SHC 2020: Mod Roundup #1! Twisted Retro

Look, I’m a weird guy, but weird in specific ways. Sure, I can appreciate wanting to put Amy in Sonic Mania, or wanting to put Shadow in Sonic Mania, or wanting to put Honey the Cat in Sonic Mania. But what I look for in a mod is twisting mechanics in novel ways, challenging me to pick apart what’s going on under the hood, subverting my expectations, making me laugh, or just straight-up surprising me. In this first roundup, here’s a bunch of twisted takes on traditional Sonic!

Sonic Black & White
Submitted by TheInvisibleSun

Palette swaps in Sonic are pretty regular at this point, but Sonic Black & White makes the palette your reward for playing well. Built on Sonic 1, Robotnik drains all the color from the world, turning everything to grayscale, and reducing the music to the percussion track. As you collect rings, bits of color return to the world, until you restore it to its full majesty (and full soundtrack) when you hit and maintain 50 rings. If you drop your rings, the world returns to its quiet, drab state. With Scrap Brain as your hub, you’re tasked with beating each level while holding 64 rings to unlock a shot at completing a special stage and earning one of the Chaos Emeralds needed to access the final area.

The appeal of the mod is the quite literal contrast you get to see the stage go through as you slowly restore it. You’ll appreciate the little touches as the blue slowly reenters the scene, highlighting Sonic’s distinct hue and bringing texture back to the otherwise featureless sky. If you don’t often think of Sonic 1 as a pretty game, let Sonic Black & White serve as your reminder that those checkerboards and stripes exist to build a unique and fascinating world.

Labyrinth Zone EX
Submitted by TheInvisibleSun

Do you hate Labyrinth Zone? Of course you do. It’s the one where you move like molasses while constantly on the verge of death, haunted by a caffeinated rendition of the Jaws theme. But what if Labyrinth Zone was worse? Or better? Or just completely inverted?

Labyrinth Zone EX is a playful mod that lets you experience four different variations on how water flows in these ruins. Upon jumping through one of the alcoves in the hub world, you’ll play through all four underwater stages of Sonic 1, but with a distinct twist. One variation floods the entire stage, giving you no above-water respite the entire time. Another starts the water at maximum height, but drops it as you collect rings, making your path easier so long as you don’t get hurt. Yet another allows you to control the water level simply by looking up or down. And in the truly wacky final form, the script is flipped, where the water is on top, and dry land is below.

Beyond the humorous disorientation from treading familiar territory in decidedly unfamiliar ways, coming to grips with each variation’s new mechanic is surprisingly fun provided you have the patience for it. Let’s be clear, it’s still Labyrinth Zone, and even with some small improvements to Sonic’s underwater mobility, he’ll still be frantically trodding towards the next available oxygen source.

UMGZ
Submitted by TheInvisibleSun

With a third entry in this list, TheInvisibleSun might be my kind of sadist. Not the Saw movie kind that will lock you in a room of spikes. No, nothing so gauche. There’s an art to twisting the knife.

UMGZ, or Underwater Marble Garden Zone takes the one zone in Sonic 3 that doesn’t have water, Marble Garden, and sets it entirely underwater. That’s… basically it. Complete Act 1 from beginning to boss while underwater.

Mercifully, the stage has added oxygen bubbles and a handful of hidden bubble shields to help you get through, but Marble Garden’s plethora of spike traps become that much harder to manage when your mobility is hindered and you’re scurrying to the next safe zone. I recommend giving it a go if you’re a broken individual like myself, someone looking for a trolling that pairs well with a fine chardonnay.

Sonic 1 Point & Click Edition
Submitted by Nat The Porcupine

While swatting flies and making weird baby sounds pushed the SNES mouse to lasting fame, the Genesis mouse never quite got the same treatment. With a controller in Genesis port 1, and a mouse in port 2, Sonic 1 Point & Click Edition finally gives the forgotten input a purpose. A silly purpose, but a purpose nonetheless.

Provided you can get the right combination of hardware and software to run it, Sonic 1 Point and Click Edition is Mario Galaxy’s Co-Star mode by way of a 90’s point-and-click adventure game. You can play it solo, but juggling both Sonic’s controls and the mouse is nigh impossible. Instead, grab a friend or loved one to provide mouse-driven help and havoc.

Sonic’s controls are everything you’re used to, but the mouse adds another form of interaction to many of the game’s items and enemies. Moving the cursor over rings magnets them to Sonic. Clicking and dragging item boxes will move them around until you drop them. Clicking badnicks might cause them to attack or just explode. Robotnik’s Green Hill wrecking ball can’t hit Sonic if a mouse cursor is holding it away, or will your co-pilot intentionally throw danger your direction? Surely they wouldn’t, would they? Would they?

Sonic 1 Point & Click Edition is the same fun of this year’s [Game] vs. Twitch Chat, but with a more personal and immediate touch. Play it with your mischievous kids. Play it with your trolling partner. Play it with your horrible friends. Just know you probably won’t get much out of it if you play it alone.

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