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 original games, i.e. those that aren’t set in the Sonic universe, as well as the miscellaneous games that are either based on other properties or are based on Sonic but didn’t fit in the categories I already covered.
Bingo the Multiva
I don’t know what a Multiva is, or why Bingo is a good name for one, but I do know that Bingo the Multiva, which I dismissed as “[nothing] more than a footnote” at Act 1, has improved a huge amount since them. And I mean a lot.
(Note: It’s really neat that there’s an Android version, but I can’t comment on it, because I only played the Windows version.)
- The title screen has a fancy new logo that drops the Sonic ribbon for its own style.
- Bingo himself looks way better. He’s still unmistakably an edit of Sonic’s sprites, but all the frames are now consistently drawn and the design has been tweaked to have much more appealing colours.
- Bingo now has a new dashing ability, so he doesn’t get stuck in tricky areas where his jump can’t make it like in the Act 1 demo.
- The Windows version of the demo now simply unzips and runs without the nuisance of an installer.
- The level art is all original, and it’s pretty nice. It’s not going to challenge Donkey Kong Country or Yoshi’s Island, but it’s charming in a Windows 95 kind of way – and I honestly don’t mean that to be insulting. I think it’s neat that the effort was put in to draw it all, with nice touches like the ancient Multiva statues. I’ll take this over recycled Sonic Advance tiles any day.
- The music is (as far as I can tell) original, and it’s good, suiting the environments.
- I was not expecting a boss battle with full voice acting that taunted me as I cleared the final level. It was a nice surprise, and done pretty well, too.
- A lot of the collision issues have been fixed.
- The jumping physics are still some of the weirdest I’ve ever encountered. They turn certain jumps into puzzles almost, as you struggle to find a way to get enough momentum to make them. It’s nowhere near as bad as the Act 1 demo, mostly due to better level design and the new dash ability, but it gets in the way.
- There are still some physics issues with running down slopes.
- The game concept is not that original. Some elements of the story, for example Bingo being a “reluctant hero”, could be interesting, but don’t come across in the game itself.
For a game that wasn’t especially remarkable at Act 1, with a cutesy, Chao-like protagonist, it feels uncharacteristically ambitious. Its growth over the last five months is impressive, showing that the creator has good sense and can quickly work to improve. It’s still not especially amazing, but when playing it I was left with a considerable amount of positive sentiment toward it, so if you choose to check it out maybe you’ll be similarly charmed.
Tails’ Nightmare 3
I’ve never played the first two, so I don’t know what the series is all about. Tails’ Nightmare 3 is a Flash game, so it plays right in your browser, but it’s not overly simple and has enough elements to be a proper Sonic experience.
- I think it’s cool that Tails can do the elemental shield abilities in addition to being able to fly.
- Giving Tails a Super Peel-Out equivalent (hold Up and press Jump) that lets him charge up and fly high into the sky is neat.
- The animations are well done, and in character.
- This is going to vary by machine, but for me I got painfully slow framerates even on the lowest setting with particles off.
I gave up at the first boss due to a combination of slowdown and frustration. I just couldn’t get Tails to react in time even though I figured out the pattern and struck at the right moments. It’s a shame, because if this could run correctly for me, it’s actually a well designed game. I’d probably have given it a higher score if I’d been able to play it right, so go ahead and check it out in case it works better on your machine.
Sonic Speed Fighters 2
I don’t play fighting games, and know next to nothing about them. Therefore my opinions on this would be totally irrelevant. You can play as a character named “Vicious the Dark”, though. It’s so over the top, it’s almost admirable!
Sega Brawlers Megamix
I don’t care much for brawlers, either, so giving my opinion on this game would also be totally irrelevant. I do find the huge number of characters, especially the obscure ones, pretty cool. I mean, come one, you can play as Socket, Pulseman, and Ristar! If you like playing Sega games like Streets of Rage in addition to Sonic, this might be for you.
Digimon Heroic Battle Spirit
I really loved Digimon Adventure (i.e. seasons 1 and 2) when I was a teen, but just like with Yu-Gi-Oh!, as the new seasons progressed with all these weird new characters I lost interest. Now when I interact with anything Digimon I feel like I’m out of my depth. So when I see a Digimon fangame at a Sonic expo, even though it should be right up my alley, my feelings about it wind up being more complex. I skipped it at Act 1, but went ahead and played it this time.
- I like the way the dialogue and story are integrated into the gameplay so that there’s no need for paging through cutscenes.
- Oh dear. Very little else, I’m afraid. There’s a lot of features here, and it’s apparent a huge amount of effort went into them, so I feel a little bad about this, but nothing stands out as particularly well done.
- It doesn’t feel very Digimon to me. You start as Agumon, in a castle, fighting Megaman enemies. It’s not exactly bad, it’s just a little weird.
- The game is incredibly processor intensive. It made my CPU run at 60-70%, easily twice what any other game this SAGE required. The rooms of the castle that Agumon’s not in have a weird distortion effect that really slows everything down. The browser version of the game chugged along at an unplayable crawl. I don’t blame the game’s creator; I suspect the software being used to make this is just plain awful.
- Even if the game ran well, the gameplay seems to consist only of bland awkward combat and very basic exploration.
This is kind of a tough one. You can tell a lot of heart was poured into this, but there’s little I can find in it to recommend. I didn’t play the battle mode, so if you have someone to play with you might want to try that. The story mode absolutely did not keep my interest to make it worth the struggle, though.
Spark the Electric Jester
An original project by LakeFeperd (creator of Sonic: Before the Sequel, Sonic: After the Sequel, and Sonic Chrono Adventure), Spark the Electric Jester has had my attention since I first saw it teased on its Tumblr. I love the atmosphere and art style of the wacky and wonderful worlds that Lake creates, so I was very excited to finally get to try the demo.
- Artful, surrealistic graphics depicting an intriguing alien/future world.
- Simple, intuitive controls that anyone can pick up and play.
- Gorgeous, professional quality music.
- Numerous challenging (but fair) boss fights.
- Hidden temporary power-ups that change up the gameplay.
- The enemies (excluding the bosses) are repetitive and uninteresting.
- The levels feel a little spare with little to do besides walk and jump through them.
- Spark’s main charging mechanic takes a tad too long, and there’s only a very subtle visual indication when it’s ready, making it frustrating to use. I feel it needs to charge a little faster, and make a sound when it’s complete.
- The camera jumps wildly when bosses are introduced and defeated. This happens in Freedom Planet as well, so I think it’s an issue with the Sonic Worlds engine.
Spark’s signature ability and gameplay are just a bit too awkward and slow-paced to put him in a league with my favourite platform heroes like Sonic, Yoshi, Ristar, and Klonoa, but this demo is a promising start to what I think will prove to be an excellent game. Most of the issues it has feel familiar to me as a player of LakeFeperd’s previous work, but if he can successfully slay his peccadilloes he’ll have a hit on his hands.
So that was SAGExpo 2014 Act 2! I enjoyed quite a few of the games, was baffled and frustrated by quite a few others, and had a great time overall. Remember, these short reviews I write at SAGE Advice are opinions formed while I’m playing a flurry of other games (this SAGE had 30!), so I’m sure the games I disliked have hidden merits that I missed and the games I loved have problems I’ll only notice when playing them again and again.
Enjoy the rest of SAGE, and feel free to comment below with your picks for favourite game of the show.