SAGE 10: Review Slew #2

SAGE 10: Review Slew #2

by August 11, 2010

The next five games on our hit parade.

Surprised to see me? Mr. Bloom has asked me to step up and cover the next row of titles fresh from the Sonic Amateur Games Expo. Get ready for novels of long, winding prose skewing off into tangential discourse only slimly related to the original topi…

I’m sorry? Oh, I’ve just been informed he kept it to about a paragraph each. Well, I suppose if you must have the Reader’s Digest version…

"Gee Animal, have you seen Ms. Piggy around?"Techno the Gamma Project
This is one of those games where it’s too easy to mock the subject matter, and ignore what it actually contributes. Wherever TechnoSuperguy got the name for this game, or the lead character, will forever be a mystery to me. The lead character, possibly the love-child between Sonic the Hedgehog and Kermit the Frog, with his “Buzzsaw Somersault” and shadowy clone, may not inspire much early hope. But, as tricky as it might be to explain, this game works for what it is. For the start, the game isn’t a clutter of clashing sprites, all of the content in the game has been freshly drawn and animated for it, sometimes rather fluidly. There’s two characters, with slightly different move sets, and each go to different levels built around those moves. The plot and cutscenes don’t take themselves too seriously; they can get a little wordy, but if that bothers you, there’s even a Skip button. And for a demo, the game still generously tracks and saves your progress, even allowing you to skip back to completed levels. Two small things that nagged me was that the high speed segment felt a little out of place, and that one type of enemy homes in on you directly, passing through structures with ease that block your way, and can approach from angles difficult or impossible to shoot at. On the whole, though, it’s a very polished start, and may even benefit from severing the last few ties to Sonic currently present in favor of a completely original approach.

And after you’re done playing, maybe you’ll feel inclined to buy a mug. Be the envy of your co-workers.

Zorro the Architect.Sonic Phoenix
LH’s entry takes clear inspiration from Sonic Unleashed, with sequences of boosting, QTEs, and guided spring paths. This is far more of a Sonic Rush experience than a classic one, but if that’s your taste, you might enjoy it. I did appreciate how the game surprised me with multiple, very different paths through the levels, even ones that weren’t immediately obvious. The move set feels pretty solid, with a powerful stomp that rocks the screen, a functional homing attack, and a boost move only available at your maximum sprint. If there was one thing that dogged the game, the framerate really lagged for me, and I suspect it might have to do with the effect used to alter level graphics to match your local time zone. There’s more polish work to be done to the menus too, with which should ideally be keyboard driven, at least as an option, and the map screen needs some definite work, either shrinking it to match the screen size, or at the very least highlighting which gray dots are accessible levels. For this demo, I believe there’s only the one you start above, but they’re not the easiest to see. The instructions also go through a strange step of labeling the keyboard keys with letters, such as “J = Z Key” to represent jump, but the game just directly refers to Z, X, and C for icons and QTEs. It might be an attempt at accomodating joystick players, but I think perhaps different labels are in order.

Eggman's master plan of building a really tall wall pays off quickly.Sonic NXT
AlTheBoss’s turn, although maybe it was a little too early. He didn’t even have time to write out Next in full! At the start, Sonic’s sleeping with his elbow on Tails; talk about taking your sidekick for granted. Hitting start, the game kicked up an error for me about a missing file, then after a click of Ignore, put me on the menu screen with the first option being Exit Game, with no warning before kicking you out on an accidental press. Didn’t catch me my first time, although it did on a subsequent playthrough. So you can pick between three characters, the standard Sonic, Tails and Knuckles. For Sonic, X makes him say “HO!”, often in a frightening single-person chorus, when your boost bar is empty. In the air, the boost button is one of two trick buttons. The other trick button I didn’t discover until a secondary playthrough, the first time becoming stuck at a dead end until I discovered W of all things makes Sonic launch high into the air, and from then on I was “Hey-HEY!”ing through the air rather unfairly. As Tails I could throw rings, and flew over most of the level, even over walls. At the end the score tally was content to reward me for -800 points. I did this again in Act 2, and even the Boss Act. Tails is clearly the speedrunner’s choice. As Knuckles, pressing X makes him yell “DAH!”, and he can glide and climb. It’s the getting up over the ledge that confounds him, often falling back to the ground below stuck in his climbing pose. The level layout reminds me of Advance 3, with some rough points and springs that don’t trigger correctly. In fact, collisions in general don’t always happen quite like they should, jump attacks going right through enemies and item bubbles at times, and player sprites tend to jitter about in their animations. The game seems to be a bit of a resource hog, after shutting down my browser, it ran smoothly sometimes, but at other times it seemed to bog down for no clear reason. Overall, I don’t think I’d say it’s the worst game at SAGE, but it’s not one I can recommend yet.

Moto Bug's silent scream.Sonic Gijinka
Enclave G took a different approach, theming a game around a human-styled Sonic, based on early development art of the series. The actual gameplay isn’t particularly unique, with zone selection areas like Advance 3’s hubs, and gameplay being the normal homing attack/boost/stomp move mix, but one trouble is that Sonic is so large on the screen, and half of the time you’re seeing a lot of empty ground below you, that you just can’t always see the dangers around you. In at least one instance in the demo, an enemy was obscured by the foreground, leading to a cheap hit, and shortly afterward the game surprised me with a QTE, using keys the game doesn’t otherwise touch. It seemed unnecessary. One other complaint is how comically small the springs and monitors are compared to Sonic. It may be a stylistic choice, but it just looks strange, and for the monitors makes it harder to quickly identify what they are. I will say this game has some interesting sprite work and a different vision than others, but the gameplay doesn’t stand out from the rest, and there has to be some changes to at least the camera system.

One final warning, this took a long time to load for some reason, most likely because of some error. I gave up on it the first time, and was about to redownload it the second time when I noticed the progress bar had finally moved.

I love games that don't have any viable rule set!Super Mario Panic
And here’s another game based off of Sonic Unlea- huh? Bluehog Gaming has decided to show up this time with a Mario title instead, but not just a standard stomp-fest, oh no. It’s like a challenge ROM hack, but with the cheating of I Wanna Be The Guy. Notice how the cloud to my left is red? That’s right, it kills you. Invisible coin blocks, falling through expected solid objects to death, being trapped by the scrolling… this isn’t my type of game. I’m sure there’s an audience, but I don’t know if they’ll find the physics solid enough to sit through it, over playing a genuine rom hack. On the plus side, it downloads a nice soundtrack along with the game.

These hearts are for MURDER.Rose of Longevity
Bonus stage! While Ryan was unable to start DarkJedi188’s entry, I was able to receive the full brunt of it. So let’s discuss Rose of Longevity.

The story talks about Amy’s depression at both Sonic and Shadow turning her down for dates, apparently casting a pretty wide net there, and worries about becoming an old, unloved woman. While in her “little pink bed,” a “creepy genie” tells her of a magical flower that will let her retain her youth forever. We have a goal, but the story still makes sure to tell us that she had a shower and ate breakfast before leaving, because these are important things to know.

Gameplay is… well, let me explain the biggest problem with this game. If you jump, or are launched, you snap immediately to the apex of your leap, then snap instantly back down to the ground just a moment later. I mean snap, instantly. It’s incredibly disorienting. I played through and completed the first stage, which involved using teleporters at one point to double-back and hit a switch to move on, but that was the height of complexity for the level, other than coping with the strange jumping. Hitting enemies with the hammer was very hit-or-miss; there are cheat keys listed in both the documentation and the in-game help, you’re probably going to want to give yourself the long-range attack early.

Yes Fan Character, you would have been so awesome.After the level, I was treated to Blaze, Cream, and a fan character dancing to Under Pressure. That’s what it looked like, at any rate. The dialogue that followed was confusing, unable to decide between using language like “rascal” and “geepers-creepers” to… far more “uncouth” terms. As Amy dropped into Level 2, I dropped my finger onto the Esc key.

There’s also a minigame included featuring said fan character, where you fly around in a ship, collect good Chao, convert bad Chao, and get shot at and rammed by tons of Buzzbombers. The level feels very laggy, and the ship can’t fly diagonally, and will just stop if you press two directions in once, such as Up and Left.

One small thing I did find appealing were the bonus stages. The one I played was very simplistic, but the idea with Amy dropping down slowly with her balloons, unable to touch the walls or the Dark Chao, seemed like a good whimsical fit for the game.

Otherwise, *ROLLS EYES & SHAKES HEAD*

Here we are at the end of another batch. Techno impressed me with the amount of original work going into it, but I’d say take a look at Sonic Phoenix too if you can stand to play something more like the Rush titles. Stay tuned for the next five games, all of which start with “Sonic,” because nonconformity will not be tolerated.