It is incredible to think that a studio and publisher as successful and iconic as Sonic Team and Sega is how infuriatingly inconsistent their combined output is. On one hand, you have the classics: Sonic The Hedgehog 2, 3, Generations etc. On the other, however, we have Sonics Lost World, CD, and Sonic Unleashed .
2017 feels like case-in-point as a demonstration for Sonic Team's patchy form. Sonic Mania is by anyone's standard a terrific game, bestowing the classic Sonic aesthetic with a tasteful and modern overhaul and boasting razer-sharp gameplay and slick level design to boot. Then, only a few months later, Sonic Team hits us with yet another disappointing Sonic excursion and the newly burgeoning public affection for Sega is again snuffed out.
By comparison to Sonic Mania, the controls feel clunky and the jarring switches between 2D and 3D are one of the many irritations that slow down gameplay to a comparative crawl. There are three types of stages and none of them are terribly exciting. Classic Sonic is two-dimensional, while you take the reins of the Modern Sonic for the three-dimensional portions. The general feel of both characters are so vastly different that you never really find yourself coming to full mastery of the controls. The third type of stage has you controlling a custom character that uses a special type of weapon to channel various kinds of 'wisp' energy. While it certainly adds another dimension to the game, the combat just doesn't ever feel you its gripping you and it certainly wouldn't be considered overly challenging.
If you do manage to come to grips with the vastly different play styles, Sonic Forces finds another way to kill the pacing. Unfair obstacles are a plague in Sonic Forces, where sometimes you will have little to no foreshadowing of the next hit you may take or pit trap you may fall into. Sonic Forces really does an excellent job of dispelling the notion that a Sonic game should always equate to high-speed gameplay that rewards fast reaction times and skill.
One saving grace for Sonic Forces is that the boss battles are almost universally an absolute blast. Some are even quite challenging and the combination of the vibrant graphics and stunning backdrops make them quite memorable. My only issue with the boss battles is that there aren't more of them.
Sonic Forces seems torn between allowing the traditional and brilliant Sonic formula to shine through and needlessly shoehorning in 'modern' features to appease an imaginary demographic. I can't recommend Sonic Mania highly enough.
PC / Nintendo Switch / Xbox One / PS4