SAGE ‘09 Fangame Review Slew #2

SAGE ‘09 Fangame Review Slew #2

by July 31, 2009

Five games reviewed for the price of one article!

It’s time once again for another round of one-paragraph SAGE reviews. I tried to pick a wide variety for this round, and we’ve got everything from party games to RPGs to mine sweeper. So, as SAGE winds down in to its final day, let’s check out five games hot off of the “show floor”…

Sonic Time Twisted
Sonic: Time TwistedLast year, I railed against a demo of this game pretty hard. A lot of things about Time Twisted needed tons of work; everything from the controls to the enemy placement to how the player took damage… it was an extremely frustrating demo, and its creator, Overbound, was a little devastated at what I had said. But, as I should remind entrants this year, I don’t say these things to be mean – I say them with the hopes that my advice will lead to the creation of a better game. The cool thing, though, is that he got back up, dusted himself off, and produced this year’s Time Twisted demo, which is a dramatic improvement over what was shown last year. With three acts and a (rather clever) boss, it’s also one of the meatier demos this year, to boot. There’s still some rough edges that need to be sanded down (Enemies move a bit too fast and it’s far too easy to accidentally activate Time Travel when you don’t want to, for example) but the improvements Overbound has made since last year’s demo are impressive. Still one of the the only Sonic CD fangames I’ve seen, Time Twisted is definitely worth checking out.

Knuckles Mine Hunt
minehuntApparently, this is a remake of a minigame contained within Sonic Battle. I don’t remember much about Sonic Battle except for the ridiculous spike in difficulty halfway through the game. But, the concept of Knuckles Mine Hunt is simple enough to understand, because it’s basically Mine Sweeper. Production values are slick, or, at least, about as slick as you’re going to get out of Mine Sweeper. If I had to lodge any complaints, it would be that the free version of Mine Sweeper that comes with Windows actually has more features (The ability to change difficulty levels, set up a custom board size, etc.) – but I suppose that Mine Hunt is also an easier version of the game, as, unlike the built-in copy with Windows, Mine Hunt gives you three chances to clear a board before bringing up a “Game Over” screen. Mine Hunt also automatically clears part of the board for you when you start each level, and, on rare occasions, this can actually result in you moving on to the next level without even having to dig for anything. Having instructions included with the game also would have helped, because it took me way longer than it should have to figure out that, to move to the next level, you had to click the right mouse button. Still, if you’re one of those Mine Sweeper addicts and you’re also a Sonic fan, this might be worth looking at.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3D
duke0006So we have Sonic Robo-Blast 2, which uses the DooM engine… and now, we have Sonic the Hedgehog 3D, which uses the Duke Nukem 3D Build engine. Unfortunately, the 11 years of experience SRB2 has over STH3D really shows: levels are chunky, unnatural looking and repetetive. Camera work is questionable. Animations are stiff. Lighting might as well be non-existent. In some ways, it may actually be an uglier game than SRB2. And yet, some way, some how, I actually had a little bit of fun with STH3D. The controls have just enough drift to feel “right”, and Sonic moves at a brisk enough pace that I can forgive some of its shortcomings. Regardless, STH3D has a long way to go. My criteria for games at SAGE is always with the standards of real retail products – and while some may consider that unfair to some of the hobbyists that show their games at the expo, in my experience, the vast majority of people who aren’t already frequent visitors of share similar opinions on the subject. If you’re making games to please yourself, that’s fine – but if you’re making games that you want the populace to enjoy, you must really consider what makes a “good” Sonic game. I’m pretty sure using giant spiders and fire-breathing basketballs as enemies or having sections that showcase Sonic being able to swim aren’t things that most people would consider elements of “good” Sonic games (though, in its defense, the underwater section where you must swim is actually handled pretty well). If the screenshots or anything I just said has piqued your interest even a little bit, give it a look.

Sonic Babies
babbyDo not envy me for having to review a game called “Sonic Babies”. Not that I could ever forsee a situation where you would envy somebody in that position, anyway. Basically, Sonic Shuffle wasn’t a good enough stab at a Mario Party clone, so now we have “Sonic Babies”. You can imagine my anticipation when, not only did the demo come with an installer (a cardinal sin for a fangame demo), but the installer did not even create a shortcut to the game’s executable file, meaning I had to manually track down the folder that I installed it to in C:\Program Files\. The demo supposedly contains ten minigames, though I noticed that, after selecting some of them (with a mouse pointer that’s controlled with the WASD keys) I would instead be dumped back to the titlescreen without explanation. Unfortunately, I can’t really say anything about the minigames themselves – there are no computer-controlled players in this demo, and I was running a bit low on people who were willing to play a game with me called “Sonic Babies”. Minigames, from what I could tell, were pretty standard Mario Party fare, sometimes favoring luck just as much as skill. Unfortunately, having four people crowded around a keyboard sounds awfully cramped, and I don’t know if the game supports four separate gamepads or not (if it doesn’t, it definitely should). If you have four Mario-Party-loving friends that aren’t scared away by the name and the type of characters involved, and are all willing to cram themselves around a single keyboard, give this a shot. Though, with such narrow criteria, I don’t know how many people are actually willing to do that…

Sonic: Rebirth of the Azure Wind
rebirthazureNow here’s an interesting case: Rebirth of the Azure Wind is not only a Sonic fangame, it’s a fangame of an existing fangame (Genesis of the Azure Wind, a Halo mod I reviewed last year). If that wasn’t enough, the game comes with not just one, but two installers! Okay, so maybe it’s not so bad – but as far as being a departure from a normal Sonic game, Rebirth of the Azure Wind is definitely approaching the city limits. If it’s not obvious, this is a Sonic RPG – but not one with the the input-heavy action elements of Bioware’s Sonic Chronicles. Instead, think of a SNES Final Fantasy where you can run around comedically fast and collect rings. The turn-based battle sequences don’t stray much from the “Final Fantasy” roots, as Sonic even has a slot on his command menu for MP-consuming magic spells. Get in to town and you find it is populated by your standard uninteresting RPG NPCs, including a shopkeeper who is willing to sell you a Broadsword of all things. I hate to say it, but when word first came out that Bioware would be making a Sonic RPG, it was this type of game that first leapt to mind as the wrong way to handle the concept. Jamming Sonic characters in to a Final-Fantasy-style RPG just does not make sense to me, given Sonic is a character focused much more on action, and Rebirth of the Azure Wind only compounds that fact by letting generic RPG tropes seep in. Thanks, but no thanks.