Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Sonic The Hedgehog

Some parts of the gaming community believe that it's only a matter of time before programmers tame the complicated but immensely powerful PlayStation 3 and deliver some truly stunning experiences. But when a game like Sonic The Hedgehog stumbles into the next generation like a freshman accidentally walking into a string-theory lecture, it becomes clear that some folks still need to brush up on their fundamentals.

Sonic's 1991 debut on the Sega Genesis worked because it was a rush to run fast, collect rings, and ricochet through the scenery like a pinball. Sonic The Hedgehog does everything it can to distance players from these visceral pleasures. Your first task is to talk to the townsfolk and gather information, which isn't exactly pulse-pounding. And while other games let characters discover power-ups during play, this game puts all of Sonic's upgrades on a store shelf. When the feet finally begin to fly, the controls feel sluggish and unresponsive. There are so many ways to fail out of each high-speed sequence that it's a relief when they're over. And even though the game is called Sonic The Hedgehog, two-thirds of play time is spent steering Sonic clones Shadow and Silver. Only the most masochistic will ever get that far.

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Beyond the game: An overwrought, Final Fantasy-style storyline complicates matters with tales of angry gods, time travel, and planetary destruction. Sonic even has a princess to save. When human babe and anthropomorphic hedgehog bond, prepare to be creeped out.

Worth playing for: If gaming had its own Mystery Science Theater 3000, this game would be its Manos: The Hands Of Fate. Beer and friends could transform this painful solo experience into a hilarious evening of point-and-laugh fun.

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Frustration sets in when: Some scenes take so long to load up that they induce nostalgia for the days of tape drives and 300-baud modems. Glitches and a jittery camera don't make the game unplayable—just profoundly unpalatable.

Final judgment: The princess is safe and sound. Now who's going to save Sonic as his franchise circles the drain?

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