Sonic the Hedgehog is 20 years old, but he's not showing it in this hyper-charged release, which takes the spiked one's colourful history and runs it through a blender, with mind-blowing results.
Sega's mascot has had some seriously lacklustre outings since his peak in the mid-1990s, but Sonic Generations puts the focus back to where it needs to be: absolute, maddening speed. The faster you go, the more skilled you need to be to take advantage of each level's different routes, boosts and bonuses, meaning there's no more reliance on just holding the d-pad forward and hoping for a crack at a chaos emerald for your efforts.
The storyline is neither very interesting, nor vital to the experience, but it centres on a plot to undo all of Sonic's previous good works. The resulting time-space-mess forces his past self, represented by the mute young thing of early Sonic games, to join forces with the contemporary version.
This allows the player to tackle each zone - pulled from different Sonic games - in either 2D as classic Sonic or 3D as the modern hedgehog. On top of each core zone stage is a range of challenges. Some, involving the supporting characters, are a tad dull, but the doppelganger races and speed boost trials in particular are well-worth the effort.
The level design is smart, swish and true to the franchise's roots, while retaining enough surprises and pitfalls to punish players for not paying attention while running their courses.
The general rule is to aim high for the best possible route, but achieving it on every map is a real challenge.
Players can customise gameplay to a degree, spending earned points on extra speed and improved footwork, shields, and even access to a very special anniversary Easter egg.
The framerate could jar some eyeballs at first, but the adjustment is quick and painless. Rumour has it that the 3D sections are particularly tasty when viewed on TVs with the appropriate technology.
So, after a long line of forgettable adventures, Sonic has returned with a game that's as fun and as ground-breaking as its great-granddaddy from 1991. There is plenty of life in the old 'hog yet.
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, Nintendo 3DS