Why Sonic the Hedgehog? Why and what?
Indeed, I’m surely not the only person that’s asked these questions at a blistering pace and in haunting unison. Why in the world did Sega, holder of my beloved blue Sonic, decide to take out this atrocious hammer of delirium and bang it against their common sense?
2006’s Sonic the Hedgehog was on my unbeaten list from a demo that, I swear to this day, was more playable than what the final product curdled forth in limp design. I wanted to take on Dr. Robotnik and bring peace to whatever realm again; I knew this was always going to be a game of “here we go again” but I was content with that as the series has perennially taught me to have a low bar. I didn’t realize that Sonic Team would force me to reset my definition of low bar once again, giving me one of the worst experiences I’ve ever played to completion behind one of my favorite mascots.
And to be clear, Sonic’s not untouchable. He’s the 90s in a nutshell, moving through everything fast and being a dick are his two main attributes, I’m not expecting poetry from him. Maybe not even coherence, if I’m really entering the trust circle.
I just need my little hedge-man-hog to run in the general direction I ask him to and have me chasing after some flavor of evil in the end. It didn’t even particularly matter to me if it’s 3D or 2D. I was purely looking for fast-food Sonic time when I got this one in hand. How do you get a bar lower than that and not just evacuate hope for humanity?
Where to start….
The promise laid out by the opening cinematic, which is still quite beautifully rendered and populated, has you taking the fight to Eggman over Princess Elise who is the key to a coming doomsday. Shadow and the introduced Silver will come to help with their own campaigns that eventually sort of converge after all are finished.
I’ll tell you up front, I only completed the Sonic portion. That was 8 or 9 hours of my life I can’t even write off for tax savings. Absolutely shattered level design, haywire camera jitters, phantoms deaths, immortal enemies, glaring collision problems, and a slew of other marrings turn the credits into Santa’s naughty list in my book.
Sonic never, ever moves like he has friction in the world, strangely speeding along an invisible barrier inches from the actual ground. His homing attack was fairly reliable in Sonic Adventure. Here, you may as well be giving someone directions from a bucking bronco.
Silver’s third of the game is the worst of the worst, feeling not only broken in all the ways as above but slow and misjudged to boot. He doesn’t run so much as casually float through claustrophobic levels with a camera that’s too tight for his limited action, having you shot from several angles as you attempt to luck your way into hitting enemies with telekinetic objects. I devolved into Joker-like cackles when I swear I was giving Silver all the jump he could get only to have him bonk his forehead against stone before a watery grave took him gently. No aspect of this playthrough felt like it could’ve been worse while still remaining in a playable state.
All three campaigns share the same hub world, and if you thought the Sonic Adventure city was vapid and lifeless, Sonic the Hedgehog has a new flavor of sticky horrid to throw your way. There are plenty of people in the city, jungle, and other environments, some even willing to give you quests or challenges, but do not mistake that for life. Watching a local square for 15 seconds reveals the levers and pulleys. Loops wander round and round enough to give you motion sickness. Even the fellow anthropomorphic characters from the Sonic universe make an appearance to casually, methodically chew their invisible cud through unspoken dialogue. It’s a horrendous experience.
The story is humorously bad in the same way. At one point, the princess is kidnapped, released, and re-kidnapped within the span of a short conversation. I don’t have as much of a problem with the story being a blur of convolution as it is because I can get enjoyment from the camp. The same prospect takes me through bad movies in that it’s just kind of happening so I might as well enjoy it. Interacting with the devil in the gameplay though is something far more tangible and inherently frustrating. Your decisions and choices cannot be delivered because of someone else’s decisions. No part of that combination will ever be sustainably entertaining.
Sonic the Hedgehog, I wish you ill inside the context of this game. I only look back favorably at that opening cinematic and the few chuckles I had staring into this awful stew. Those shanty ports in the storm simply don’t do the trick against this hurricane of mad game design and decision. Let that shame rain upon Sega from years ago, just to make sure they’ve learned their lesson well.
Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) Score: