Monday, February 20, 2012

Game Design: Games that Failed - Sonic the Hedgehog (360, PS3, 2006)

Sonic is one of the most well known video game icons in the world, right along with Mario. His games have always been known for fast, platforming action. His first games in 2D were his best and showed that fast, rapid gameplay can be so intense and fun. He made the transition to 3D in the forms of Sonic Adventure 1 and 2 on the Dreamcast. These games have been pretty well regarded as solid transitions into 3D for sonic. Over the years he would be present in other 3D games such as Sonic Heroes, but soon with the coming of the next gen systems, Sonic was going to go onto those platforms too.

Sonic Team released the next generation of Sonic, in HD, on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 in 2006. I can't say whether it showed hope that it would be a great game from the pre-release trailers but it was nowhere near the Next Gen title fans were hoping it would be. I think most people who have played the game or watched gameplay of people going through it, that it was definetely not the best sonic game. In fact, some have dubbed it as the worst Sonic Game. Now the fact they already had solid foundations in 3D sonic games made it surprising that this game failed so hard. But they didn't fail in terms of sales at least, it wasn't a major bomb, it had around 1 million total sales all around the world.

Anyways we are here to talk about why the game is a failure as a game, not whether or not it was successful in making a profit. So let's get right into it.

Gameplay basics

So it's a 3D platformer and you go through a variety of levels in different locals, making your way through them via various techniques and reach the goal. Finish faster and you get a higher ranking, which provides you rings to purchase boosts that will help your character. To connect all the levels, you go to a hub that's essentially a town, which contains portals to all the levels you want to visit. Doesn't sound too bad so far right?

The evil town area

Well before we go into how the game controls, first off the town is too big. In the sense that it's just a bunch of empty space with little to nothing to do. There are a few really really tedious sidequests that usually have to do with unlocking the next area, but otherwise there is nothing there. Also the upgrades I mentioned are pretty much required for you to get if you want to continue the game, so you're not going to be at an advantage compared to another Sonic player.


In this Let's Play you can already see how strangely Sonic controls

This area isn't so much the problem (Though it DOES have problems which I will get into later), it's the main gameplay. Getting through the levels at first seems exciting but then you begin to notice issues, very detrimental issues that completely ruin the experience. Camera control, its bad, there is no saying it any other way. The camera frequently is hard to control or gets into awkward angles at the wrong moments, causing you to die a horrible death. Your controls, Sonic controls so flimsy that its hard to really move in any direction you really want. The slightest wrong movement with the stick sends you flying off in a random direction to your doom. These are the foundations of what makes a platforming game, if you can't get these right, your game is doomed. And doomed it is in this case. The controls are just too clumsy to be worthy of Sonic.

Level Variety

The variety of levels you actually go through are numerous at first. You start the game as Sonic but soon unlock two other Hedgehogs to play as, Shadow and Silver. You begin to play through them and realize that with the clumsy controls, you die a whole lot. The levels are pretty big and vary quite a bit but then when you begin to play as the other hedgehogs you also realize... “Hey, didn't I do this level before?” These levels get re-used a lot, over and over, except slightly tweaked to fit the different play styles of the hedgehogs. And then once you beat all three arcs that the Hedgehogs get to go through, we get to go to the same levels again for the final act, but with 100% more rainbowy color palette changes.

Different characters!?
Silver (left), Sonic (middle), Shadow (right)

The 3 characters have different abilities that make them... well a bit different. Sonic has a homing attack to automatically smash enemies, Shadow, I honestly can't remember what he had different, and Silver can use physics and launch various objects at people. At least they all play differently but the clumsy controls just doesn't make it that enjoyable. Each character also has unique sections only available to the character. Sonic has “Mach Speed Sections”, Shadow has “Driving sections” and Silver has... “Puzzle sections?”. The puzzles aren't so bad though they arent great, the worst is the Mach Speed and Driving Sections.

Break Dancing Sections

Go to 10:55 and 38:45 for Break Dancing Sections

Break dancing. This word sounds random now but you will see a LOT of it in Mach Speed sections. This is by far one of the most frustrating and worst experiences in the game. We all know Sonic is meant to go fast and these sections are what provide it. Sonic zooms around at lightning speed and here, the clumsy controls go crazy. The tiniest... fraction of the control stick you move... completely crazy direction is where Sonic goes. The controls are so loose it's not even funny, I've seen people have to repeat these levels over and over because of how bad they are. Also, break dancing again. When you hit an object, you lose any rings you have and... break dance. If you happen to die, you will be break dancing as the camera comes to a stop and you see Sonic break dancing into the distance. It's looks absolutely hilarious and you hear him saying “WHOA” in the most undramatic way possible. These sections can definetely take the cake for worst sections in the game.

Driving Sections

8:40 for Driving Sections

The driving sections aren't quite as bad as the mach speed sections, you just control (with much difficulty) various vehicles, from cars to motorcycles, to hang gliders? They control pretty bad but its not nearly as bad as Mach Speed. At least you're not going to crash into a wall and break dance all of a sudden. But they are prone to some pretty weird glitches (glitches is a MAJOR factor in the game I will get into in a bit). I've seen Shadow go through walls, his vehicles suddenly explode for absolutely no reason, etc. Crazy things in these sections.


Back to the normal gameplay, glitchy is the way to describe it. Very, very glitchy. Hit detection can be poor at times, the homing attacks Sonic has can launch you in a crazy direction to your doom. In one of the boss battles as Sonic, vs Silver, you get literally get stuck in a corner for over an hour, not dying but not able to move. We get to hear over that hour “IT'S NO USE” from Silver as he keeps using his telekinesis to launch you into the wall. Your one little ring keeping you alive that whole time. If you're particularly unlucky he can also launch you into space. You heard that right, space.

Going where no Hedgehog has gone before

Other glitches include the random exploding vehicles I mentioned earlier, weird hit detection in mach speed sections, weird detection of the controls in the game, snowboard sections where gravity doesn't want to apply to your board anymore, switches not activating, going through walls, physics not applying at all, drowning in hip deep water, etc. The list goes on and on, there is just too much to cover that breaks this game.

A large compilation of tons of Sonic 2006 glitches

The fact these kinds of glitches were all present in the game is inexcusable. The PS3 version was delayed, released after the Xbox 360 version and apparently it had all the same glitches and ran even worse on the system. Also load times, you'll be looking at the loading screen a lot.

Don't get me started on the plot.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Sega, why must you continue to beat a dead hedgehog? And then sell him to a progressive insurance commercial? tsk tsk...