Game tech: Sequels set scene for Sonic boom

Sonic the Hedgehog is a prickly subject. Some people love him, some people wish he was roadkill. 

For gamers of a certain age, the clang of Sonic losing all his rings is the stuff of nightmares, whereas for others, Green Hill Zone is the sound of home.

This year, Sonic is set to divide opinion all over again, as two big titles in the series are being released, both of which seek to emulate classic Sonic in different ways.

The good news is that both look like worthy successors to the Sonic of old.

The bad news, depending on your perspective, is that, well, both look like worthy successors to the Sonic of old.

The first is Sonic Mania, which will be released on August 15. This game was made by diehard Sonic fans, who got their start in development by porting Sonic to Android and mobile platforms. They pitched their idea for a ‘true’ sequel to mid-1990s Sonic and Sega gave them a shot.

The result is exactly what you would expect. Sonic Mania looks and plays just like a direct sequel to classic Sonic, with a mixture of repurposed stages from the original games and two new zones with their own unique challenges.

You can play as either Sonic, Tails or Knuckles and the trademark mixture of speed, danger and tricky design are all present. Sonic may not be for everybody, but Sonic Mania is the kind of ‘retro sequel’ every fanboy dreams about.

You know that a series is long-lived when it releases two ‘retro’ games in one year — and both are from entirely different eras. Sonic Forces hits shelves this Christmas, dragging Sonic back into the third dimension and early ’00s, conjuring memories of Sonic Generations and Sonic Colors.

This is big-budget Sonic, with spectacular, colourful graphics and a style that combines over-the-shoulder gameplay with classic side-scrolling action.

In Forces, the world is ruled by Dr Robotnik and nature is fading as a result of his machines. Controlling either Sonic, one of his friends, or your own custom animal avatar, you’ll have to take him down and restore the balance. Fans of the 3D Sonic games are likely to enjoy Forces, which seems to build on the better aspects of those games, while remaining true to the spirit of the series.

In saying that, the over-the-shoulder sections look just as messy as ever, with sheer speed taking precedence over player control and level design. When the view switches to side-scrolling mode or classic Sonic mode, everything looks far better.

Sonic might be a prickly subject, but he’s got a few points to prove this year. Let’s see if he can start an unlikely Sonic boom.

If you’re hedging your bets on what old-school game to buy in August, then Sundered might be worth considering. Sundered is a Metroidvania-style game from the makers of Jotun. Like Jotun, the main selling point is the incredible hand-drawn art, but in this case the giant bosses and sharp gameplay look like worthy attractions too.

The press demo earlier this year was smooth and responsive, very impressive for such a beautifully animated game, but what remains to be seen is how the world-building and action stack up over the full experience.

According to the developers, the heroine Eshe is a “wanderer in a ruined world, trapped in ever-changing caverns teeming with eldritch horrors”. Players will need to “harness the power of corrupted relics to defeat gigantic bosses, at the cost of Eshe’s humanity”.

The developers finish by demanding we ‘resist or embrace’. Read our review next week to find out which path we chose.

Finally, resistance to Pokemon Go seemed futile this time last year, but the craze has finally limited itself to hardcore players — of which there are still millions.

However, Pokemon Go Fest, which took place in Chicago, may have lost a few of those customers.

Thousands of fans spent hours in the heat, waiting to play a game that never started. A combination of server issues and bugs meant the game couldn’t launch, leaving fans completely stranded.

The developers have already started scrambling to make it up to people by gifting $100 in Pokecoins, dispersing in-game bonuses and placing a legendary Pokemon on the account of every attendee.


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