In what might be seen as a move to reset and reinvent the series, the latest game to feature Sonic the Hedgehog is merely called Sonic the Hedgehog. Sega's blue critter has been around since the 16-bit days, when his side-scrolling platformers were strong enough to take on Mario, the then-undisputed kingpin of the platforming genre. Sonic's fall from grace has been slow, starting with a promising first stab at 3D with Sonic Adventure, but it's all been downhill since those far-gone days, and games like this new Sonic the Hedgehog are the culprit. With plenty of bad glitches, poor controls, and totally lame gameplay on all fronts, this one's not going to restore any part of the Hedgehog's name to glory.
While Sonic's name is on the box, you'll actually spend most of your time playing as other characters. The game is broken up into three different stories: one starring Sonic, one starring Shadow, and one starring a new hedgehog called Silver. Each of the stories play differently because of the way each hedgehog controls. Sonic is meant to be the fast-moving one, and he mainly attacks via a homing jump attack that makes most basic fights as simple as timing presses of the A button to bounce from foe to foe. Silver has telekinesis powers that let him pick up large objects and use his mind to fling them at enemies. He's not as fast as Sonic, but he has the ability to float in the air for brief periods of time, letting him cross larger gaps. Shadow the Hedgehog gets his own version of the homing attack, but the big difference is that he can drive around in different armed vehicles. Further watering the game down is a heavy supporting cast, so even when you pick the Sonic episode, you'll still occasionally play as Tails and Knuckles. Other Sonic collaborators, like Amy, Blaze, Rouge, and E-123 Omega also put in guest appearances. While the character variety might initially seem like a good idea, most of them aren't too interesting. Tails moves almost painfully slowly, and his fake ring bombs aren't any fun to use, so when Sonic levels occasionally switch over to him, it's immediately boring. In addition to the single-player levels, you can play the game in a two-player, split-screen tag mode that attempts to force players to cooperate as you progress through the story. In addition, you can go back and play levels you've completed in a battle mode.
While you play as many different characters throughout the main game, the same structure applies across the board. The game's action stages are separated by town portions, where you'll be able to take on dopey side missions to help out the locals or figure out puzzles to proceed. Each of these side missions are bookended by two sets of loading screens, where it first loads up the exact same scene, just with different text dialogue, then it loads up the actual mission. After that, it has to load up some ending text and then load up the out-of-mission version of that part of town. Each load time is fairly long, and when they stack up in this way, it almost makes the game feel broken.