And here we are, folks, the final day of the Sonic Amateur Games Expo. Ideally this would have gone up yesterday, but with so many games to talk about, it was a tremendous amount of work to assemble all of these reviews, however short they may have been. At the same time, with so many games at SAGE, I fully realize how valuable this work has been for some of you.
Here’s something surprising: a game that uses Sonic Worlds which doesn’t recognize my controller at all. I’ve had quite a lot of controller woes this past SAGE, with most games not really being able to work with my Dualshock 4. But the Sonic World’s engine has been the one rock in all of this that ALWAYS works with my setup… And yet Sonic Eternal does not. Beyond that, this is a pretty solid Sonic game. My major complaint is that levels feel a little same-y. After a while I began to notice patterns in all three zones: spikes on walls, springs attached to rocks, an abundance of Eggman monitors near shield pickups, and even a lot of similar enemy types. By the time I reached the ruins level, things were starting to blend together a bit.
Sonic & Knuckles: Key Hunters
Oh dear, I’m really not a fan of this level design. Here’s a fan game that replicates the key hunting gameplay of Sonic Adventure, with two differences: you can swap between Sonic and Knuckles (like Encore Mode in Sonic Mania Plus), and instead of three objects to find, you only have to find two. I almost thought this game was critically broken, the first time couple attempts I made to play it. The first level you play is Wood Zone, a level that’s mostly just a maze of teleporters with a couple of underwater sections. There’s one particular teleporter that, if you touch it, it will warp you inside of a wall where it’s almost impossible to get back out again. Learning to avoid it, I then started to wonder if maybe one of the keys was hidden behind this teleporter, which would have been very bad — fortunately, that wasn’t the case. What I ended up learning is that the broken teleporter only works properly AFTER you’ve collected all of the keys. Using it at any time before then, even by accident (as I did), will get you stuck. Also… this game really isn’t for me in general, I guess. Levels seem confusingly laid out and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to play as Sonic, given nothing seems to specifically require him.
Mega Man Adventure
There’s nothing wrong with the idea of trying a 3D Mega Man game again. It’s been a long time since Mega Man Legends, and third person shooters have come a long way since then. Unfortunately, Mega Man Adventure diverges on its own path. The main issue here is that Mega Man only shoots in the direction he’s facing, and he controls like a platformer character. Need to put some distance between you and an incoming enemy? Running away will make Mega Man face the wrong direction. Shooters, whether first or third person, have allowed players to strafe around enemies for multiple decades at this point. This game does not. Even Mega Man Legends gave players a way to strafe! Once I got to the second level, where it was often too dark to even see upcoming jumps, I gave up.
I’ve mentioned in the past that it’s really hard to talk about average fan games. Games where there’s nothing really wrong with them, they just struggle to stand out from the pack. But it stands to reason that somewhere out there would be a fan game SO PLAIN it would actually be noteworthy. Presenting Sonic Warrior, which plays fine for the most part, but has the most plain art direction you’ll probably ever see in your entire life. The level is just one, big, solid color. Forever. That’s it. Rocks? Machinery? Nope, it’s just the same sort of swampy green. Sometimes you’ll find a dead tree. But mostly it’s this green stuff. It’s kind of amazing. Plus, like I said, the game itself seems to play okay.
Here’s a blast that most people reading this article will probably be too young to identify with: remember those “1001 Free Games!” CDs that were incredibly prevalent in the mid-to-late 90’s? They were basically gigantic shareware compilations, often of DOS games, and they’d get away with having “1001 games” by digging up everything and anything, no matter how obscure. Sure, you’d have old standbys like Warcraft 2 or Jazz Jackrabbit, but mostly it was stuff nobody had ever heard of before, like Operation Bodycount or Skunny. Super Glovekid would fit right in on something like that, and I mean that in the best way possible. This is one of those games you’d stumble upon completely by accident and grow up telling the other kids about like some kind of half-forgotten legend. Oh yeah, and it plays pretty good, too.
This looks like someone’s first attempt at making game. I would’ve loved to give it a shot and play it further than I did, but unfortunately there’s a part where you have to leapfrog across enemies in order to cross a bottomless pit, and no matter what I do, I just don’t get enough height from bouncing off an enemy to sustain the chain and reach the other side. It’s actually kind of weird, when you think about it, how often “using a chain of enemies to cross a pit” has been something that’s caused me trouble this year. I think this is at least the third game where something like this has made it impossible for me to continue through a stage.
Poyo Poyo Sonic
This is just a level pack for the original Sonic the Hedgehog. That’s all. No crazy new abilities, no modified music. An edited version of Sonic’s sprite from Sonic 3 has been stuffed in here, and later zones have new color palettes, but mostly it just replaces the layouts of the levels. Difficulty seems pretty uneven; the new Green Hill Act 1 was about on par with the original stage, but Green Hill Act 2 opened with a spike pit Sonic could only just barely cross when I jumped from the very tip of the platform during a full sprint. Act 3 housed nothing more than the boss fight against Eggman, in which it gave me an invincibility power-up, making it a cakewalk. For a moment I thought maybe I was missing something, that maybe there was more to it than this, but there’s no information provided. What you see is what you get. After Green Hill, you stop getting acts and start getting stand-alone levels. By the time I reached the third one, a modified Spring Yard Zone (er, “Colison Calamity Zone”), eventually I reached a place where the floor ahead of me wasn’t marked as solid and I fell to my death at the bottom of the stage. I decided I’d seen enough.
Sonic Mania: Colorful Encore
This is another “Does what it says on the tin” sort of entry — all this does is replace all of the Encore Mode palettes in Sonic Mania Plus with better, more colorful alternatives. Encore Mode’s color choices looked washed out even in the best of scenarios, at at worst, with levels like Flying Battery, it borderlined on hideous. I’m not entirely sold on all of the color choices in this mod, given I do think a few of the Encore palettes are okay, but the benefits outway the negatives, I think. I’m particularly fond of the more colorful Titanic Monarch zone, with its threatening blood red sky.
Sonic Mania: Sonic Discovery
Just like Colorful Encore, this also does what it says on the tin: it restores many prototype elements that were changed in Sonic Mania before its release, including bringing back the game’s original title of “Sonic Discovery.” It’s an interesting peek back in time, I guess. In the 20 or so minutes I spent poking at it, I didn’t notice tons of differences. That’s not to say they weren’t there, just that they didn’t jump out and grab me. The actual list of changes is pretty comprehensive — from restoring the lost Janken Boss in Studiopolis to restoring more simplistic designs for the Hardboiled Heavies. I just don’t really have the time to spend multiple hours going back through all of Sonic Mania looking for differences. But I bet you out there reading this does!
Sonic Mania: The Misfits Pack
This is a WIP level pack for Sonic Mania. It follows what Sonic Mania itself already did, namely take old levels and revitalize them, while mixing in new stages as well, with what seems to be a particular focus on levels people tend to dislike. Hilltop, Labyrinth, Metropolis, Wacky Workbench and one new stage, Boardwalk Bayou, are on offer here. The Bayou level is pretty cool; it takes concepts from Oil Ocean Zone and spins them in to a murky swamp level, and it looks and feels noticeably different from everything else in Sonic Mania. Metropolis Zone is also interesting, as it does more than simply adapt the Sonic 2 stage wholesale and instead turns it into a kind of half-and-half blend with Sonic 2’s lost Wood Zone. The other stage I tried, Hilltop Zone, unfortunately didn’t really seem that interesting to me. The level was cramped and hard to navigate in a way that the original stage did not. The other levels seemed cool, though.
Shoutouts to Sonic Saga for keeping things simple: instead of a million different playable characters, you get to choose between either Sonic or Ray the Flying Squirrel. I immediately went for Ray, who… unfortunately doesn’t seem to work right. All of his animation and sounds are there, but once you dive, pulling back up to regain your height doesn’t seem to do anything. So you have two options: glide down slowly, or glide down very quickly. The included demo level, while an original layout, seems to mostly be made out of existing placeholder graphics for Sonic Worlds. Eventually I played to a point where I was trapped in a room with some bumpers. The idea seemed to be that I’d use the bumpers to bounce myself out of the room, but after several minutes, all I could ever get them to do was bounce me back down the halfpipe. So, I gave up. It’s obviously got some kinks to iron out.
Sonic The New Adventure
I’m afraid I don’t really understand this game. I know how to play it, I think, but I don’t understand it. As far as I can tell, it only contains one level, but the download comes with an entire soundtrack’s worth of music for many different levels. Sonic has a boost meter, but I mashed every button on my controller and never triggered anything. Mighty, the demo’s other playable character, also has a boost meter, which seems to trigger some kind of hoverboard glide that plays a ring chime in reverse? It just doesn’t always make logical sense.
It’s nice to have one more big surprise on the final day, and truth be told, I almost missed Dream Dasher — I had this article all written up, ready to publish, when suddenly, scrolling through the list of games, I realized I’d somehow missed this one. Dream Dasher basically takes the idea of Sonic’s homing attack and spins it out in to its own entire gameplay concept. It actually ends up working quite well, because here, not only must the homing attack be aimed, but different enemies must be approached from different angles. Positioning yourself to get the right angle on the action quickly becomes extremely important, and when combined with a combo and ranking system, it almost feels like this game was tailor-made for me. Definitely make sure to grab it before SAGE is over.
Sonic Smash Revived
Here we are at the final game left for me to review for SAGE 2018. And… it’s another multiplayer fighting game. Unlike Battle Cross Fever, I can’t even pretend to know what the game plays like, as, with my controller problems, both characters move at exactly the same speed, meaning they never meet each other to land any hits. They just stand there, always equidistant, machine gun blasting the same punches into thin air. It looks hilarious, but it’s not anything I can really make a definitive judgement call on, unless you want me to complain about menu art or something. But that would be kind pedantic. I dunno, if you’ve got someone around to play a local game with, give it a shot. Not the most useful thing I’ve said at SAGE this year, but it’s been a long week.
With this article combined, I have talked about 87 games across 29 pages of text, for a total count of 14,905 words, all in just seven days. Whew! That’s a lot of stuff! See you next year! I’m going to go catch my breath now.