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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.

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.

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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