22 September 2011

SAGE 2011 Reviews (Part IV)

Sonic Worlds Level Collab

A long while back, I recall LiQuidShade of Zone: 0 and me discussing how cool it would be if there was some kind of project that was like the Little Big Planet of Sonic - you'd be able to play user created zones without all the other rigmarole. Well, the SWLC team has finally brought us something much like that.

This first release contains 2 full zones and 5 short 1-act challenges. Apparently there will be new packages released twice a year, once for SAGE and once for Christmas. Of course the amount of cool zones we'll get depends on how many folks get involved.

The content on offer right now is quite good, though. The standout of all the zones is definitely Amazing Ocean, with its clever boss, intelligent layout, and character-dependent paths. I played it through many times in order to find all the red rings, and I'm not tired of it yet.

Collecting said red rings gets you unlockables, such as Super Mode for all the characters and the aforementioned challenge levels.

The challenge levels are for the most part charming and fun (although the Labyrinth one is a bit spare). The only thing is I wish they were much harder to make up for their brevity. They are called "challenges" after all; I was expecting to be hit with extreme difficulty.

But it's all worth it for Cheese Hill Zone: =P

So far I love the concept and the content, and I can't wait for Christmas to see what other goodies the team will have for us.

Sonic 2 Retro Remix

Sonic 2 Retro Remix is an ambitious and pedigreed Sonic 2 hack. It's also a bit controversial, because the gameplay is intentionally more akin to Super Mario 64's search for stars than the standard run-for-the-goal Sonic fare, although a "classic mode" has traditionally been included. When I last reviewed it, I played only the classic mode, and majorly missed the point. This time, classic mode has been removed to encourage playing the game the way it was meant to be enjoyed, so we'll see what that does to change my mind about it.

Not actually a whole lot, to be honest. I still can't seem to enjoy this game, no matter how hard I try. There's just something about the cramped, overly-technical layouts that puts me off. Even the short overworlds, where you enter acts by way of Warp Rings, are frustrating and difficult to navigate, an aspect of Sonic Advance 3 which I loathed and I can't imagine why anyone would want to emulate it. The zones themselves are huge, confusing, sloppy, and devoid of any sense of flow - to me at least; I've heard others swear that, when played right, they're feats of genius. But as far as I'm concerned they are the epitome of everyone's complaints about Sonic CD's level design, cranked up to 11.

I'm also not fond of the unnecessarily complicated controls, the busy art, or the music culled from disparate sources. It all feels bloated and aimless, and I can't find any fun in it at all.

I know this is an acclaimed hack. For all I know it's a quality one. But it doesn't appeal to me.

To sum up

And that's it for my brief thoughts on SAGE. I won't be going over things like Sonic RealmZ or Super Sonic Knockout, because I'm not interested in, nor qualified to evaluate, such extreme deviations from the standard Sonic formula. I'm also skipping a few embarrassingly incomplete offerings which really should have been kept under wraps for another year or so - you know who you are.

But this won't be the last of my reviews for a while - I'll be giving my thoughts on the Hacking Contest entries once the winners are announced.

I'll leave you with a recap of my favourites, which I think should be in any Sonic fan's game collection.

  • Sonic: Before the Sequel
  • Sonic Fusion
  • Sonic Axiom
  • Sonic Worlds Level Collab

See you at next SAGE! Maybe by then that lazy, opinionated wanker Murky, or Merkin, or whatever he calls himself, will have released his engine.

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