Spoilers: Another six games get reviewed
SAGE rolls on! And on, and on… and… well, you get the point. Let the review marathon… commence! Or, er, resume!
Every fangame’s gotta have its twist these days. Sonic Worlds has made it a cinch for anybody to throw together their take on Green Hill Zone. You have to stand out from everybody else – whether it’s with thoughtful, intelligent level design (Project Spikepig) or unique game features like multiplayer (Sonic Fusion). At first glance, Sonic Mobius looks like pretty standard fare – Hexagon Hill Zone is your standard introductory level. Where the game really tries to stand out, though, is in playable characters: Sonic and Tails control as you’d expect, but the demo also includes the ability to play as Fang the Sniper (better known as Nack the Weasel to the english speakers). This is where I’d write about how cool it is to play as Fang the Sniper, except that he is unfortunately not quite ready for prime time yet – he’s currently just a sprite swap for Knuckles, and given how many of his animations don’t play correctly, I’m probably correct in assuming he’s not meant to glide and climb walls. Bummer, I guess, but at the very least, my interest has been piqued enough that I want to keep an eye on this to see where it goes. That should account for something. I’m rather amused that he can use the Chaos Emeralds to go Super, too.
Here’s something you don’t see every day: a fangame made in Java! To be quite honest, I’m not entirely sure what to make of this game. It opens with a smarmy quote from Sonic Team’s Takashi Iizuka (made regarding the possibility of levels from the Game Gear Sonic games making an appearance in Sonic Generations 3DS), and its first level is an obvious riff on Sunset Park Act 3 from Sonic Triple Trouble. The real head-scratcher is the game’s visual style: polygonal environments with pre-rendered Sonic X-treme sprites. On the other hand, continuing a theme, I guess this does help set Sonic Gear apart from the dozens of other fangames using Sonic 2, Sonic 3, and Sonic CD graphics. And somewhere, in the back of my mind, I have secretly wanted more people would use the graphics from Sonic X-treme in more projects. I just wish it was easier – “Crazy Train” zone here has next to no actual level design; while conveying a sense of moving up a train, car by car, it’s really nothing but a long string of flat platforms full of enemies and not many rings. The one and only time I made it to the boss, I died within seconds (likely due to PTSD flashbacks of Sonic 2 Game Gear’s Antlion boss from Underground Zone), and Sonic Gear actually started me all the way back at the beginning of the stage, forcing me to trek through the two minute badnik gauntlet all over again from square one. To say a checkpoint before the boss would be useful is a pretty significant understatement. It’s too much work to get to the boss and too easy to die for there not to be checkpoints. Even if this was just meant to be a demo, that should have been priority number one before releasing this. I certainly don’t think I have the patience to go back and try again, that’s for sure.
Sonic Inferno is a tease. The game presents us with a list of five playable characters, from the usual suspects (Sonic, Tails, Knuckles) to the obvious (Shadow), and includes one completely out-of-left-field choice: Chaos Zero, from Sonic Adventure 1. As one would expect, I immediately tried Chaos Zero first, but alas – he cannot be selected at this time (neither can Tails, for that matter). Beyond that, not entirely sure what to say about this demo. The one and only level included is Route 99 from Sonic Advance 3, which Sonic Inferno identifies as it’s “Engine Base Zone”. Thankfully, unlike most engine tests, this is actually laid out like a real level and not just a sandbox to play with game features. Level design is pretty decent, with plenty of clever layer switching (allowing Sonic to zip down and around known areas from a new perspective). The game controls well enough – definitely more focused on replicating more recent Sonic games instead of the Genesis classics, though I did notice something kind of odd: all of the characters feel, for lack of a better term, “large”. This is basically a side effect of the way the game’s physics are tweaked, as not only do characters take a bit longer than usual to accelerate up to full speed, but the gravity is also set kind of low, giving everybody a big, heavy feeling to them, almost like controlling a giant. To be quite honest, I’m not entirely sure if that’s a complaint or a compliment, just that it feels noticeably “different”. There’s certainly precedent in the 3D Sonic games for floaty jump physics, and maybe the acceleration thing is just in my head. Either way, it’s certainly unique.
Cosmic Rush 2.0
Following in the footsteps of last year’s “Tails’ Nightmare 2“, Cosmic Rush 2.0 is the latest in a long line of genuinely enjoyable flash games by “TheBlox”. The original Cosmic Rush was something of a third person racing game, as you controlled Tails in a pseudo-3D environment (not unlike the special stage in Sonic 2) and dodged obstacles at increasingly high speeds. It was a simplistic concept, but one that was actually surprisingly fun, in a weird, “classic arcade game” sort of way. This version of Cosmic Rush – deemed “v2.0” on the titlescreen – instead takes its cues from 2010’s “Tails’ Nightmare 2“, a side-scrolling platformer where Tails found himself trapped in an underground cave. But whereas Nightmare 2 was incredibly basic visually, Cosmic Rush 2.0 is visually lush and quite detailed. It still looks like a flash game (probably because it is), but it’s definitely pushing a level of detail not often seen by games using 2D vector graphics in this day and age. My only real complaint is that it had to end – I fully expected, like the original Cosmic Rush and Tails’ Nightmare 2, that I would be dealing with a full length game. Instead, Cosmic Rush 2.0 ends with its first and only level. Given that “TheBlox” has shown a firm grip on the fundamentals of game design previously, I’m definitely interested in seeing more of this game.
Digimon World Legends
Another browser-based game, Digimon World Legends uses the recently released “Construct 2” to bring us SAGE’s first HTML5 fangame. HTML5, if you’re unaware, is what’s apparently going to replace Flash (or try to, anyway). Instead of just being a basic text and image formatting script, HTML5 will be advanced enough to allow games to be written in it. That being said, HTML5 is years away from the type of proliferation we still see with Flash, and some web browsers still haven’t implemented HTML5 in a consistent, stable way. Such is apparently the case with Firefox, my browser of choice, as the first time I played Digimon World Legends, I couldn’t even get past the titlescreen due to a graphics error. Finally getting in to the game, I have to wonder if maybe something else didn’t also break, because I spent several minutes wandering around the provided RPG map with my Digimon in tow, listening to Chrono Trigger music while absolutely nothing at all happened. I couldn’t leave the area, there was nobody to talk to, and I didn’t get in to any battles – despite the fact that the one and only selectable menu icon on the “bottom screen” was the Options section, which let me set up what music I wanted to play during random battles and boss battles. I seem to recall this game being a similarly basic state last year, so I am not entirely sure if HTML5 really did break or if once again DWL is simply not far enough along for that kind of stuff. Given the text in the booth itself, it sounds more like the latter than the former. A shame.
E02: Sonic Mettrix, Mega Man Triple Threat
And today’s batch of reviews ends on Stealth’s good ol’ E02. Unfortunately, for the end user who only wants to play a game, not much seems to have changed compared to E02 last year. “Mega Man Triple Threat” is still a competent Mega Man fangame done in the style of Mega Man 7. The robot master select screen teases Seraph Woman, which may or may not be new to this edition of the game – since E02 now automatically downloads the most recent version of the game, there’s no way to go back and look at an older version and see if that was there last year or not. Sonic Mettrix continues to feel simultaneously dated and completely on par with most fangames at SAGE. I guess there is one thing in E02 that I don’t remember being there last year, and that is the “Sonic Game Template”. Rather than expecting you to edit Mettrix or Mega Man, there’s now specifically a template geared towards helping you get started making your own Sonic fangame in E02. And, once again, I feel like I need to be a cheerleader for E02, because there’s still not a whole lot of people who are choosing it over Sonic Worlds. The simple fact of the matter is, E02 is way more optimized than Sonic Worlds could ever hope to be. That means games run better on E02 on lower powered hardware than Sonic Worlds does. A lot of Sonic fangames today using Sonic Worlds need a 3ghz processor minimum, and even then you’re likely to get tons of framerate problems. E02, on the other hand, runs on a PSP. Which is another good point: Sonic Worlds only runs on Windows. E02 runs on half a dozen different platforms, including the Wii and GPX2. Imagine somebody playing your fangame on the bus, or on a real TV with a real controller. E02 puts that power in your hands. Really, more of you out there should look in to it using it.
And thus is the end of today’s review slew. Tomorrow’s coverage will consist of the final seven games. See you then!