Sonic Unleashed features classic speed-based platforming action that puts Sonic's previous installments to shame.

Considering how badly Sonic's past dozen or so games have been, it's a good thing the blue blur has been finally unleashed. He goes a little wild with the freedom, but also gets the opportunity to return to his true self.

Unfortunately, a set of dreadfully out-of-place action levels starring Sonic's werehog alter ego brings everything to a screeching halt.

Sonic Unleashed: evil never sleeps

If persistence is a virtue, then Dr Eggman must practically be a saint. The villain is up to no good once again, snatching the Chaos Emeralds from Sonic in an attempt to summon forth a monster from the bowels of Earth.

Tearing the power of the crystals away from Sonic unwittingly had the effect of give the pint-sized hero split personalities. By day, he's the speedy, upbeat Sonic we know and love; at night, he turns aggro and becomes a hairy, muscled werehog. Both sides of Sonic are needed, though, to piece back a fractured planet.

Sonic must reset seven continents that have been broken from the planet's core, which of course involves running through loops, passing over boost pads, and jumping on robotic enemies.

Speedy platform levels arrive in excellent form, perfectly capturing the feel of classic Sonic. Brilliant 2D sections are broken up by quick 3D sequences that test new abilities like the side step, executed with taps of the bumper buttons. These daytime levels provide the most satisfying gameplay of any Sonic title in years.

Sonic Unleashed: hit the brakes

Day turns to night, however, and Sonic Unleashed becomes an entirely different game. Gone is the blue blaze, replaced by meathead action-platforming. As Sonic's aggressive alter ego, you traipse through evening stages pummeling foes and solving simple platform puzzles.

None of it falls in line with the endearing qualities of the daytime levels which is to bluntly say that they're no good. The controls turn equally as hairy as Sonic's skin, relinquishing the precision found in the daytime stages for a huge dose of awkwardness.

Basic tasks require too many button presses; for example, jumping between columns can't be done by just jumping toward the column you wish to latch onto. No, you have to jump then press another button to grab the column.

There's absolutely no need for these nighttime levels. Instead of providing variety, they only muck up the experience. It's like having a puppy scamper about a white carpet with muddy paws - you love the pup, but hate what a mess it makes.

Sonic Unleashed: traffic court

What an unfortunate design choice the were-hog levels were. The daytime stages were pure classic Sonic and finally gave me the speed rush I've been after for a long time.

But the nighttime levels with their awkward action sequences just left me feeling flat. I love Sonic because his speedy style of platforming is fun, and Sega should have just developed a game around that and left everything else out.

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Sonic Unleashed: Specs

  • Microsoft Xbox 360
  • Sony PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2
  • Nintendo Wii
  • Microsoft Xbox 360
  • Sony PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2
  • Nintendo Wii

OUR VERDICT

It's tough to teach an old dog new tricks - Sonic Unleashed tries to introduce new ideas with daytime and evening levels that switch between speedy platform and bulky action, but only the former has any bite. Sonic doesn't need to experiment, he just needs a good dose of the nostalgic design that makes up half of this mediocre game.

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