Normally, I do big reviews for the better titles and round-up reviews for everything else at SAGE, but I don’t have the time to do that anymore. I’m a busy guy. Plus, there are a lot of turds at this year’s SAGE (more than usual). I really don’t want to have to rail on 10+ projects. That said, I’m going to give you a run-down of what games you should check out before the show ends today. Hey, I’ll even provide a link to the projects’ websites, so you can download them long after the show is over!
I have five, truly amazing projects that I will review in detail below. Afterward, you can check out snippets of the projects that are above-average, but failed to captivate me like these top-five could.
Sonic 1: The Retro Channel
If you only get the opportunity to see one thing at SAGE, please make it this project. “Retro Channel” is the new hotness by Cinossu/Hapi-San that merges Sonic games with an online database at Sonic Retro. Imagine if our current world of online leaderboards and achievements existed during the Genesis era. Well, in a nutshell, that’s what this project is doing.
The first “Retro Channel” enabled hack is for the original Sonic the Hedgehog. You log into the game with your username and password for the Sonic Retro forums. Once connected, your scores, times, achievements and other miscellaneous play data will be transferred to leaderboards on the official Retro Channel website. You can play each act one-by-one or tackle the entire game like it were 1991.
The game’s new HUD keeps track of your score, time and rings, as usual, but also counts up badnik kills and player damage. Now, you can prove to your friends that you beat Scrap Brain without getting hit! If you press start in the hub world, you can see your achievements. These achievements are very clever and sometimes difficult to obtain (unlike those super lame SEGA ones)! Achievements range from quick enemy kills to exploiting game glitches!
Other features include a boss attack mode and the ability to insert your own music for a completely custom soundtrack. Retro Channel is for the fans, by the fans!
When you head over to the Retro Channel website, make sure you download the right package. You need to have the latest Gens emulator with the MDP plugin. Check out the action in the video below.
Visit the Retro Channel Website | Retro Channel Guide at Sonic Retro
Sonic 2: Retro Remix
When hacks started showing up to SAGE about three years ago, I was ecstatic. Firstly, it was the merger of two great communities, SFGHQ and Sonic Retro. Secondly, there are some really talented hackers out there who can create original experiences within the groundwork of the Genesis games. Hacks like Sonic 2: Retro Remix give you those perfect Genesis physics and something new to look at.
However, just because you’re in the Genesis hardware, it doesn’t mean that you have to make a game akin to Sonics 1 through 3. Sonic 2 Retro Remix feels more like the modern, two-dimensional outings of the blue blur and less like the original Sonic 2. Homing attack, wall jumping, that mid-air spin attack from the Advance games and tons of speed are the gameplay hallmarks in this hack, which can be exciting and frustrating all at the same time.
The homing attack works great. I’ve never been an advocate against the homing attack in the second dimension, but rather SEGA/Dimps’ abuse of forcing you to use it to cross pits or reach new areas instead of platforming. Here, it’s to your benefit only. If you so choose, you can play the game without using it, which is fantastic. The wall jump, unfortunately, has to be used and it is clunky as hell. You have to hold onto the wall with the Genesis “A” button, then jump with “C” and the direction you wish to go. I’ve said this before in SAGE reviews: the wall jump should be mapped to only one button, not two. I reset the game when I was forced into a wall-jump section. I simply couldn’t do it. Again, I’m not against wall jumping, but shit… at least make it usable if you’re going to force me to use it.
The level design is way too reliant on loops. Loops are cool and all, but they lose their luster the ump-teenth consecutive time. Otherwise, the layout and stage gimmicks lend themselves to extreme speed and little chunks of platforming. It’s clearly designed to be more of a “modern Sonic” game from its level design. That comment would be a knock against this hack if it had the terrible physics that plague the official games. Since it’s built upon the Sonic 2 engine, it’s a great rush (see what I did there?).
I had a fun time with this hack. After I tooled around with the main game, I dicked around in the “Adventure” mode, where you run around and hunt for emeralds. If you ever wanted B-Boy Knuckles’ 3D gameplay to go 2D, this mode is for you.
Visit the Sonic 2 Retro Remix Website
One-level demos (hell, sometimes one act demos) are all too prevalent at SAGE every year. Sonic Axiom is different. It has more content than a couple of SAGE demos put together, featuring five zones. Axiom also manages to not suck on many levels.
What will stand out to you first is the graphical style of the game. Yes, all of the graphics are recycled from previous games, but I’ve never seen such seemless and creative mixing-and-matching of tiles before! These levels are gorgeous (except for the cave level; that one is ugly). There were moments where I was caught thinking that all of the art was original. There were a few background objects that looked out of place, but they didn’t show up often. Thumbs up in that department.
The game stays with the tried and true Genesis gameplay, built within Multimedia Fusion. The “Sonic Worlds” engine that Damizean developed for Sonic Fan Games HQ is mostly accurate, but you will encounter a few weird spots here and there (you can only do so much with Multimedia Fusion). Sonic Worlds is, and always has been, a solid foundation for fangamers and Sonic Axiom really takes advantage of that fact. I rarely encountered issues with it.
Aside from the art and engine, the level layouts are well above-average for a Sonic fangame and feature some clever sections of platforming, something that most fangame creators cannot grasp. I had a blast romping around the large level layouts of Axiom. The music was assisting in said blast, providing some fun, yet sometimes ethereal, tunes. While the music isn’t original, it’s a well-selected soundtrack of recognizable and rarely-heard tunes. I managed to recognize Neon Night Zone’s theme, as it was from Socket, an infamous Sonic clone on the Genesis. I smiled when I heard it.
This game is almost complete. I’m excited at the prospect of the Sonic Worlds engine being apart of a finished project. It’s what my friend Damizean has always wanted.
Visit the Sonic Axiom Website
The E:02 Engine
Nothing much has changed from last year’s release. Just minor improvements to the engine. If you want a rundown of the spectacular E:02 engine, check out Dreadknux’s review from last year. E:02 is one of the best engines out there!
Visit the E:02 Website
Be The Bullet
Be the Bullet, also known as “Sonic-‘Em-Up,” is a retro-styled, Sonic SHMUP. I don’t have much to say about this game, aside from that it’s a fun little ditty that you should definitely check out. It’s one of the few games at SAGE that isn’t a traditional Sonic game, so it earns a lot of points for uniqueness.
You run along as Sonic, using the spindash to blast through hoards of enemies. The platforming elements are translated into this Gradius-like environment in the form of pits and spiked bridges. While firing, you can adjust your position on screen. In order to cross a pit, you have to fire and move your return point, represented by an arrow, to the other side. This functionality adds a little more depth to your average, fan-made SHMUP and helps translate Sonic into this new gameplay setting.
The NES feel with the graphics, music and gameplay is fantastic. I can’t get enough of Be The Bullet. I hope Steven M, the game’s creator, keeps working on it in the future and sees it to completion. Be The Bullet is solid from top to bottom.
Visit the Be The Bullet Website
The following games were above average, but did not “wow” me like the above projects. If you have the time to check out more games, please give these a look.
Sonic Time Twisted
If you’ve been reading this site for the past few years or follow the fangame scene, you might be shocked as to why I’ve put this game here and not in the list up above. The graphics and music are superb, the level design is true to its source (Sonic CD‘s Tidal Tempest Zone) and the engine is fine, for the most part. Here’s why I didn’t particularly like this year’s release: there’s too much water.
I released a demo for Sonic Nexus with only a water level in it in 2007. That was a risk, as people hate water levels. I can respect a creator taking a risk with a non-green zone for their SAGE demo, but the level still has to be fun. I saw an abundance of parallels between that demo and this Time Twisted demo, the good and the bad. Perplex Puzzle Zone, featured in this demo, is not fun. It’s too submerged in water. I learned from studying Sonic water levels and learning from my Pristine Palisade mistakes that you need to provide more above-water gameplay than what’s given here in Perplex Puzzle. Otherwise, it’s slow, mind-numbingly tedious platforming.
Spending a zone entirely underwater also allowed engine flaws to rear their ugly head. It needs improvement. Luckily, Overbound, the game’s creator, is upgrading to Mercury’s GM engine. This project will still be in my upper-echelon of fangames. It just hit a major speedbump.
Visit the Time Twisted Website | Watch Time Twisted Gameplay
Sonic 2: Dimps Edition
Yeah, you guys probably hate this hack. It’s making fun of Dimps’ Sonic games and most of you guys are hyper-sensitive to any criticism regarding the current state of Sonic (cue: paragraphs of bullshit about a “broken fanbase”). There are many people who enjoy this concept, however. If you’ve got a sense of humor or want to see Dimps get ripped on, then this hack is for you… kind of.
Why “kind of?” Well, this parody hack doesn’t go far enough. There are also a few jokes that just fall flat. What’s good in this parody hack is the intentionally bad music, sound design and dumbed-down physics. Sonic’s acceleration is out-of-whack and he can’t jump as high, just like a Dimps game. These physics changes are the setup for mocking speed boosters. Dimps’ use of speed boosters is primarily a way to hide their less than perfect physics and pre-determined curves. If you hit curves with anything less than a running speed, you’ll probably just stand there on the side of a wall. The boosters in this hack are placed accordingly to mimic that design choice or to exaggerate the boosters’ placement with overkill. It’s funny to hit a booster going into a curve and then another booster mid-curve.
What doesn’t work is that the speed boosters create this jerky motion. Chemical Plant Zone uses these speed boosters and they are very smooth. Why aren’t these parody boosters like that? From my experiences with Dimps Sonic games, the boosters do not create this jerky motion.
The homing attack is there and it works as it should. There are segments of the game where you have to use the homing attack to cross pits, instead of using platforms. Platforms were even taken out of the level design to make way for this boring, button-mash-a-thon. I laughed as the string of enemies went on and on.
The jokes fall flat sometimes due to Sonic 2‘s level design. Sonic 2 wasn’t designed for speed boosters and other bullshit. If SOTI, the game’s creator, really wants these jokes to land, then the level design has to be tweaked accordingly.
This parody hack has everything going for it. It just has to go more over-the-top and fix a lot of issues that arise as a result of the jokes its trying to make. If this interview with “Ken Balough” is any indication, we’re in for a fun time in the near future.
Visit the Sonic 2 Dimps Edition Website
Sonic Zero Remastered / Sonic Genesis
Both are games in the Sonic Worlds engine and both are one-level, green zone demos. There’s nothing particularly wrong with them. Both are solid games with good graphics, physics and level design, but they suffer from what I just mentioned; they’re short, they’re green, they’re decent. If you’ve got a moment, you can give these two a shot. Just don’t prepare to be wowed.
Visit the Sonic Zero Remastered Website | Visit the Sonic Genesis Website
I’m exhausted. This concludes my run-down of almost everything at SAGE 2010. If I didn’t mention your fangame, I apologize. I can only write-up so much. There’s also a lot of shit out there on the show floor, but I don’t feel like being entirely negative today. You probably wouldn’t have liked what I had to say anyway.
So, that’s it! Get out there and enjoy some fangames and hacks, knuckleheads.