Sega's upcoming Sonic Generations looks like it's going to continue the recent (excellent) trend of quality hedgehog videogames.
Sega seems to be falling back in love with Sonic the Hedgehog, based on recent quality releases like Sonic 4 and Sonic Colors. This is certainly a welcome change from several years of middling releases starring everyone's furry blue mammal, and I've got some good news from PAX: It looks like Sega's still devoted to making quality Sonic games, based on the portion of Sonic Generations that I got to play.
Sonic Generations stars two versions of Sonic: both the modern version and his earlier, 1990s incarnation. The two are thrown together via a hole in time that sucks today's Sonic into the past, where he meets his younger self. The game is all about how the two hedgehogs have been sandwiched together, meaning they now have to race through versions of levels from previous Sonic titles, figuring out who's messing up time and setting things right.
Now, the two versions of Sonic provide different play experiences. Modern Sonic has fully 3D courses to run through, which are broken up with occasional battle sections. Before you groan: This is not a retread of Sonic Unleashed. The combat is incredibly simple, based on sonic jumping and then torpedoing towards his enemies, and they're generally pretty easy to avoid if you want to just run past the bad guys.
The Classic Sonic sections, meanwhile, are fully 2D levels with 3D backgrounds that occasionally affect the area Sonic's running across. These levels are pretty crazy and fast-paced, based on what I got to play; if a player wants to earn the best time possible, they'll have to replay a level several times in order to figure out when and where they should jump.
The levels on display were set in San Francisco, inspired by other levels from Sonic Adventure 2. In the Classic levels, the crazy bigrig/harvester is back and pursuing Sonic, but it's largely seen in the background. Occasionally, though, the truck would cross over into the foreground, knocking down platforms that Sonic was climbing or actually trying to hit him.
The Modern level, in turn, is much more of a 3D affair, involving downhill races (both on a snowboard and on foot), pursuit sections, and the aforementioned combat areas. Again, it was incredibly fast-paced and a ton of fun, though I did encounter an area where the fixed camera was a little bit of a hindrance (though, admittedly, it wasn't game-ending and only happened once.
Visually, Sonic Generations looks pretty stunning. The graphics are really quite lovely; they're bright and cartoonish and actually look like they'd fit into the games they're supposed to take place in.
Author's Note: The version of Sonic Generations that I played was the 360 build.