape From The City encouraged you to, you know, really follow your rainbow.

In my case, I've not got much to offer. I had a Mega Drive, loved the game, played it to death, but never quite bought into this whole finger-wagging attitude thing. That menu screen was like he was telling me off for something, something he hadn't even bothered to find out was actually my fault. Don't sit in judgement over me, you spiny dong, you can't even decide when to jump without my help.

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But, I was willing to suffer his attitude, though, because the game itself was utterly unique. There's still nothing else quite like the action of original 2D Sonic - least of all 3D Sonic. We'd grown apart by Sonic Adventures. I'd had my head turned by the grown-up sights and sounds of Jet Set Radio. Sonic Generations is an awkward reunion, then - but one that really turned out better than expected.

Sonic Generations starts brilliantly - Sonic and all his friends are having a birthday party. It's all pretty much like a Cocoa Pops advert, only with less cereal-based antagonism. And beautifully, before Amy has a chance to say "you know what Sonic, you should totally initiate a mating ritual with me right now I'm not even kidding", Sonic's ever-inflating band of brave companions is sucked into a vortex by a purple time demon. It's like Sonic Team have finally answered the prayers of the sane universe.

Sadly, it's your mission to save them, by entering the clinical white backdrops of whatever-dimension-this-is, and restoring colour to the world by reliving your memories.

And you've got a friend to help you - a tubby light blue version of yourself, from before you had lipo, and both femurs shattered and extended. Each nostalgic map has two versions, one 3D, and one 2.xD. Finish both versions, and you'll release a friend.

In terms of fan service, it's pretty much got that lot - three levels from original-era Sonic, three from Dreamcast Adventures and Heroes, and three from the current generation, from reboot to Unleashed. Start off with Green Hill Zone - where else? - progress onto Sonic 2's Chemical Plant, and into Sonic & Knuckles' Sky Sanctuary. The reworked levels are familiar but different enough to be completely fresh.

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When they finally meet after the first boss - Eggman doing his old trick of "I'll kill you, Sonic - oh no, an even greater evil, save me, Sonic!" - the dialogue between talking and mute Sonic is as stilted as you'd expect dialogue with a mute to be.

With the other characters, it's exactly the kind of sub kid's TV banter we've come to expect and tolerate. I find it's best if you interpret it as a knowing parody. Makes you feel less Chris Langham about the whole thing.

After each of the worlds has been restored by playing both acts, five challenge maps open for each world, each playable as - and completely different as - either Sonic. New Sonic has friends along to help, Amy helping him jump with her hammer, Knuckles digging for treasure, and (shudder) Cream providing a limited number of rings in otherwise ringless levels.

These are 90% optional - you only have to play one of each of the world's ten challenges to grab the boss keys and move on, but they're also where you'll go to get your money's worth, when your relatively short minimum obligations end.

While the original Sonic is supposed to be old-school 2D gameplay, don't expect the pure faithfulness of Sonic 4. It can't resist pulling of some extravagant 2.5D tricks. Problem is - and it feels like a perverse problem, given today's tachnology - it's just not very smooth.

Take City Escape, a faithful callback to Sonic Adventure 2. Both Sonics have their own version of a duel with a transforming truck. Both levels are rich with ideas and action. Above all, they're both great fun, with the balance of intensity and fairness just about spot on.

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