Sonic and Friends 2
Sonic and Friends 2 is nearly complete with 11 levels, and the first thing I noticed was that those levels are huge. They aren't laid out like a traditional Sonic game, though - they feel a lot more boxy and remind me of the kinds of things I used to see in the earlier days of Sonic fangaming. They are by no means bad, though, and I quite like the first few acts. The readme file indicates that the later levels are less complete, and they are decidedly less fun, with cheaper enemy placement and less to do.
I'm quite impressed with the engine, too, especially since it doesn't appear to be any of the usual suspects but an entirely original one. It's not 100% accurate (what ever is?) but it's solid and smooth and I encountered no collision bugs. My personal acid test for a Sonic engine is how the ledge balancing and pushing up against walls works, and neither of those features are implemented here, much like in Sonic Advance 2. That kind of bothers me, but the jumping feels right and I guess that's the main thing. I never found any slowdown, either.
My biggest beef is with the music, which is mostly borrowed, but where there actually are original compositions they are repetitive and pretty grating. There is the feature for custom soundtracks, though, which is nice - so I'm not gonna dock too many points for the cruddy music.
I'd say give this one a go. It progresses nicely in a sort of Sonic 3 & Knuckles way, and feels like playing through a proper game. The later, imcomplete levels can be a little frustrating, so you might want to stop immediately when you begin to weary of it rather than pushing on. That way you can leave it with a good feeling, and play the final portion when the finished build is out.
I love the new title screen; a definite improvement over last year.
A team of highly trained tapdancing butlers are still cleaning up the jizz from when I played Sonic Axiom last year. The prospect of a completed version at this year's SAGE eclipsed my excitement for Sonic Generations and Taxman's Sonic CD, and was even able to temporarily postpone my pathetic pining for the Sonic 1 & 2 Soundtrack, which is no mean feat.
Strangely, though, this year I think I've soured on it a little. Probably because I had a whole year for expectations to build and my memories to go rosy, this time around I found quite a bit of it to be, well... lame.
Firstly I'm really disappointed by the change from Calcified Caverns to Mineral Mine.
Left: Calcified Cavern; Right: Mineral Mine
It was my favourite level from the 2010 demo, with its beautiful music, fun switch puzzles, and overall atmosphere. Now it feels like a whole different level, and it's not as good. Waah.
In addition to that little letdown, I continually noticed other issues with the game that kept the experience from being pure unadulterated fun: everything has huge hitboxes making parts of the game totally unfair; the physics feel really weird causing too much overcompensation; a lot of the objects and animations seem really poorly programmed, jittering and locking up; and (in the nitpick category) the rings don't make sparkles when collected!
A particularly apt example of a choppy object is the Bonus Stage glowing orb - it's brutally basic and barely does a passable job. It makes me cringe, because I'd made those work in even my crappiest earliest engine, and trying to make SAGE in time is no excuse because I added them in an hour or two. I refuse to believe I'm superhuman, so Sonic Axiom has no excuse!
It's not all bad. The levels are still beautiful - easily the best use of repurposed graphics I've ever seen. The layouts are brilliant, giving nods to Sonic CD while still feeling original. The music is pretty good, too, though personally I would have preferred something funkier rather than so mellow.
If I had the free time, I'd jump at the chance to port this to AeStHete. The content here is too good; it deserves better than a choppy framerate and physics that fight you. Like Sonic Genesis, it's a brilliant game struggling to overcome a less-than-stellar implementation.
I doubt that this is the last revision we'll ever see, so there's still hope for the future. Regardless of what happens, though, Sonic Axiom is good enough to deserve a permanent home in my game collection, and I'd still recommend it for anyone else's.
Sonic: Before the Sequel
Sonic BTS is advertised to take place between the events of Sonic 1 and 2, and chronicle the first launch of the Death Egg. Because of this, I was expecting a game that cleaved to a Sonic 1 or 2 style at the expense of any kind of originality.
Boy, was that illusion ever shattered.
Instead, Sonic BTS is far and away the most creative and entertaining Sonic fan game I've played since Eggman Hates Furries. The bosses, enemies, level tropes, gimmicks - all of them kept me guessing and put a huge smile on my face. It even has mildly humorous Flash cinemas, for pete's sake! Who couldn't love that?
The game borrows sound effects and music from Kirby, Yoshi's Island, and Ristar, which also makes me smile. The creator (LakeFeperd) must be my kind of guy!
This is definitely my favourite of SAGE this year, a treat I wasn't expecting at all that really picked my spirits up after the mild disappointment of Sonic Axiom.
I don't want to say anything else about it, because that would spoil it. Go play it yourself and remember to thank me for pointing you to it. =P
Next time I'll be looking at some of the modern styled offerings. Stay tuned! (said the barman to the guitar.)