The wait is finally over as Sega has released Sonic Unleashed into the world. I had some high expectations (well, high for a modern Sonic game) going into this one thanks to the previews that placed a heavy emphasis on speedy daylight levels of pure joy that invoked memories of the original Sonic games from the Sega Genesis era. Instead of those levels, however, we're treated to too many night dark werehog brawling levels. My review of the Nintendo Wii version of the game is now on Kombo where I separate the fantastic aspects of the game from the weak spots.
Early trailers and screenshots for Sonic Unleashed promised large bright shiny blue sky levels packed full of speedy exploration along with a few brawling segments featuring Sonic's beastly alter ego (dubbed a "Werehog"). Unfortunately, for what must be the first time ever, advertisements don't tell the whole story. The daylight speedster levels are the closest we've come to classic Sonic goodness since the Sega Genesis era and early Dreamcast days, but there just aren't that many of them. Slow bulky brawly werehog levels make up the bulk of the experience and they take longer to complete than the daylight stages, making the superior day stages feel like a tease. A day stage can be completed in about three minutes or so, but the night stages can take around an average of eight minutes to complete (and that's for an S ranking; stumble or get lost a few times and that time can expand upwards of twelve to fifteen minutes), and making matters worse is that the night stages tend to come in groups of three, meaning that for about every half hour or more of night brawling, players are rewarded with a quick romp through the daylight before being sent back to the dark.
So why the lack of day levels? Apparently since Sonic runs so fast and covers so much ground so quickly, it's inefficient and expensive to spend resources on building more levels that are over in a flash. The werehog brawling levels make up the bulk of the game because there must be slow parts to pad the game out to a reasonable running time. If every level were a speed level then the game would be over within three hours. I can accept that reasoning, but I can't say I'm happy about it. There has to be a way to get back to the rapid running romps that longtime Sonic fans demand. Next time Sonic Team should take an extra year or two to craft more and more speed levels instead of focusing on a gimmick designed to extend the game. We'll have to wait extra time for Sonic's next adventure, but if the result is nothing but more fun speedy day levels, then I can certainly show some patience.