SAGE 2016: Review Slew #5

SAGE 2016: Review Slew #5

by October 20, 2016

Sonic Battle Force

Lots of bugs to iron out.

Lots of bugs to iron out.

Sonic Battle Force is another 2D sidescroller that tries to mix in some unique changes to the formula, but it can’t quite nail down the basics. You can’t jump onto platforms from underneath; the game treats them as solid structures, which is less than ideal. Oddly, I would get stuck in the level at random points, and with no obvious way to free myself – there’s no helpful knockback when you take damage – that basically forced me to reset. There are multiple playable characters, each with their own cosmetic skins and special moves, so there’s clearly been some thought put into this, but it ultimately feels rough and unfinished relative to many of the other games on display this year.

Sonic Incursion

It's all fun and games until Metal Sonic shows up.

It’s all fun and games until Metal Sonic shows up.

Here’s a 2.5D creation for your consideration. Built on Sonic GDK, Sonic Incursion benefits from the more advanced graphics of Unreal Engine 3, and a lot of it looks quite good. Its standout moment is probably a jet-ski segment that features a lot of scripted chaos in the background, which looks rather cool, but seemingly random deaths during this sequence dulled the fun somewhat. Levels generally flew by pleasantly enough, but a disproportionaly poor boss fight against Metal Sonic really brought the first-act action to a halt; that said, Sonic’s immediate ragdoll-ing upon dying is pretty funny to watch. Although movement can be imprecise and many of the animations need some work, this one’s a solid effort nonetheless.

Sonic: Project Time

It looks nice, but it's missing that certain something.

It looks nice, but it’s missing that certain something.

Sonic: Project Time is based on the Gmate engine, which means you should know what to expect by now; the game builds on the engine’s solid mechanics and controls with some straightforward enemy and level design. With only one brief act to explore, there’s not much game here, but at least the game’s credits go out of their way to acknowledge this. Although it controls and plays well, so do the other Gmate-based games I’ve played so far, which means games need more that than to set themselves apart from the rest. Aside from some custom HUD graphics, there’s little in this one that makes it feel overly distinct or memorable. Also, pausing looks really messed-up. Just saying.

Sonic Boom and the Smash Crew

It's like a crude knock-off cartoon came to life - and turned out to be fun!

It’s like a crude knock-off cartoon came to life – and turned out to be fun!

Talk about a fun surprise. Sonic Boom and the Smash Crew essentially takes the tried-and-true fighting formula from the Super Smash Bros. series and grafts it onto a fan game with hand-drawn graphics that look like something out of a Cartoon Network show. It might sound silly, but it’s actually a lot of fun! The game presents its idea and graphical design confidently, with the cartoon-like aesthetic benefiting from silly but fitting voice work for each of the characters. The fighting mechanics mirror that of Smash with enough quality to be engaging, and the core movement mechanics are responsive and smooth enough to bolster the game’s surprisingly robust Challenge Mode, which should look familiar to Melee players. Have you ever wanted to beat the snot out of Knuckles and Tails? Well, now’s your chance; I suggest you take it.

Sonic Bash! v2

Definitely one of the most creative ROM hacks I've seen.

Definitely one of the most creative ROM hacks I’ve seen.

Here’s something quite different now. In essence, Sonic Bash is a multiplayer hack wherein you and a friend compete to see who can land more hits on Eggman during one of his myriad boss encounters. You can choose from lots of different Eggman encounters, set match settings like the time and whether or not you can see each other’s scores, and you can even link up with friends across the internet for online play. What’s even more impressive is that the game runs as a ROM hack of Sonic 2 and, as such, can be played with actual Genesis emulators like Kega Fusion. Sadly, I wasn’t able to test this game out with anyone, so it was a somewhat one-sided affair…sorry, Tails. That said, it’s a fun and unique twist on Sonic gameplay that’s even better thanks to this new update.

Lancen Adventure

Kirby's enemies meet Mega Man's gameplay.

Kirby’s enemies meet Mega Man’s gameplay.

Remember, it’s not all about Sonic games at SAGE, and this Slew’s first non-Sonic project comes in the form of Lancen Adventure. This is a 2D sidescrolling platformer that more or less plays exactly like a simpler version of the NES Mega Man games with other elements mixed in for good measure, such as enemies clearly inspired by the Kirby franchise. There’s really not a whole lot to say about this one; the mechanics work well for what they’re trying to achieve, but there really isn’t much that sets this game apart from other Mega Man clones, especially considering how much it feels like what it’s duplicating; everything from the movement speed and attack mechanics to the high difficulty screams Mega Man, and this game needs to do more to establish itself as its own unique entity with something fresh to offer.

Super Mario Flashback

It's-a me! Let's-a go! Wa-hoo!

It’s-a me! Let’s-a go! Wa-hoo!

The other non-Sonic game we’re looking at today actually features the blue blur’s longtime rival. Super Mario Flashback is a more cartoon-like take on a 2D Mario game with elements from the 3D games mixed in. As you tear through stages and jump on every Goomba in sight, you’ll find traditional power-ups like the Fire Flower and Invincibility Star waiting to be unleashed, and collectible Green Stars sit scattered throughout levels too. It also scores points for its extremely polished presentation; everything from the graphics to the menus and transitions look very clean and thought-out. On a completely biased and nostalgic note, I appreciated the Super Mario Bros. Deluxe reference in the title screen music as well. If you’re in the mood to explore some of the less-traditional, non-Sonic offerings at SAGE, this is a great place to start.

We still have many more games to cover, so stay tuned for more Review Slews and SAGE coverage as the week rolls on!