GAMETECH: Bringing Sonic up to speed

SONIC the Hedgehog is a prickly subject. Not only does he elicit terrible puns from video game writers, he does so while dividing opinion quicker than a ghostbuster with boobs. 

GAMETECH: Bringing Sonic up to speed

To celebrate the birthday of this gaming icon, Sega have announced that a new Sonic game is being made, which isn’t a surprise in itself.

The real surprise is that Sonic Mania, as it’s called, will be a new 2D Sonic game, something fans have requested for a very long time. In other words, it will look and play just like the Sonic we all remember from 25 years ago. Erm, you do remember, right?

Therein lies the rub. (Not that you’d want to rub a hedgehog). Sonic the Hedgehog was never fun. Sonic the Hedgehog was never a classic. Sonic the Hedgehog was a brilliant mascot in a frustrating game. Yet somehow, just like a charismatic, aging rock star from our youth, we keep coming back for more. We stay loyal.

In the 25 years since Sonic’s first, average outing, he has been in countless games. Far too many to list here. Not one of them was better than decent.

Sonic’s strength is his weakness — he is the fastest hedgehog in the world, speeding around at Roadrunner levels of zip, but this makes his games unplayable. Experiencing Sonic has always been like controlling Usain Bolt in a game of musical chairs — his sheer speed at odds with the rules of the game. Stop, start, stop, start.

Sonic was created to rival Mario in an era when 2D platformers were more prolific than Portuguese strikers, but Nintendo’s plumber was always reliant on precision and perfect controls, whereas Sega’s hedgehog relied on the thrill of speed.

Sonic was born to be a racer, but instead became trapped in a world of obstacles and puzzles and patience, the player echoing Sonic’s frustration as level design hampered his desire to let loose and run.

Just like the titular character, the Sonic series never really reached top speed as result. A number of excellent cartoon TV adaptations elevated him to new levels of endearment, but the world of video games became ever more distant, his fans dwindling as the world, ironically, left him dawdling behind like a real-life hedgehog.

Maybe we’re wrong. Maybe Sonic Mania will reawaken his legion of fans, people who remember the originals with more fondness. With one-man developer Christian Whitehead at the helm, a hardcore Sonic fan, then there’s certainly a chance.

We’ll have to wait until Spring 2017 to find out. Sonic’s fast, but he’s not that fast.

GO POKÉMON

Speaking of fast, someone has already collected all the available Pokémon in North America. It took Nick Johnson 4,269 captures, 303 hatched eggs and 153km of walking since the release of Pokémon Go to catch every Pokémon currently available in the North American region. Oh, and $200. (That’s why Nintendo is making a mint with this game.)

Still, Nick can’t claim to have captured every Pokémon in the game, because there are region-specific Pokémon he has yet to claim, along with legendary creatures that have not yet been made available. No problem, right? Region-specific means he travels to a nearby state?

Think again — if Nick wants to collect every Pokémon in Pokémon Go he still needs to capture Mr Mime, Kangaskhan and Farfetch’d, which are only available in Europe, Australia/New Zealand and Asia respectively. That’s going to cost you a lot more than $200, Nick!

OVERWATCH SENSATION

Pokémon Go has been the digital sensation of the year so far, but the gaming sensation has probably been Overwatch.

Recently, a new character was released for the online shooter and now comes news that TBS in America are broadcasting an Overwatch Open on national American television.

The first round started this week and the final will be held on September 30 in Atlanta. It will air live on TBS, but Irish viewers can watch it on Twitch.

The prize fund is $300,000, with the overall winners taking $100,000 and the runners-up $32,000. If Pokémon Go expert Nick Johnson enters, maybe he’ll earn enough to get his Mr Mime, Kangaskhan and Farfetch’d. (Yes, far-fetched.)

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