SAGE 2017: Review Slew #6

SAGE 2017: Review Slew #6

by October 7, 2017

Clash Force 2, Sonic Ages, Sonic World and more!

We made it, everyone! It’s the last day of SAGE. I think I said this a few days ago, but I feel like we had a lot of surprises this year. There are a lot of very talented people out there making fan games, and it’s pretty great to see so many of them turn up at SAGE. Well done! Ah, but wait — there’s still the last batch of games to get to!

Clash Force 2
If you told me this game was based on a 1980’s cartoon show, I’d believe you. Or even just, like, a line of action figures. That’s really all you needed to have your own video game in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Just look at the legacy of M.U.S.C.L.E. and Monster in my Pocket! These heroes, too, feel like they were collectible at one point in their lives. Gameplay is a little bit Sonic the Hedgehog and a lotta bit Contra, not unlike Jazz Jackrabbit in the early 90’s. But whereas Jazz was obviously a PC game, this feels more like a fully console-ized game. Clash Force 2 feels totally confident in what it’s trying to do, but unless you feather your input I feel like you start moving a little too fast, and the same goes for your jump — hold the button too long and the game takes on a weird floaty quality that doesn’t feel quite right. The included demo level is paced well enough that neither thing becomes much of a problem. It’s incredibly basic, but it’s trying to be basic on purpose, and plays within its own limitations very well. It just needs some kind of scoring system. I had fun with it, and maybe you will too.


Super Mario Flashback Engine Test
I’m pretty sure I’ve played a version of this before, but what’s important here is that this is a new and improved version of Flashback. It feels really good to play, but it’s obviously a little early — certain actions are missing sound effects, and I tripped at least one bug that caused the music to overlap itself. The level here also doesn’t end, which may bum some people out; seems like the previous version of Flashback had two worlds to play. Hopefully this new version can get back up and running quickly. I love what’s already here, and it kind of makes me wish I could make another Mario fan game.


Hyper’s Quest
This might be the first game I’ve ever played at SAGE to include the demo version and the full game in the same download. The readme also warns that Hyper’s Quest is this person’s first fan game, and fair enough, I suppose. Hyper’s Quest is a very simple, very basic platformer that feels more like N+ or Super Meat Boy than a traditional Sonic fan game. That’s all well and good, but unfortunately Hyper’s Quest has a collision detection problem it needs to solve. If at any point you are standing too close to a wall, you’ll easily become embedded within it, making it impossible to jump. Slopes suffer a similar fate, as if you accelerate beyond a jog, you’ll start to clip into the floor and the game will think you’ve touched a wall. These are pretty common bugs for a beginner to tackle, and hopefully Hyper (the creator) is up to the task.


Sonic AGES
This is an early demo that shows a lot of promise. Essentially this is a fully-HD 2D Sonic game attempting to build off the visual style of the Sonic CD intro animation (by way of the unlockable Pencil Test, which showed a robust set of Sonic animations perfect for using in a side scrolling game such as this). The game in its current state uses quite a few placeholder assets still, but what’s here has potential to look pretty stunning in the future. I don’t know if the developer intends to go full-detail like Sonic 2 HD, but I think the pencil-sketchy look works very well as an aesthetic and certain objects, like the spikes, look fantastic with mere crosshatching for detail. This is definitely something to keep an eye on.


Sonic World
At this point, Sonic World should be like coming back to an old friend. Last year, I was mighty impressed at the strides the game had made to make setting up and understanding how to play the game much, much easier. Since then, it seems like something about Sonic World has changed. I guess the first big regression is that, last year, Sonic World pre-configured itself to my controller perfectly, with no need for extra setup. This year, even though I was using an Xbox 360 controller, Sonic World had the bindings all wrong, assuming I was using a Playstation controller (perhaps it was carrying over the settings from last time, when I was still using a Dualshock 2). Even after telling Sonic World I was using an Xbox controller, the buttons were still wrong, forcing me to go in and manually rebind everything myself. Simple mistake, I guess, and I wouldn’t hold it against Sonic World, except the other big change appears to be the inclusion of what I assume are community-made levels. The amount of content in Sonic World has more than tripled with this release, which would be great, but many of the new levels just aren’t as polished as Ozcrash’s original Sonic World levels. In particular, a number of ported levels from official Sonic games are included now, and most are too claustrophobic and scripted to work with this game’s slippery, twitchy controls (the best of the bunch, Sonic 06’s Wave Ocean, works because it significantly changes the stage to play to SW’s strengths). Ozcrash’s original levels are still included, of course, and they still play as well as ever, but user beware if you venture out further than that.


Sonic Legacy
With a name like Sonic Legacy, plus its reliance on using Game Gear music, you’d think this ROM hack was a project to port over some of the levels from Sonic’s portable adventures. Instead, it’s a semi-original hack that mainly changes some palettes (though it does feature slightly more graphical changes than that). That’s fine, but I’m just not a very big fan of the level design in this hack. None of it seems to flow very well; power-ups are placed in the weirdest places, often two item monitors right next to each other, and enemies and other hazards are left directly in the player’s path where you’re guaranteed to run into them. Stuff like that really favors the worst elements of trial-and-error play. Levels are also very vertically oriented, so if you do fall prey to a hidden bed of spikes that pops out of the floor underneath you (yes, that also happens unexpectedly), you’ll likely fall two stories to a much lower path. In general, I found it really frustrating to play.


Sonic Rush Legacy
How ironic that this ended up in the same folder for me as Sonic Legacy. I suppose the full title of this game, according to its hastily-created title screen, is “Sonic Rush 3 Legacy Beta Demo” or perhaps “Beta Sonic Rush Legacy 3 Demo.” Either way, it really feels like somebody was rushing (ha) to meet a deadline here. It’s just an engine test, but it’s one that plays pretty okay, all things told. It could use controller support and a lot of fixes to the HUD (why is it so big?) but in terms of being functional, it works for the 33 seconds the test stage lasts. Well, I guess there’s also that GM script error it launches with. Man, those things are everywhere, this year.

And that’s a wrap from me. I really do think my big surprise of the show was Crash N. Tense Adventure. I’m not some huge closet Crash Bandicoot fan or anything like that, but dang, that character art was just really amazing, you know? And the level design is pretty decent, and it feels really good to play… What about you out there, did you have a favorite game?