SAGE Advice, Part 2: Classic Styled Games (Newcomers)

It seems like no more than a trice since I was last here, giving out “SAGE Advice” – reviewing the games on offer at the Sonic Amateur Games Expo – and now that Act 2 is underway, it’s time for another go. Two SAGEs in one year can be pretty hectic, but it’s double the fun! I’ll provide links to each game’s booth, as well as a download link in case you wind up reading this after SAGE closes.

Today I’m checking out the 2D games. Because there are so many, I’ll be splitting them up into multiple posts. I’ll cover the classic styled newcomers today, and the ones that are returning from SAGE Act 1 tomorrow. I’ll cover the modern styled games and the non-Sonic games after that.


Sonic Max

sonic max

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Sonic Max is billed as a custom Game Maker Studio engine intended to be “as accurate as possible” to Sonic 2.

The Good:

  • It’s a good start at what it’s attempting to be.
  • There are lots of gimmicks and features provided in the test levels.

The Bad:

  • Basically, everything that isn’t accurate to Sonic 2. When that’s the stated goal, then even the tiniest things add up.

Conclusion: Sonic Sonic

If one’s trying to play “spot the difference” between this and Sonic 2, it’s not even challenging. Everything – from palettes to solidity to physics to timing – is palpably just a little off. (Of particular note is how much Sonic jitters as he moves; here’s a free tip: Sonic shouldn’t be drawn at x, y, he should be drawn at floor(x), floor(y), and the camera should follow that same point.) But it’s a stable effort with a lot of features already in place, and if it can grow beyond this point it could be a great option for Game Maker Studio users.


Sonic: The Blue Blur

blue blur

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Sonic: The Blue Blur is barely a demo… it’s more of a playable teaser, really. The one provided act is a bare layout. According to the readme file, it’s only being shown in order to take part in SAGE, which is a reasonable enough thing. The booth contains mockup screenshots and download links for the soundtrack and also a pack of graph paper concept art. With regards to the latter, I’ve seldom if ever seen this done, and it’s pretty cool to see especially if you’ve ever sketched out zones on graph paper yourself.

There’s nothing to really review, but I wish the project luck.


Sonic Dynamo

dynamo

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Sonic Dynamo is a one zone demo made with Sonic Worlds.

The Good:

  • Custom title screen art, and it’s really good. I’m getting spoiled to this, and fangames without it seem lacking.
  • Nice level art. It’s not all original, but it comes together well and has a pretty colour palette.
  • There’s a cool, if a little unfinished, sandstorm effect in the second act that forces Sonic back if he can’t stay out of it.
  • The boss is neat and feels like an authentic Sonic boss. I kind of wish it moved a little faster, though.

The Bad:

  • There’s nothing special or interesting about the level layouts. You kind of just breeze through them without any challenges or surprises.

Conclusion: Sonic Sonic Sonic

It’s solid, and pretty, and has a strong identity. I just wish it were a little more exciting. Sonic games need to never let up with the surprises to be truly unforgettable.


Sonic Mega Drive

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Sonic Mega Drive is a one zone demo created by Felik, the mind behind the excellent Sonic Fusion. It seeks to recapture the “quality gameplay and atmosphere of classic Sonic games”. Okay, so that’s the goal of a lot of fangames, but can it pull it off?

The Good:

  • Beautiful Mega Drive cartridge icon. 🙂
  • A custom, animated (!) title screen. It doesn’t have a perfect professional shine to it, but it’s awesome that it’s there. I love the Robotnik airship.
  • Gorgeous art for everything from the levels to the objects. I can’t really tell what’s original or not because I don’t closely follow every fangame and engine release, but I do know it looks great. I stared at the shiny bubble shield sprite for quite some time!
  • Fun level layouts full of new gimmicks and badniks. There are some new twists (pardon the pun) on the classic corkscrew that really felt fresh.
  • Great music. At first I thought the powerful attitude of the BGM in Act 1 was a little too much, but in the end I really liked the way it felt with the level.
  • At first I was wondering where the Spindash was, but it turns out that you can unlock it as you play. This is an intriguing system and I wonder what other abilities will be accumulated in the final version.
  • The bosses! They aren’t very challenging, but they have unforgettable entrances that I absolutely love.

The Bad:

  • I’m not a big fan of the tired old Tropical Island level trope, but you know what? I’ll forgive it this time because of the great transition to Act 2 and the creativity therein.
  • The title is a bit weak. How are we going to Google Sonic Mega Drive?

Conclusion: Sonic Sonic Sonic Sonic

Sonic Mega Drive is practically flawless and a good example of what I was saying about Sonic needing surprises to keep it exciting. Sonic 3 opens with a new rival punching Super Sonic in the face, and doesn’t let you go one whole act before literally setting a classic Sonic trope on fire and then drops bomb all over it. While Sonic Mega Drive doesn’t reach quite the same level of in-your-face epicness, it’s definitely on the road to its stated goal of recreating the Mega Drive magic. A real standout.


Sonic 4 Remastered

remastered

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Sonic 4 Remastered is a game with an incredibly clever story: Dr. Robotnik has collected all seven Time Stones and sent Sonic back in time to 2004 when Sonic fangames totally reeked. Can Sonic overcome the grueling challenges set for him (by Game Maker 5.3a) and defeat his lifelong nemesis (the slope)?

Oh wait, that’s not the story? Well, moving right along.


Sonic Overture

overture

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Sonic Overture is a one zone demo made with Sonic Worlds. It’s a prequel, set on Christmas Island, and has a bunch of homages to the concept art from the early days of Sonic 1‘s development.

The Good:

  • For a game called “Overture” it’s only fitting, but the music is brilliant. I can only describe it as joyous, and it matches the atmosphere created by the level art perfectly.
  • The level art is similarly brilliant. It starts good, but the second and third acts get even better. Seeing the Sonic 1 concept art come to life in such an expertly crafted way is amazing.
  • There’s an adorable cameo in Act 2 that I can’t help but love.
  • And another custom, animated title screen! This must be the SAGE of great title screens.

The Bad:

  • There’s almost nothing to do in the levels. Aside from a couple cute badniks and a nice new spiral tunnel, you’ll spend most of your time admiring the scenery instead of being challenged by actual gameplay.

Conclusion: Sonic Sonic Sonic Sonic

Sonic Overture has some of the highest production values I’ve ever seen in a fangame. If the levels had been more fleshed out, it would have been a perfect demo. Absolutely do not pass this one up.


Sonic Mega Drive and Sonic Overture tie for favourites of this batch. So much good stuff this time around!

Be sure to come back tomorrow when I’ll be looking at the games returning from SAGE Act 1 and seeing how much they’ve improved. See you then!

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