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Let's Really Play - Sonic '06

It is one thing to call a game bad based on reviews or word of mouth, it’s quite another to play the whole damn thing moment for agonizing moment, and see the broken enterprise laid bare before you. Sonic the Hedgehog used to be one of the gaming industry's biggest icons, on par with Mario or Pac-Man. That was until, 3D happened. Sonic's early forays into the third dimension were decent enough, but games like Sonic R, and Sonic Heroes eroded the brand so far into the ground that Sega attempted to start over when the new consoles came out in 2006. Sonic the Hedgehog for the Xbox 360 and PS3 (colloquially known as Sonic ’06) is the worst game a major franchise has ever produced. How did a game that was supposed to be a fresh start for a beleaguered series end up being the worst one of its kind?

The playable characters of virtual war crime Sonic '06

The problems start the second the game begins as players are greeted with a long CG cutscene straight out of a Final Fantasy game. It looks good to tell the truth, but it’s one of the strangest things I've ever witnessed. The scene starts with a series of realistic(ish) humans performing some kind of ritual, when suddenly anthropomorphic animals and cartoon super villains crash the party. The whole story is so disjointed, waffling between cartoon romp, to serious drama, to one of the creepiest romance subplots to ever grace a screen. The story is nonsense too, full of plot holes, and enough deus ex machina to make a giant clockwork McGuffin. Worse yet, you have to play the whole game three times to understand what's happening, and see the true ending. Playing this mess even once is a chore of Herculean proportions.

The Sonic the Hedgehog series has always been torn between two worlds. On one side it wants to be a game about speed, and on the other it wants to be a game about platforming. It's is hard to marry those two since they are in many ways polar opposites, but in two dimensions you can make it work. The 3D gameplay system in Sonic ‘06 is an absolute hash to the point that it is almost unplayable. The camera never looks the way you want, and sometimes control of it is taken from you without warning. During one boss fight the camera actively fights you from looking at the spiky psychic monster that can kill you in one hit. The levels are uninspired and confusing; it’s often hard to know where to go, or what to do in order to continue. Sometimes they even lie to you, telling an area is blocked off when it's not. Some of this stuff would be forgivable if the levels went by quick (which was supposed to be the point), but all the technical problems slows the experience down to a crawl.

Let's start with the load times, dear God the load times. Whenever you think you’re about to do something interesting in Sonic ‘06, a load time stops you dead. They can last as long as a minute and sometimes there are two or three in a row! Don't forget about the graphical glitches, since they are everywhere. Standing on literally any edge geometry will cause the character to glitch out all over the place. Models pass through each other constantly. In fact, there's even some pre-scripted cutscenes where characters clip through walls or fall through the floor. There's frequent control bugs as well. Sometimes directional controls are reversed, other times buttons stop working. The worst part of all this though, is that even if the game controlled well, and didn't have more bugs then a beehive, it’s still one of the worst designed games ever made.

Conveyance is a game's ability to communicate its rules and goals to the player. Sonic ‘06 has next to no conveyance at all. Beyond the occasional help marker and load screen hint, you're on your own. I watched multiple playthroughs of this game before trying it myself, and I still couldn't figure out where to go. You will get lost, you will die unexpectedly, and you will lose a lot of progress. Yeah, you can run out of lives, and there's bad checkpoints. You only get prompted with a save screen if you finish a level, but if you die, you lose your progress. Between the level itself, the hub world tasks, and all the load screens, that can mean losing upwards of an hour of progress if you die in a game with busted controls. But wait! There's a manual save feature. Where does the game tell you that? NOWHERE!

Words cannot adequately describe how abominable this game is. It literally has no redeeming qualities. The graphics, with the exception of the pre-rendered cutscenes, are ugly and disjointed. The gameplay has bad controls, a terrible camera, and is generally glitchy. The game is technically broken, has long load times, and is loaded to the brim with bugs. Worst of all, it was designed by someone who has a severe hatred for video games and those who play them. Sonic the Hedgehog should have died with this game, hell it should have stopped after Sonic Adventure. For some reason this series has been allowed to survive on nothing but nostalgia alone. Sonic is dead, he's had it, and Sonic ‘06 is a highlight reel of all the reasons why,

Want to see the horror up close? Check out the Let’s Play me and a friend did of Sonic ’06 in the embedded video.

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