A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this game stars Sega's chipper blue hedgehog, and that he occasionally morphs into an evil looking monster with long claws, sharp teeth, and menacingly arched eyebrows. But his looks are deceiving; at heart, he's the same noble mammal gamers have loved for the last two decades. Still, he is a little more aggressive than normal while in his more intimidating form. He swipes at enemies with his fists and grabs and throws them to the ground. It's mild fantasy violence, but its pervasive and perhaps more than some people might expect from the usually tame game hero.
What's it about?
SONIC: UNLEASHED opens with a lengthy and spectacular CGI movie that wouldn't be out of place in a blockbuster disaster movie. It depicts the hedgehog's arch nemesis Eggman cracking open the planet's crust from the comfort of his spaceship in hopes of remaking the world into Eggman Land. Meanwhile, he turns our loveable blue hero into a strange and menacing monster, then kicks him out of the ship and sends him hurtling down to the world's fissured surface.
So begins Sonic's adventure as a kind of werehog; a creature that exists as a super speedy hedgehog by day and as a ferocious (but in a good, evil-fighting way) monster at night. Levels are divvied up for these two personas; half take place in the sunshine and see Sonic sprinting at breakneck speeds over hills and through loops, while the other half occur in the evening, where Sonic's darker form battles evil robots and uses his stretchy arms and clawed hands to climb and swing around environments filled with treacherous crevices.
Is it any good?
The levels that take place during the day recall Sonic's glory days, when the little blue furball zipped around the screen so fast that the player's greatest challenge was simply anticipating what came next and deciding whether Sonic ought to stay his course, slow down, or perhaps jump. They switch seamlessly between a rear perspective, which allows players to control Sonic's movement from left to right as he avoids various gaps and spiky perils, and a side angle that feels a lot like the perspective of Sonic games of old -- had the hedgehog been moving through them at five times the pace. It's fun, habit-forming stuff.
Unfortunately, the game drags when Sonic changes form at night. His alter ego is capable of doing pretty much the same basic things that game characters have been doing in platform games for ages, such as climbing posts, shimmying along precipices, and smacking around hordes of bad guys then collecting the bits of energy they leave behind. It's not that these traditional platform levels have been badly designed, but rather that they bring nothing new to the table. There will be times when players wish the game was composed solely of the speedier missions.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the game's sense of speed. Did you have a hard time controlling Sonic? If so, did the difficulty affect your enjoyment of the game? Did the game's designers do a good job of providing you with enough warning for upcoming obstacles and perils? You can also discuss Sonic's alter ego. Was he likeable even as a scary looking monster? Did you prefer playing as one of his physical forms over the other?
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