28 September 2011

Hack Attack (Part I)

As promised, here are my thoughts on the contenders for the 2011 Sonic the Hedgehog Hacking Contest now that the results have been announced. As with my SAGE "reviews", these will be curt because I'm very lazy busy.

Sonic Chaotic

Hack of Sonic Chaos by Ravenfreak

I'll let Ravenfreak describe this hack in her own words. A quote from the readme file:

It was made because, I believe Sonic Chaos is piss poor easy, and seems to be the easiest 8-bit sonic game, at least in my opinion. ... In this hack, jumping does no good Sonic/Tails doesn't roll into a ball! Instead they are easily vulnerable to enemies and obstacles. To make matters worse, Dr. Robotnik has taken an extra step to make those enemies and obstacles stronger, the second Sonic/Tails collides with them they lose a life!

While it's cool to see a hack of the seldom-modded Sonic Chaos, this doesn't seem like Hacking Contest material. Gimping the jump and removing the check for rings upon enemy collision are great proofs of concept, showing that progress is being made in figuring out the Sonic Chaos code. But they're hardly features that make playing through the game interesting. For that reason I guess I have nothing else to say about it.

Chip McCallahan in Sonic the Hedgehog

Hack of Sonic 1 by MainMemory

This is clearly some kind of joke hack, and unless you know what's being referenced, it's totally meaningless. Since I didn't get the joke (I had to look it up), I can't say anything for or against it other than that it seems unplayable.

Latios in Sonic 3 & Knuckles

Hack of Sonic 3&K by Scott4

Unless this was being made as a parody of all that can go horribly wrong when a n00b makes a hack, it fails at everything it tries to do. Sonic is replaced with some sort of new character, but it's so poorly drawn and incompletely implemented I can't really tell what it's supposed to be. The palettes and layouts are changed for the worse, and copious Giant Rings lead to Special Stages that seem to consist entirely of blue spheres. A very poor effort.

Blue Sphere Plus

Hack of Blue Sphere by MainMemory

In addition to all the features of the normal Blue Sphere, this hack includes all 16 of the Special Stages from Sonic 3 and Knuckles, a save feature, and the ability to play as Tails, Sonic and Tails, or Knuckles and Tails. In other words, there's basically no need to ever play the original version again.

Blue Sphere may not be the most exciting thing in the world, but I like this.

Sonic Loco 2

Hack of Sonic 2 by Tamkis

Ugh. Where to start?

First, the music. When so many hacks merely replace the music with Azure Lake and Isolated Island ad nauseum, it's kind of nice to see all the music replaced with interesting compositions. The problem is they are so poorly converted to the Genesis's sound system that they sound like a buggy mess and one can hardly distinguish between songs. They also seem to bork the sound effects (unless there is some other cause for this).

Second, the level layouts. There are certainly some interesting constructions, but there are far too many cheap deaths. Also, the implementation is hamfisted - too often springs and platforms are employed to spackle tricky areas, and there are too many broken tiles to count. Overall I'd say it's some of the worst I've seen, almost making me wonder if it's serious.

For some reason the Super Peel Out is included, but as badly as I've seen it done. I'm also confused by the mix of Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 sprites which looks odd at best.

Ultimately I'd describe this as a "mess". I had to stop at Chemical Plant in order to preserve my good humour.

Red the Hedgehog

Hack of Sonic 1 by Dandaman

Described as "a hack with hours of effort poured into it," I can only hope this is some kind of joke (and judging by the creator's reputation, I'm going on record assuming that it is). There's not a single aspect, from title screen to play control to sound effects to palettes to graphics, that isn't totally ruined. Randomly changing values in a hex editor could make a better hack than this.

Simple Sonic Hack

Hack of Sonic 1 by Glaber

As advertised, this is quite simple. It's just three acts - GHZ1, GHZ2, and LZ1 - plus Final Zone with different layouts. Not anything to write home about, but worth a playthrough.

I also have to give it some respect for adding Sonic's missing shoe stripe. =P

Megaman 2: The Robotnik Wars

Hack of Sonic 2 by Tamkis

Tamkis's second effort is, I'm sorry to say, no better than his first. Very shoddily and incompletely implemented Megaman sprites and music are all that's on offer here. Since the sprites are the wrong size for the gameplay, and the music has the same problem as Sonic Loco 2, this has a long way to go before it's even mildly interesting. It shouldn't have been shown to anyone at this stage of completion, let alone entered in a contest.

Sonic 1 Misadventure

Hack of Sonic 1 by Arctic Leopard

This is a rather ambitious hack as it attempts to give Sonic 1 whole new zones. Unfortunately it's also a very uneven hack - while some design choices seem inspired, others are like "what?". Despite that, though, it has the most potential of any I've talked about so far, with some nice original graphics and even some new gimmick objects.

Overall, I have to say I like it.


Hack of Sonic 1 by Banoon

This might as well be a completely different game than Sonic. Despite how weird it looks, it's actually pretty fun and charming on its own. I especially liked the tongue-in-cheek PDF manual and the clever new challenges in the levels. It's worth trying out for the noir Spring Yard Zone alone.

Sonic the Hedgehog 1 Reinvented

Hack of Sonic 1 by Watsonman

This is a rather cruddy hack of Sonic 1 with butchered sprites and palettes, a jumpdash, and "harder" bosses (they take more hits). I've seen a million of these, and there's nothing that makes this one stand out.

Untitled Sonic 2 Hack

Hack of Sonic 2 by D.A. Garden

Judging by the title, one might guess there's not much of a theme or purpose to this hack. Basically, the only thing you'll notice is that Sonic is darker (why do people do that?) and that some levels have changed layouts. The ones that are changed (CPZ, MCZ, WFZ) are actually pretty cool, though. Be warned that the new bosses are real hardasses.

Sonic the Ghosthog

Hack of Sonic 1 by Hanoch

An interesting gameplay/layout hack where Sonic turns into a ghost instead of dying outright. While a ghost, he can't interact with items or beat the level, but he's sort of invincible and can fly. I'm afraid, though, that this new method of play doesn't have the right balance to be very fun. Essentially the goal becomes playing without getting hit like some kind of "kaizo" hack, but instead of immediately retrying when you fail you have to tediously backtrack.

Metal Sonic Overdrive

Hack of Sonic 1 by MKDarkon

While parts of the level layouts in this are interesting enough to keep my attention for one playthrough, there's nothing real special going on here. Several design choices (such as having 8-bit Kirbys erupt from the ground instead of little animals escape from a capsule) leave me mystified and a little put off. There are also a lot of things that seem to be changed just for the sake of being changed, which is a mark of a low-quality hack.

The hack makes use of my Wall Jump code, which is nice to see, although it's not implemented perfectly: it only works on tiles, not objects, and it's possible to trigger it even while facing away from the wall. Yer makin' me look bad, people! =P

Sonic Mega Fusion

Hack of Sonic 2 (Nick Arcade prototype) by GenesisFan64

A buggy hack of Emerald Hill with My Little Ponies as enemies? There are some interesting code changes, such as only showing the score counter when Sonic gets score, but the ring counter is missing which makes it feel broken instead of improved.

I guess I just don't see the point. I prefer hacks with a good solid idea behind them.

Sonic VR

Hack of Sonic 2 by ColinC10

Sonic VR doesn't even feel like a hack of a specific Sonic game, but like a whole new kind of game. It consists of short mini-zones that are self-contained challenges, all of which take place in a snazzy virtual reality world. The player can select any of these challenges from four main "file systems" (which appear to get increasingly difficult) using a cool interface that harks back to personal computers from the early 80's (you know, the kind that Johnny Mnemonic thought we'd still be using in the future).

The challenges strongly remind me of the bonus stages from Wario World for the Nintendo Gamecube, which I've always liked. This was easily one of my favourite hacks this year, further cementing ColinC10's sparkling reputation.

Stay tuned for Part II, and also Part III where I will compare my trophy nominations with the actual winners in the interest of science.

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