Sonic Amateur Games Expo 2009: Games Reviews Part 3
Sonic the Hedgehog: Project Mettrix
Sonic the Hedgehog: Project Mettrix is the most traditional fan-game at this year’s SAGE. In fact, playing it could easily fool the experienced Sonic fan into thinking it was a lost Sonic game. Mettrix’s engine is the most accurate recreation of 16 bit era Sonic gaming we’ve played all show. Sometimes I wonder whether or not it’s actually a ROM hack. Because of this, it is fantastic to play as Sonic, Tails and Knuckles play exactly how you remember them.
The stages on display are incredibly well designed with a great speed to platforming ratio. However, Mettrix slightly favours platforming over speed, making the game a lot more skilful.
However, the original stages (Shining Island and Bronze Lake) aren’t so fantastic in the visual department. They both suffer from bland graphics that are very MSPaint-like. They seem very thrown together and look quite dull when compared to Green Hill Zone (which has been included to show the versatility of the engine). The big disappointment is the Bronze Lake boss which is literally an Egg-Robo that flies above Sonic. The only way you can hit it is to jump at it when Sonic runs over a hill. That is all there is to it. It doesn’t attack or move; it just waits to be trashed.
Another downer is the quality of the music which is much lower than the sound effects. I can’t understand if it’s been compressed to keep the file size down. But in this day and age when broadband is quite readily available, better quality music for a sacrifice of a larger file size is something I’m quite happy with.
Unless of course, I have to listen to the Bronze Lake theme again. This has to be the worst tune I’ve ever heard in a video game. Whoever wrote it doesn’t have the slightest when it comes to Sonic music. It plods along at a strange pace and throws all sorts of weird, warbling tones in the mix to hideous effect. The developer will be doing the world a favour for changing this tune in future releases.
Sonic’s 3D Emerald Hunt
It’s nice to see a lot of 3D fan-games emerging nowadays. They’re still not at Sonic Adventure levels of playability (or even presentation for that matter) but developers are certainly pushing their game creation packages to the extreme.
Sonic’s 3D Emerald Hunt is a 3rd person platformer where you control either Sonic, Tails or Knuckles and set out to search for a certain amount of Chaos Emeralds to complete the stage. The controls are nice and responsive making exploring the large stages easy and entertaining. However, there are some certain moves that the developer has overlooked. Characters can’t backstep, Tails can hardly fly and Knuckles can’t climb walls. This cheapens the experience to a degree as the Sonic mechanics we’ve come to know and love seem to have been thrown out the window.
The game starts in a hub world where you run into images of the stages to play them. It’s a little confusing at first because it looks like a bug where the stage graphics have repeated in the backdrop. It certainly threw me off. A simple menu would have been a lot easier to navigate. At one point I fell through the floor and fell on the entrance to a locked stage. Unfortunately, I could no longer get out of the pit I’d fallen in which meant I had to reset the game. Again, a silly oversight which probably seemed clever at first caused me irritation once I was stuck.
Graphically the game is quite nice with some well chosen textures that bring the stages to life. However, Advance sprites surface (again) and the draw distance is very short which means you often find yourself running blindly into walls and pitfalls. The stages are also very ‘blocky’. There doesn’t seem to be any variety in the terrain and it certainly makes the game very uninspiring.
Knuckles Treasure Hunt
This game is a bit of an oddity. Essentially, it’s a 2D take on the Sonic Adventure emerald hunt stages. You control Knuckles and search each stage for emerald shards.
This would be a good concept if it was executed well. Unfortunately Knuckles Treasure Hunt gets almost everything wrong. The engine is incredibly bare bones and Knuckles is very drifty and difficult to control. His gliding is very stiff and awkward, the spin dash hardly works at all and you can’t even turn around while gliding.
If this wasn’t bad enough the stage and enemy placement seem determined to destroy every last ounce of hope you can muster. The big problem is the pitfalls. A game that relies so heavily on exploration should not punish a player’s curiosity by plunging them to their death. Enemies are also far too frequent and you’ll often find yourself running into them, falling on them or generally just having them creep up on from off-screen and cause you to lose your wrings for the umpteenth time.
Graphics are also pieced together from past Sonic games which makes the game look very unoriginal. Also, the blend of 16 bit level tiles and Advance sprites is a truly horrible one.
Sonic The Gizoid
Sonic The Gizoid has quite a clever little concept behind it. The Gizoid originally featured in Sonic Battle as a robot made to learn its’ enemies attacks, adapt them and become a better fighter. It’s skills were equipped to make a hybrid fighter who was personally tailored to your specification.
In Sonic The Gizoid, the Gizoid is put in a 2D platforming environment and essentially becomes a customisable Sonic. You can equip him with different jumps, attacks, secondary attacks, spin-dashes, chaos blasts; the list goes on. However, most of the techniques are made redundant by Sonic’s techniques which are far better suited to this type of game. However, in the full release we’d guess the attacks would be unlocked in increments instead of being instantly available like in this demo.
The Gizoid is very responsive and fun to control and stages are made to utilise speed over platforming. Unfortunately this makes the experience another ‘push-right’ affair but in the game’s defence, it does have some of the most exciting speed layouts we’ve seen in a fan-game.
However, the graphics are particularly bad. The tiles don’t fit together very well and the backgrounds are horrible JPEG images that were probably added in a rush after a quick search on Google. The screen size is also far too large for a game with such small sprites.
Sonic The Gizoid has an interesting concept we’d like to see more of. However, more attention in the presentation department would really make this experience stand in a crowd.