Review: Chun-nan Adventure Pack

Review: Chun-nan Adventure Pack

by March 20, 2009

What did we think about the first Sonic Unleashed DLC? Find out!

As we slowly move forward in to the digital age, digital content is becoming a much larger part of our lives. Microsoft built the Xbox 360 to be a hub of digital content, comparing downloadable content (DLC) to the types of small “micro-transactions” that had been occurring in the mobile phone market for years. But not all DLC is good – even at the launch of the Xbox 360, there were immediate examples of bad DLC. For $2.50, players could buy Horse Armor for their steed in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and many railed against its developer, Bethesda Software, for asking consumers to pay for content that should have been in the game to begin with. That was three years ago (almost to the day, in fact), and since then, DLC has been scrutinized with a careful eye towards just how well it expands upon the retail game – or if it’s just more “Horse Armor”. Enter the first DLC pack for Sonic Unleashed, the “Chun-nan Adventure Pack”.

For around $3.00, the “Chun-nan Adventure Pack” offers a grand total of six levels for Sonic Unleashed, all set in the misty mountains of “Chun-nan”, the game’s version of China. The bulk of these levels take place during the daytime as Sonic, with only two Werehog levels on offer. Out of the four daytime levels, two are remixed versions of existing levels (Dragon Road Act 1 and Dragon Road Act 2) to make them more challenging. That’s not to say that Dragon Road Act 3 and Act 4 are easy, either. In a lot of ways, these levels almost demand you go as slow as you can possibly muster, as they unrelentingly throw you in to spikes with very little reaction time, and rings are dangerously scarce. As always, though, the game is generous with extra lives, and placing free 1ups near particularly difficult sections is still in practice. Out of all the daytime levels, I’d say Dragon Road Act 2-2 is the hardest, asking you to complete 5 laps through a 2D obstacle course. Dying is much more than simply the loss of life here, as restarting from a checkpoint leaves you with no ring energy to use for boosting, making certain sections of this level much, much harder. If you thought the last level of Sonic Unleashed was hard for Sonic, the Chun-Nan Adventure Pack is even more difficult.

Thankfully, the Werehog fares a lot better. One of the bigger problems with the Werehog in the original levels is that they were just kind of boring – fighting enemies was mindless, as you just mashed on the same combo over and over again until a room was clear. Though there is lot of fighting for the Werehog in the Chun-nan Adventure Pack, the boost in difficulty really helps in making it feel a lot more fun, especially for a fully powered-up Werehog. Ripping through dozens of enemies with the most powerful combos in the game is an absolute blast, and there is enough variety in enemies and their placement to actually require a little bit of skill and strategy. The Prince-of-Persia-style platforming sections in between each fight are also really great – never too difficult to be frustrating, but never mindlessly easy, either, and best of all, both Werehog levels are under five minutes in length. If every Werehog level in the main Sonic Unleashed game played as well as the ones included in the Chun-nan Adventure pack, reviews for Sonic Unleashed would most likely be much, much more positive.

What has me slightly concerned about this pack is how it’s positioned. In true “Horse Armor” fashion, one could view the Chun-nan Adventure Pack as something we should have gotten all along: Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic Heroes, Shadow the Hedgehog, and Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 all offered up “Hard Mode” as something built-in to the game. Sonic the Hedgehog 2006’s first DLC, “Very Hard Mode”, enabled you to buy the increased difficulty level for one character spanning all levels in the entire game. If the Chun-Nan Adventure Pack is setting an example for future  Sonic Unleashed DLC, instead of  getting “Hard Mode” for free as an extra already built-in to the game, we are instead paying for it on a level-per-level basis. Assuming every continent in the game gets a bonus level pack like this, that’s an additional $28 you will have paid for a feature that was provided for free in previous Sonic games.

Whether or not that means this is worth a purchase depends on how you feel about Sonic Unleashed. The real draw in this content pack are the two new Werehog levels, which easily surpass the quality found in the original Werehog levels included the retail release of Sonic Unleashed. Sonic’s daytime levels in the Chun-nan Adventure Pack are simply too frustrating to be worth much to anybody except the most extreme challenge-junkies. If more Werehog is what you’re looking for or you’re craving an even greater level of challenge than Sonic Unleashed already provides, the Chun-nan Adventure pack may be worth the $3.