Controls And Abilities

In Brief

  • The controls in the original Sonic games were simple to grasp and allowed accessed to a streamline set of abilities.
    • This complimented the speedy nature of the game play.
  • Recent Sonic games have overburdened the control system with unnecessary moves.
    • Although these moves add spectacle, they often work against the experience of speed.

The original Sonic the Hedgehog is often regarded as playing a key role in opening up the medium of video games to a wider audience. Part of this can be attributed to the easy-to-use control system. As Sonic can only run and jump, players can quickly work out the control system without having to refer to the manual. This complimented the speedy nature of the game play as players did not have to worry too much about learning the controls allowing them to immediately experience Sonic’s speed.
Even though the controls were easy to learn, the level design maintained player interest by adding an appropriate level of challenge.

Spectacle without substance

With later games, the controls have become more complex. Part of this stems from the new abilities Sonic has gained in recent games. These abilities are somewhat hollow, as they often possess a visual flair but do not actually add anything to the experience.
For example, in Sonic Adventure 2 gains a new somersault move. In Sonic Adventure 1, the B button could be simply pressed to perform a quick spin dash. The addition of the somersault, however, removes this simplicity, as the player must now hold down the B button to perform the spin dash.
The somersault is used to duck underneath small spaces and to smash through obstacles. However, these are all things that could be achieved with the Spin dash in previous games. As such, other than complicating the control system, the summersault doesn’t add any new functionality.

In Sonic the Hedgehog [PS3/Xbox 360] Sonic gains a new sliding kick to replace the summersault move, which can be performed by tapping the action button. The sliding kick is visually impressive. However, it is solely used to break boxes and destroy enemies and so functions identically to the spin dash. Unlike the spin dash it causes Sonic to slow down. The move is also more complex to use than the spin dash. With the spin dash, Sonic could start running again by pressing forwards or by jumping. Doing either of these actions would allow a seamless transition between spin dashing and running. With the sliding kick, the player must tap the action button to cancel the move. This is not an intuitive action, and indeed many players often take a long time to work this out. Pressing the button also prevents there being a smooth transition from sliding to running, as it requires the player to perform an additional action.

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