It's Sonic's 20th birthday. All his friends have all gathered for a party. Everyone's there. Knuckles is acting all tough and cool, Amy is simpering and presenting herself, and Cream - oh god, who cares what Cream's doing? Just kill it. All of a sudden, a purple time demon rips through the world imprisoning everyone in a white dimension. For a moment, you think: yes! They've done it! They've killed them all! No such luck. You've got to rescue them.
It opens with three missions from the olden classic era - Green Hill first, naturally, and onto Sonic 2's Chemical Plant, and the Sky Sanctuary from Sonic & Knuckles. After which, Eggman pops up, to reprises his role as the guy who says "Nyah, I'm going to kill you, Sonic! No what, what's that? Help me, Sonic!"
Defeating him unlocks Dreamcast zone, with levels plucked from Sonic Adventures and Heroes games. Remember that? When CD technology let developers put recorded music into their games, and we were doomed to listen to Crush 40 telling us to "follow our rainbow"? Great advice, guys. Do that thing that's the definition of uneducated futility.
After a punch-up with another familiar face, we rocket into the current generation, with levels from the reboot and Unleashed. It's all absolutely top-grade in terms of fan service, with each level playable as, and completely different for, either Sonic. New Sonic brings his third dimension to old levels. Old Sonic, however, isn't quite as dogmatic about the 2D thing as Sonic 4 was. It's still 2D in as much as you're confined to a plane, but the camera zips around like a wasp on Lucozade. The problem is, the level of fuss and detail causes performance to suffer.
What's the whole point of Sonic the Hedgehog? What's his raison d'etre, his modus operandum, what's that thing he always does? He goes fast. He is the spiny mammal whose raw speed forced you to learn the levels, because reacting to threats as they appeared was frequently out of the question.
So if any game requires smooth movement to prevent the nagging feeling that you're being gipped, it's Sonic. The 2D version of Green Hill Zone is actually one of the worst levels to play - the regularly placed vegetation coupled with the jerky scrolling makes a kind of uncomfortable hypnotic effect that's most like trying to focus on a helicopter's blades.
In other 2D levels, this isn't so much of a problem - and it's not a problem at all in the 3D sections, where the movement comes from every angle and you've got more assists in the form of the lock-on cursor. And that single complaint aside, there are some brilliant ideas here.
The levels have plenty of hidden areas, and multiple paths that give you a glimpse of what you should have done, just as you failed to do it. It's tough education, and it works at getting you back in there. Getting to the less obvious areas rewards you with red stars, which will unlock music and concept art. Fine if you're a massive fan, which - to be fair - Generations is aimed at.
Finishing a level will give you points, and points can be spent on upgrades. Sonic Chronicles isn't part of this collection, so don't expect full RPG powers. The upgrades mainly involve little tweaks, like making dropped rings hang around longer, a free shield, or faster turning. The most expensive upgrade is a Mega Drive controller, that you can use on the console above Green Hill Zone to play the 1991 Sonic game. You can spend some more points on infinite continues. Go on, you might finish it, at last.
So, while the first half hour of Sonic Generations is jarring, it's really worth sticking with. There's a lot of fan love here, from showdowns with your rivals - Metal, Shadow and Silver - to revisiting some familiar but excellently reworked levels. But it's a scarring shame that the Sonic 1 emulation reminds you how smooth Sonic should be. And he isn't.
Beware the judderman
- Fantastic levels
- Jubilant fan service
- Contains Sonic 1 with infinite continues
- Over too quickly
- Not smooth enough