I am really really excited. Because I get to review the new Sonic game! And here it is!
It’s not my fault, yesterday IGN posted their review of Velocity 2X, a sequel to the very good game ‘Velocity Ultra‘ and in their review they opened with this line.
“Velocity 2X is the best Sonic game in 2 decades”
And closed with…
“It’s the first game in a long time to give me the thrilling sense of mastery that a well-played level of Sonic the Hedgehog used to back in the 90s.”
Well who is to argue with IGN? Anyway, a couple of people who saw this reacted kinda badly and posted the usual ‘you don’t spell ignorant without IGN,’ some said ‘Sonic hate bias’ and then there were the other favourite put downs. So I decided to check it out, I’ve been playing it for a few hours and low and behold…
IGN kinda has a point… just…
Velocity 2X is nothing like any Sonic game, the comparison is utter ludicrous. So why does it remind me so much of playing one?
If you think back to the original classic side scrolling game Sonic the Hedgehog, Yuji Naka has said many times that he wanted Sonic to be a game which a player could complete faster and faster once they became familiar with the levels. Whilst most players can beat most Sonic stages, completing the stage quickly and with a good score takes time and some degree of practice. Give it some time and odds are you’ll slash your original times and probably double your score. You are left with an uncompromising feeling of satisfaction once you hit the end stage and see your time and score.
Most Sonic games usually begin with stages which are ‘short’ and then get longer and more complicated, the player has to learn how to navigate them in order to go fast through them and maintain a high score. Regardless as to where they come, you can usually feel yourself getting better as you progress and replay difficult or challenging levels, anyone who has attempted the Hot Dog missions in Eggmanland will probably understand this feeling. Or anyone who grew up with a MegaDrive will likely remember their first attempt at the Death Egg Zone.
When I first took on Death Egg Zone, it took me near 7min to beat it, now I can beat it in around 70 seconds. Practising that stage, I can feel myself getting better, my heart rate is pulsing and pounding as I start to master the stage and discover how the gameplay works in order to beat it to the best possible standard.
Well, Velocity 2X has this feeling too, and it’s very similar to how I felt when I first took on a game like Sonic 2 and tried to beat my times and high scores.
Velocity 2X encourages speed, it encourages you to go fast. However, it throws various spanners into the works, meaning you can just hold down the boost and get to the end and expect a top score. You have to rescue hostages, fight aliens, collect power ups and items. There’s also a degree of exploring here, hidden items, data logs and even hidden secret levels, hey remember when Sonic games used to have that kind of stuff?
Now at this point you might be thinking ‘I see where you’re going…’
But it’s not the real reason for the comparison. The real reason comes from a combination of factors. Velocity 2X’s level design is very good. Everything flows into one another very well, even the parts where you go from a space shooter to a side scrolling platformer, there’s no break in the flow it honestly feels like a seamless transition. I can’t be helped but be reminded of early Sonic games which had very well done level design in which the flow of the game didn’t break unless you hit an enemy of failed a jump and landed on a spike trap.
You combine this with the fact that you’re encouraged to learn the stages, encouraged to go fast and the satisfaction one gets from getting a ‘perfect’ when you beat the stage. It’s very easy to say ‘yeah this reminds me of Sonic.‘
Well… if we’re going to compare games to one another based on factors like the above, then we could also say that the game Offspring Fling is similar to Sonic & Velocity 2X. If you’ve not heard of Offsspring Fling, go check it out, it’s a pretty decent game which is nothing like either of these titles. Yet due to the way it encourages the player to go fast and learn the stage. The feeling of satisfaction is similar to Velocity 2X and Sonic, mastering the stages in Offspring Fling gives you the same level of satisfaction of mastering a stage from Velocity or Sonic. Its a game where you feel yourself getting better and ultimately think about the stage and the challenge ahead of you.
Also with all three of these games, the challenges are fair. If you mess up, odds are it’s because you messed up, if you’re not good at the game, it’s because you’re not very good. You either learn and master the stage, or you just try to get through it as best you can.
The philosophy of Yuji Naka, the idea of a player being able to get through a stage faster as he learnt the stage is more than evident in early Sonic games, the control and the power is in the players hands, unlike Sonic Boom which so far speed segments are automated with little control, and it’s the same with Velocity and Offspring Fling. The player is in 100% control of his character and it’s his own ability and skill which will determine how well he does.
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘hold boost to win’ and for a lot of recent games, that’s sadly true. But in Velocity, here is a boost button, however, if you hold it down for too long… odds are you’ll die. You have to learn to use the boost whilst navigating the level and fighting enemies in order to progress. It’s very much like learning Sonic 2′s stages for the first time. Yes you can use the spindash for a huge spin boost, but you can’t rely on it to beat a stage, you will take a hit, you will become trapped and you’ll break the flow of the stage as you attempt to recover from the error you made.
So what of IGN’s opening tagline… is Velocity the best Sonic game in 2 decades. No, because it’s not a Sonic game… but is it a game that gives the same satisfaction to master and beat. Yes, absolutely. However, there are a great many other games out there which also do that. As already mentioned, Offspring Fling is one such game Freedom Planet is probably another, there are no doubt countless others.
So if you are one of those people who got angry when they saw that line from IGN, don’t be, if anything its one hell of a compliment. Sonic games should give you the same feeling that Velocity 2X does when you master the stages. I can clearly see why their reviewer drew parallels to the feeling he had when he used to play the original Sonic titles, but there are other games which do this too.
Is IGN right to call it the best Sonic game in 2 decades? No, that’s a silly tagline to try and get people to read someone’s review.
Is IGN right to say it has the same “thrilling sense of mastery that a well-played level of Sonic the Hedgehog used to back in the 90s.” Yes, because it does, if you have played a Sonic game with the intention of mastering this, you will feel the same sensations from playing Velocity 2X.
Well since this ended up being less a review and more of a long ramble of a madman, is Velocity 2X any good? Yes, it’s very good, in fact you should probably go get it right now since it’s pretty awesome in every respect, just don’t expect any blue hedgehogs.
Although if Futurlab wants to patch in Sonic’s spaceship from SegaSonic Cosmo Fighter Galaxy Patrol… Then it really will be the best Sonic game in 2 decades!