Sonic Amateur Games Expo 2009: Game Reviews
Shadow the Hedgehog 2
Uh oh. Shadow the Hedgehog 2 is not an appealing game in any Sonic fan’s eyes as the first was an abysmal mash-up of teenage angst, violence, grim surroundings and a bare-bones 3D Sonic game. When we booted this up we didn’t expect much better when the developer’s introduction features a rather ‘urban’ tune. Instantly we were afraid we were heading for a gun-fest of gangster proportions. What we got was surprisingly good and more ‘Sonic’ than a lot of actual Sonic games can claim to be.
Shadow the Hedgehog 2 is a 2D platformer inspired by Mega Drive era Sonic games but it uses Shadow the Hedgehog as a reference for its’ presentation. The only stage available is a dilapidated carnival which is a dark twist on the Sonic stages we’re all used to. As the stage progresses the weather gets decidedly worse and it begins to rain. Then a thunderstorm begins and some funky lightning effects are thrown into the mix. You even see the lightning strike certain objects as you go past them. The music fit’s the chaos perfectly with a particularly eerie, electronic tune. Presentation is spot on. Our only major gripe is with the sprite that is Advance-styled. We’re getting a bit sick of seeing Advance sprites in fan-games. Also, the developer has forgotten to add a sound effect for Shadow being hurt; not exactly a game ruining error, but noticeable.
The engine is incredibly solid with Shadow being very responsive and easy to control. He also has a homing attack which is usually a call for concern in a 2D Sonic game, but it works surprisingly well. Another plus is that Shadow grinds on instant contact with rails, so your reaction times don’t have to be through the roof. The major gameplay problem comes with the fact that the stage is a bit of a ‘hold-right’ affair. There isn’t a lot of call for you to actually jump as the stage features a lot of the air boosts which guide you in the correct direction. It would have been nice to play in a stage that was a little more interactive.
Either way, this a solid demo that promises a lot from future instalments. One stage is a bit of a let-down but the one on offer is so spectacular to look at we can’t really complain. There is also a rather nice bonus menu which features some screenshots of what looks like stages that will appear in later releases. This is certainly a novel feature which helps the developer show us what’s in store.
Sonic Zero Remastered
Now here’s a surprise. Sonic Zero Remastered uses the fantastic Sonic Worlds engine which is free for developers to use. It has been put to great use here as the gameplay is amazing. Sonic and Knuckles can both be used and they’re both as responsive as each other. It’s a joy to play through the stage on offer.
Presentation is extremely high as the graphics are brilliant quality and appear to be completely original. The sprites are also original which makes the game feel remarkably fresh. The music features some high quality Sonic remixes which also makes the tone of the game very nostalgic. We especially like the Chaotix tune which is used for the game’s main stage.
Our only concerns are that the orange chequer effect used for the foreground graphics is a little harsh on the eyes. Also, there is a section early on in the level which features a rather large loop that causes you to miss a large portion of the stage. There is only one stage to this demo so the whole experience is over quite quickly which is quite disappointing as the gameplay promises more.
Sonic Nebulous is truly a completely original experience. The game is inspired by the SatAM Sonic cartoon and the comics that followed. The presentation is entirely inspired from these works and features a graphical and style that is a lot darker and more serious than we’d usually expect in a Sonic game. All the graphics are sprites are completely hand drawn which gives this title a look which is completely unique. It’s a shame then that the colours used are quite muddy which doesn’t really make the game that inspiring.
This game is publicised as Version 4 so it’s difficult to tell whether or not this is a full release or not. However, what’s on offer is staggering and is going to take a fair amount of time to crack. There are a huge amount of stages on offer and easily the biggest character roster we’ve seen in a fan-game. It’s also rather amazing to see that each character controls differently and has their own unique attacks. The work that’s gone into this release is phenomenal. We also loved the little presentation quirks like the world map and stage introductions which really helped give a sense of progression.
The big draw to Nebulous is its’ crazy, rotating camera. When the character runs up certain slopes and loops, the camera will rotate with the incline to create a jaw-dropping (if slightly dizzying effect) which heightens both gameplay and presentation. Sonic Nebulous is a game you do not want to miss.
Sonic Robo-Blast 2
This is another game which we cannot tell whether or not has been given a full release or not. The developers have included an automatic updater which searches their servers for new files. This has confused us as what’s on offer is vast. This release of Sonic Robo-Blast 2 certainly feels and plays like a full game and we’re incredibly honoured to be playing such an amazing title.
Robo-Blast 2 is a 3D Sonic game that utilises the Doom Legacy engine. What this means is that they’re aren’t any loops on offer and you’ll never be in a room on top of another room as these cannot be processed with the engine’s limitations. However, this does not ruin the experience as the stages we played are all huge in scope, incredibly detailed and feature lots of hidden areas to explore.
Playing the game is remarkably simple and the options screen allows you to assign any key to any function. This means you can cater for whatever your controller needs be and joystick support is also included. You can play as either Sonic, Tails or Knuckles each with their own unique moveset. Sonic is the fastest and features a ‘thwok’ attack which blasts him, mid-air at high speed into enemies. Tails can fly and Knuckles can glide and climb walls. Everything is classic Sonic and amazingly responsive.
Speaking of classic Sonic, Robo-Blast 2’s presentation is particularly retro in it’s approach. The graphics are bright, charming and colourful; everything we’d expect from a 16 bit era Sonic game. Some of the textures can be a little painful to look at but you’ll be having so much fun exploring the massive stages that you probably won’t care (I know I don’t). Special mention has to go to the camera angle for actually working effectively. It never appears to get obscured by differing object placement and it shows a large portion of the playing area at all times. Now, if a fan-game developer can get it right, why can’t you Sonic Team?
Online Play is also a nice touch provided you can find someone to play. The SRB2 forums cater for the Robo-Blast loyal but if you’re new, they are a great place to start and challenge users to online matches.
Sonic Robo-Blast 2 is a ‘must download’ that features hours of Sonic-based fun for everyone. Don’t miss it!