★★★★✫

Reviewed November 26, 2022

Really didn’t expect to enjoy this as much as I did going in, but this game is just so much fun in a way that’s kinda hard to describe. Maybe it’s because I’m used to modern Sonic (or maybe it’s because of the mods that I was playing around with) but I didn’t have nearly as much trouble with the controls as a lot of other people did. Things like the pop-in and the occasional bug didn’t bother me too much, after the first few hours I didn’t really pay much attention to them anymore.

The music was fantastic, but it’s a Sonic game so of course it was. I also thought the BOTW-ish world design worked better than I assumed it was going to, and I really liked running and jumping around in all of the little mini-level segments they assembled in each area. The cyberspace areas could’ve been more interesting, though. I think I would’ve preferred if they were more involved, had harder challenge goals, and if they weren’t just the same three level themes we’ve seen over and over again.

I thought the story was pretty good as well, I’m not super familiar with Ian Flynn’s stuff but he seems to just get all the characters really well, and he’s good at finding ways of making the story fun and engaging without constantly doing bits and winking at the camera (though there were definitely more than enough “Hey, remember this Sonic thing?” lines.) I do kind of wish there were more off-the-wall setpieces and worldbuilding scenes like in Adventure 1 & 2, but I appreciate how focused the story in this one was.

There were also definitely a lot of parts that show how much more dev/testing time the game needed (I don’t really think the developers are to blame at all, but it is what it is). Most of the challenges were either trivially simple or gave the player way more time than they would ever need, and I’m not sure if that was just Sega not giving the team enough QA bandwidth or wanting to make it as accessible as possible, but it really cheapens a lot of the impact of solving puzzles when there’s no real challenge. Towards the end of the game there were also a couple areas that were completely inaccessible, in a way that made me wonder if there was originally more content planned that had to be scrapped/reworked to meet the holiday release window, but they did at least make the parts that were finished fit together pretty nicely.

Overall I think this game was overflowing with creative ideas, though a lot of it was held back either by time restraints or a desire to keep the game accessible. Every fight is unique and memorable, Sonic’s moveset is super fun to mess with, and of course the boss fights are an absolute feast for your eyes and ears. If you’re not used to the kinda janky modern Sonic experience you might have trouble getting into this game, but if you’re like me and have terminal Sonic Brain, this game hits on just about every level.