TSS Review: Genesis of a Hero (Archie)

More like Revelations than Genesis in hindsight. IDW are set to release their new comic in just a few days from now. But as most of you know, before IDW there were the Archie Sonic comics. Spanning 290 issues, it lasted an eventful 24 years before it met its end in December 2016. To celebrate the passing of the torch from one company to another, I will be reviewing the entirety of Genesis of a Hero (AStH#288 – AStH#291), the last arc of the book. Continue reading TSS Review: Genesis of a Hero (Archie)

TSS Review: Sonic Forces

Note: This review qualifies as mostly ‘spoiler free’, but it does contain information on stages, gameplay elements.

It’s odd to think it’s been so long since the last major Sonic the Hedgehog release from Sonic Team. In fact, it’s just over six years since the release of Sonic Generations for the 20th anniversary. I’m sure there were raised eyebrows as the 25th anniversary came and went without an A-list title, but perhaps the majority let this pass as the fandom became gripped amidst ‘Sonic Mania’. Continue reading TSS Review: Sonic Forces

TSS Review: Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice for 3DS

Title: Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice
Platform: Nintendo 3DS (played on 3DS XL model)
Developer:
 Sanzaru Games
Release Date: September 27th, 2016 (NA), September 30th, 2016 (EU), October 1st, 2016 (AUS), October 27th, 2016 (JP)

Review copy provided by Sega

Here we are at last. It’s been almost two years after the Sonic Boom branch of the series launched with the TV show and the accompanying Wii U and 3DS games. We now have the second main Sonic Boom game (depending if you view Rise of Lyric on Wii U and Shattered Crystal on 3DS as a sibling pair of games), and this time it’s only on 3DS. Like Shattered Chrystal before it, Fire & Ice is once again developed by Sanzaru Games, who is also known for the Sly Cooper HD trilogy remaster and the fourth Sly game a few years back on PS3 and Vita. While Big Red Button’s Rise of Lyric launched in a poor and buggy state on Wii U, Shattered Crystal on 3DS was considered to be at least decent, though it had issues of its own. The question is, how does Fire & Ice fare?

Continue reading TSS Review: Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice for 3DS

TSS Review: LakeFeperd’s Sonic Chrono Adventure

Sonic Before the Sequel, the breakout title for then-fledgling game developer Felipe “LakeFeperd” Daneluz, shattered expectations for a fan-developed 2D Sonic game after its initial release in 2011. The full-length retro-styled game lived up to its ambitious name thanks to its gorgeous presentation, its ingenious Zones, a charming story featuring Sonic and Tails meeting for the first time as they try to stop the Death Egg’s launch, and, as of its rerelease for the online Sonic Amateur Games Expo in 2012, a stunning original soundtrack that even saw praise from THE Jun Senoue. Continue reading TSS Review: LakeFeperd’s Sonic Chrono Adventure

DropDead X Sonic Clothing Review

For those of you who do not know, British fashion label DropDead released an brand new line of clothing in collaboration with SEGA to mark Sonic The Hedgehog’s 25th anniversary.

Since this range is something slightly different to the usual more “tween” approach we have seen recently around Sonic Boom, I decided to pick up a couple of items and open them with you guys to see my honest reaction to what these guys are offering!

Are you interested in the range, or maybe you have purchased something yourself? Let us know in the comments!

http://www.dropdead.co/

TSS Review: 3D Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for 3DS eShop

3D Sonic The Hedgehog 2 BannerDeveloper: M2 Release Date: July 22, 2015 (JP), October 8, 2015 (NA/UK/EU) Price: 800円/$5.99/£4.49/€4.99

Review copy provided by Sega

3D Sonic the Hedgehog 2, the second Genesis/Mega Drive Sonic game to hit the 3DS eShop again comes with added stereoscopic 3D visuals and other new features as the original did before it. I played the game from beginning to end, and actually for the very first time ever as well. This will be a fresh perspective from someone who has never played the game fully before which may surprise some people. I would be lying if I said I’ve never played the game before, because I did in fact play it in Sonic Mega Collection for the GameCube way back in 2002. However that was more in bite-sizes and playing around with the infamous debug mode (can’t go wrong with instant Super Sonic).

But here on 3DS I played the game fair and square… with one exception, which I promise to address in the review you are about to read.

Sonic 2 Screenshot 1

Home Menu of the game

To begin, I wish to clarify that I only merely tried out the 3D the game is offering, and in my personal opinion, it doesn’t add much to the game at all. You’re not going to get something revolutionary unless you love 3D to begin with (to me, 3D is a complement, rather than a needed feature in games, it doesn’t mean much to me other than minor amusement). In particular, I found the 3D in the special stages, which a lot were looking forward to seeing in motion, really doesn’t work much at all. Especially since the frame-by-frame motion of the stage doesn’t mesh with the 3D and can indeed be hard to handle. The game may be called 3D Sonic the Hedgehog 2, but to me the real appeal is that the game is on it in all its classic Genesis/Mega Drive glory and in native 320×224 resolution to boot, no more blurry upscaling here. I also want to quickly mention that I did not play the multiplayer mode in the game because I don’t have anyone else to try it with so this review is squarely about the core single-player game.

With that aside, let’s talk about the game. This is a tad difficult, because people reading this have a lot of expectations, because the vast majority have played all the classics and love them dearly, and I can very much see why and the appeal. My personal experience with Sonic 2 is actually not as rosy as you’d imagine it to be.

Sonic 2 Screenshot 2

Regular gameplay of Emerald Hill Zone in Original Mode

Let’s start with the good, and there are certainly great things to talk about. First off, it’s a beautiful game, the game on 3DS indeed still runs at a brisk 60 frames per second and you really get that classic sense of speed when going fast. Also the aforementioned native resolution just makes the pixels shine, and of course you have beautiful color reproduction and it being on an LCD and everything. You’re looking at the game literally how it was supposed to look.

There’s also the music by the same composer as Sonic 1, Masato Nakamura. His tunes are back, and sound exactly as they should and great as always. I must say and others have pointed this out; when you boot-up the game on 3DS the “SEGA” chant is bizarrely lower-quality than it should be, I tested Sonic 1 on 3DS and it sounds fine. I’m not sure why that is, M2 are famous for their attention to detail and skills in porting and emulating, so I won’t fault them for it. There must be a reason, but it’s not that big of a deal, it sounds alright otherwise and the music and sound effects are just fine. Actually it needs to be brought up that the sound effects tend to favor one over the other where certain occasions will only play one sound over and other at the same time, but that’s likely just to emulate the Genesis/Mega Drive’s limitations.

Sonic 2 Screenshot 3

Special Stages

With the good out of the way, it’s now time to look at the bad, and there are some major topics to cover. The biggest of them all is what you see right above; the special stages. Is it the format with the half-pipe? No, actually the gameplay is legit fun and trying to grab each row of rings and whatnot is fun yet challenging. Sure the spike balls can be a bit of a pain to avoid, but overall that’s just fine. The real thorn, is Tails. Tails has a problem; he is not only able to grab rings, but he is not invincible, and he’s not one to avoid hazards. This is a critical problem. As you may know, the goal is to collect the amount of rings required to get through three sections until you finally reach that precious chaos emerald with 7 to collect in total. Tails likes to hog rings and loses them constantly, he cannot hold on to rings to save his life, so it comes down to you having to make sure Sonic is the one to grab them before Tails does. But there are times when it’s just a constant case of where you’re less than a handful of rings short of the goal, and this happens a lot.

There are other issues in the game and surprisingly, it comes from Sonic’s trademark; his speed. The very soul of the franchise, the very thing Sega used to combat Nintendo and Mario himself. Sonic loves to move fast, who doesn’t? There’s just a problem, he doesn’t get much of a chance to do just that, because you usually have an enemy right in his path who you’ll bump into and lose all your rings. This can be pretty bothersome, but admittedly it’s not the worst thing (that would be the aforementioned special stages issue), but it is an annoyance all the same.

Sonic 2 Screenshot 4

Super Sonic Mode

There’s also the platforming that needs to be addressed, while Sonic is able to hop around platforms alright, Super Sonic is a nightmare at times. He is as slippery as butter, especially at Wing Fortress. A major issue is that you are forced to transform once you collect 50 rings after a mere jump, you have to lose all your rings to avoid doing so but it’d be much better if you could either use a different button to transform (or just hit the jump button a second time in the air), or have the option to return to normal and retain your rings.

Another minor issue though this is solved anyway but is one that existed in the game’s design; I’m not fond of having to play the game all in one go. I grew up with games with save files, I can’t imagine playing a game where if you have to leave or take a long break, you’ll have to leave the system on or be forced to shut the system off. This however is fixed in two ways anyway, one in the actual game where you can use the level select cheat via the sound test, but not everyone would’ve known this especially in the early nineties. The second, which is by far the best thing about this version of the game and you will be so thankful it exists, is the use of save states. Save states truly saved the game for me… no pun intended. This is so useful in many ways, but most of all in the special stages where you can save at any point in them, even to the very ring spot. Trust me I used this feature to the fullest and I am so thankful for it. I honestly would not have beaten the game without it.

Sonic 2 Screenshot 5

Ring Keeper Mode, along with the Pause Menu

The 3DS version does add a Stage Select option in the bottom screen menu you can access from the start of the game (handy for returning players). As well as a Ring Keeper mode that gives you 10 rings at the beginning of each act and cuts your ring loss in half instead of losing them all. This mode can actually indeed make things a lot easier for you, particularly when going after special stages or trying to collect enough rings to become Super Sonic. Though save states when used right arguably do the job better; save when you collect rings, if you get hit, revert to said save instantly. It really depends on what you need it for, or if you even want to use save states. Options are always welcome of course. The CRT mode allows you to give the graphics a color-bleeding, blurry appearance in addition to curving the outer corners of the screen, as if you were playing on a real CRT television. You actually are able to use the 3D to view it like it was in a curved screen, but again it depends how much value you see in that.

The game also allows you to unlock Super Sonic Mode by beating the game without getting all the emeralds. At the beginning of each act you’re given 50 rings so you can just jump once and turn into Super Sonic straight away. This is handy because as mentioned the special stages are quite a handful, and they’re far easier to access just as long as you don’t wait too long and your ring count goes below 50 when being Super Sonic. It’s up to you if you want to beat the game in the old fashioned way, which is what I did. I was determined to play it as close as possible to how it was designed to be played, but I could not handle the lack of saving and the other issues I need not bring up again hence the use of save states.

In conclusion, understandably most of the review has been focusing on the game itself, rather than the 3DS version itself. The real question is for those who played the game at some point on other systems would be; “is the 3DS version worth it?”. The answer to that question is; it comes down to if you’ve had issues with the game and if you want to put up with them again, use the options available, or if you find that the issues are too off-putting to work with again. Really the port offers nothing amazing or grand for returning players other than the save states which will make replays far easier. And the aforementioned native resolution makes the game on a graphical front an attractive incentive. Of course there’s also the portability and the use of actual buttons compared to the mobile version for example.

As for me, honestly despite the annoyances I’ve had, I enjoyed my time with the game. The port is most attractive to me due to the native-resolution, save states, and the general portability of it. The port served my needs perfectly. So the answer to me is yes, it is worth it. However if these benefits don’t interest you and/or you’ve gotten your fill already, then no, it’s likely not worth playing yet again. I am personally hoping we’ll see 3D Sonic 3 and 3D Sonic & Knuckles as soon as possible on the 3DS eShop. Sonic 3 & Knuckles being the one I did play the most by far in Sonic Mega Collection (though again mostly in debug mode, I gave up playing it legit at, where else, the drum).

You’ll Love:
+ Save states, you’ll be so thankful for them.
+ The visuals really are a sight to behold with the sprites, colors, and native resolution making the game look super clean.
+ It feels like you’re playing a real Genesis/Mega Drive game on the go, kinda like the Sega Nomad, but not nearly as heavy or power-consuming.
+ The music is of course great to listen to.
+ When you go fast, it is fun to do and see.
+ Super Sonic is awesome, when you’re able to use him to his fullest.

You’ll Hate:
Tails in the special stages doesn’t co-operate, he’s the real hazard in them.
Going fast is a blessing and a curse, you’ll bump into many enemies unless you take it slow, which kind of defeats the purpose don’t you think?
Super Sonic is like butter, do not use him if you’re focusing on very specific platforming sections.
3D and other features such as a CRT-style mode don’t add a whole lot, it’s more of a “meh” point than a hate point, but it’s still worth mentioning.

TSS Review: Sonic Runners (v.1.1.0)

Sonic_Runners_logo

Hey, didn’t you guys already review this game? Why yes we did, and we’ve been talking about if we should take another look at it since with every update it seems to change. Well, following the worldwide release, we feel that Runners has changed enough that our previous review really doesn’t apply or match up with the experience you’ll get with this game.

sonic runners

So here is my review on Sonic Runners, based on the worldwide release build. This will focus more on the changes between the original review and the technical performance of the game since the plot is the same and the premise of the game is the same. That said however, a lot has changed… sadly a lot has changed for the worst.

So I’m not sure how some will react with my next line but here goes… On a technical level, this is probably one of the worst Sonic game made. Yes, I am including Sonic 06 and Sonic Boom in that, it is awful, it really is. The worldwide release is plagued with issues ranging from freezing, stuttering, lag, game breaking/ruining bugs, as well as overheating issues which can potentially put the device you’re using at risk.

… You were expecting me to praise this game given how I loved the initial release? Well on a gameplay level, it’s a really fun and charming game… Which Sega have ruined by adding in the very worst of free to play features and a near broken DRM/always online requirement which by the way is doing nothing to prevent cheaters,

For full disclosure, I have used a range of different Android devices to try and play the game. Primarily I have used a Samsung Galaxy S5, however I have also tested a Nexus 7 and a Sony Xperia Z3, all of which suffer from the same and in some cases more serious problems. All of these devices could previously run Sonic Runners during the soft launch period with virtually no problems.

Sonic_Runners_Team_Heroes

So lets start with the basics, though odds are you already know this. Sonic Runners is a side scrolling endless runner in which you start off as Sonic before unlocking Tails and Knuckles.

The premise of every stage is to run as far as you can and collect as many rings and gems as possible in order to get a huge score which progresses you further along the map before you reach the end of the episode/level.

Before I should go any further, I should mention that Sonic Runners uses multiple forms of currency. There are normal gold rings which are in plentiful supply. Then there are red rings which are much rarer. We’ll cover both of these later.

At the end of each stage you are given a small reward: normally gold rings or red rings, though sometimes you get an item. The rings you can use to level up characters which improve their stats. Stats are for things like score bonus increases or item effect durations increase. You’ll find you’ll need to level up characters if you want higher scores and find it easier to progress in later stages.

sonicrunners2
This is the single most coolest image you’ll ever see in Sonic Runners.

However, the worldwide release differs from the initial release with the inclusion of an experience bar. This bar will fill based on how many rings you pick up in the game, which means you can save on spending those rings if you regularly use a character. By level 20 however, you’ll find it’s not worth waiting and will just spend those rings on your power level. Which again, do you do this from rings collected, or once more, there is that micro-transaction system hint hint wink wink.

Whilst the level cap is 100, the gains from level 50 onwards are so poor there is absolutely no point in waiting to level up, so spend those rings.

What else can you spend rings on? Nothing. Just levelling up characters. I will talk about red rings near the end of the review. Needless to say, I am not happy.

Levels are split into three types: Speed, Flight and Power. Each is designed to be played by a specific character type, though you’ll quickly find that you’ll only ever want to play as either speed or flight since Power characters are so useless compared to the other two. They’re only useful for their own stages, whereas the other types are great on every stage, with flight characters taking the top of the character tier list.

sonicrunners1

As you progress through the game, you start very simple stories involving Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and various other characters. Normally it’s “Eggman is doing a thing! Lets go stop him.” “Help! This character is missing, lets go find them!” Whilst the climax does build up into something more dramatic, this type of story is rare and a one off.

Some may find it nice that we’ve gone back to a simple story in which it’s just “Sonic goes after Eggman because Eggman did something bad.” though others may find these stories far too basic to enjoy. Personally I began to skip some of the stories since they were so repetitive and dull.

The stage layout is the same as the soft launch version. No changes. It’s a decent layout combining challenge, flow and multiple paths, however I’m not sure that in some places the higher path is the most rewarding. In some stages, the lower path is clearly more viable in terms of score.

It should be really enjoyable, and in the pre worldwide version it is. It’s a great example as to how you can adapt a classic Sonic game for a modern mobile market place, slap a small price tag on it and you have a great experience for the daily commute or for killing a spare half hour.

It’s fun and addictive. If the game had a price tag of say £2.99, I would buy this in a heartbeat. It’s a really nice charming game which is bloody good.

So what’s the problem?

Pretty much everything underpinning that which turns Runners into a near unplayable mess which is designed to rob the player of their time and money, turning runners into a gambling machine.

The game has very poor optimisation. It’s so poor in fact that after only 5 minutes it starts to stutter, lag and in some cases completely freezes. How bad is it? Well remember how I said I tested this game on three different devices? Here is how Runners used to perform.

  • Galaxy S5: Flawless, phone was slightly warm, but otherwise flawless.
  • Sony Xperia Z3: Near Flawless, phone got hotter than the S5, but otherwise fine, however battery drained quicker than the S5.
  • Nexus 7 (2013): Wasn’t tested, but is compatible with the game.

Here is how those devices performed with the worldwide release.

  • Galaxy S5: Initially, the game runs fine… but after 5 min of play time the phone gets very hot, gameplay begins to stutter, lag, some occasional freezing in areas with lots of objects. Game eventually becomes near unplayable.
  • Xperia Z3: Same as the S5, however after 5 min the temperature of the phone increases by 16-20°C (value taken from built in battery monitoring app) the game will then completely crash. Battery life is drained by 20% after only 5 min.
  • Nexus 7 (2013): This was a fresh install so we only played the tutorial. We couldn’t accurately test the lag effects with lots of objects on the screen… But after 5 minutes of play, the device became too hot to comfortably hold and we had to turn it off to cool the device down. We were afraid it would cause lasting damage to the device and the owner then requested we immediately delete Runners and never install it on again.

You want to know something even more head scratching? These were running in streamlined mode, which is designed to take pressure of the processor and make the game perform better…. however our soft launch versions did not have streamlined mode turned on! Yet it’s performing this badly with streamlined mode on!?

Sega… What the hell happened!? How do two of the most advanced phones on the market go from playing the game flawlessly to struggling and in one case failing after 5 min of gameplay time?

The Nexus 7 can probably be explained by the fact it’s older hardware and Runners does demand a lot. But still, the heat generated was worrying to the owner of the device so if you have a Nexus 7 2013, avoid runners like the Black Death.

This is just bad optimisation, pure and simple. There is no way a game like Runners should be causing this many problems on these devices. Whilst I personally haven’t been able to test an iOS build, I’ve been told it’s a lot better, which suggests to me the Android version is a port which got little development or tooling. I would say that this claim is further supported by the fact that the Android version on launch crashed during start up due to a major problem the always online DRM, questioning how this got past the Q&A if the game had been optimised for this platform.

So technically, the game is bad. It’s really bad. In fact I’d go as far as to say it’s there with Sonic 06 and Rise of Lyric, because for as buggy as those games are, at least they allow you to play for more than 5 min and do not melt your system.

Other noticeable bugs: Buddies no longer pick up animals, the asteroid wisp will sometimes spiral to the top of the screen out of control, totally ruining a run.

runnersasteroid
I’m not touching the screen, the wisp just refuses to come down.

Then there is this odd thing…

charmytheknuckles
Charmy the Knuckles

Yes it’s funny, but you add this will the other technical problems and you really do question if any optimisation or QA took place.

Aside from it’s technical performance, are there any other problems. Yes… dear lord yes.

Lets get onto the Red Rings. Red Rings are the second form of currency that this game uses, they are much harder to come by and when you get some, it’s in very limited stock. Red Rings are used to by normal rings or extra lives, but their primary use is to use on the roulette wheel and gain buddies.

What are buddies? They’re small characters that accompany you in stages which add a bunch of effects ranging from score boosters to ring recovery and other positive effects. The vast majority of them are pointless, but some of the rarer ones are highly valuable and the key to doing well on the leader boards.

The catch is that the only way to get them is from either a special event, or from spending 50 red rings on the roulette wheel, at which point you are granted a random buddy. If you get the same buddy, it levels up before capping at level 5. The problem now is that following the worldwide release, Sega has drastically slashed the number of red star rings you can get.

How bad is it? Well under the soft launch version, completing all parts of the final scenario rewarded you with 90 red rings. 10 for each episode, 50 for the final boss. To complete the final scenario, you need a total score of 50 million, so 50 million = 90 red rings.

But in the worldwide launch, you only get 5 per episode and only 10 for the final boss! So now you only get 30 for completing the 5 hardest levels in the game. A total point requirement of 50 million, so 50 million = 30 red rings!

What about other red ring methods? You can randomly find one in a stage, Eggman may drop one if you’re lucky, and if you spam your friends Facebook accounts you can get 10 if they sign up to Runners and use your referral… oh wait hang on… that feature is currently broken.

You are therefore forced to use real world money to buy red rings. And how have Sega welcomed new users to this? By ripping them off.

runnerstore

Prior to the worldwide launch, the highest red ring price was £24.99 for 700 red rings. In the new worldwide version it’s £30 for 481, yet they still have the gall to claim that this is a sale price! But wait? What’s that bonus +1019 red ring amount, that apparently gets removed if you are actually silly enough to buy rings from the store? They call it a ‘first time buyers bonus.’ After you make your first purchase, it returns to 481.

For new players who have just picked up the game, sorry to say this but you are totally screwed. You won’t ever be able to touch those who have been playing this game for months. Their buddies are too well levelled up and they have the special limited edition characters which boost score. Don’t even try, it’s over.

runnerstoogood
See this? This is why you will NEVER be able to touch those higher level players.

…Unless you spend several hundred pounds in red rings. Then you ‘might’ have a chance, but you won’t. You won’t because you won’t have the limited edition characters who have better bonuses, so why even bother?

And now we get to a major problem with Sonic Runners in terms of it’s design and ethical issues.

runnerswheel
Is anyone ok with the fact that Runners is essentially a gambling machine aimed at children?

The game has now forced you to use the micro-transaction system. The only thing worth spending that on is the roulette wheel, which is no different than playing real roulette in a casino. You pay money, then take a chance at the wheel to get a reward.

Sonic Runners essentially becomes a miniature gambling machine, you are enticed to put real money in, then spend that money in the form of red rings, you gamble those rings for prizes, this is gambling, there is no other way to describe it. Then we get into the very murky waters of the fact that the game is aimed at children. This is a miniature gambling game aimed at kids. Surely this should have a higher ESRB rating than it currently does given that it has gambling in it?

 Before you say ‘well it’s not really gambling’ explain how? It’s no different from any other form of gambling. In fact it’s just a virtual form of casino chips, if you spend money on this game, then use those rings on the wheel, you are gambling, think about that for a moment. Some of you will be ok with it, but I know a few won’t be.

Were red rings common in the original? No, you still had to work to earn them, but you could get them for playing and doing well if you were dedicated and were generally good at the game. Now, they’re virtually non existent. So few are available that you’ll be crying out for special events or bite the bullet and spend real money to gamble with.

Your chances to get rings are further restricted due to the life/revive change. Whilst this change came during the soft launch, it was done so close to the worldwide launch it’s worth mentioning; you are now only given 3 lives. 1 life will recharge every 30 min. After which you’re told to buy more or wait until they recharge.

Even more pathetic an insult, Sega have been releasing new characters. The only way to get them is by using the roulette wheel. There’s a mere 6% chance at getting said characters. The catch is that their bonuses are much better than the default characters, so if you want to compete, gotta get these characters.

sonicrunners
Facebook support suddenly disabled

Even Amy is dangled in front of your face like some kind of bait. Spam your Facebook friends who might have no interest in the game, hope they’ll use your referral and you might get Amy… except Facebook links are currently broken so this is impossible.

asprin
To read the rest of this review, please take a moment to just stare at this picture of Aspirin for 30 seconds.

You want more examples of how the free to play nature ruins what is a decent game? Adverts… everywhere, even for completing a stage, you now get an advert, say goodbye to your mobile data limits as these are video files, the majority of which are 30 seconds long. So far I’ve not seen one which relates to Sonic or Sega, and some have nothing to do with gaming.

This brings me onto another change. When you die in a stage, you can continue if you watch a video advert (there is a limited number per day). This sounds like a great idea… but like most other parts of the game, there are problems. Sometimes the adverts don’t play, sometimes the adverts crash or freeze your game, forcing you to quit, taking with it your life and doesn’t compensate you in any way, and sometimes the adverts are for things not available in your region. I got one advert for medication which isn’t available in the UK!

The always online requirement is still here, and once again it’s proved how pointless it is, players are already cheating and have been cheating for months, asking the question, why the hell is this even a thing? The game would be so much better if this wasn’t even here, it’s just pointless and restrictive to how and where you can play.

So I’ve complained for a while, might as well offer some solutions to these problems.

  • Scrap the online only requirement, it doesn’t do anything and isn’t preventing cheating.
  • Optimise the game. For the love of god optimise the game for Android.
  • Return the red ring rewards for completing the final episode to the soft launch levels.
  • Stop putting characters on the roulette wheel and give us a store to buy them from for a limited period of time.

Overall, Sonic Runners was once a really great little game. It was really fun to play and I got lots of enjoyment from it. Then something happened called the Worldwide launch and Sonic runners was turned into a broken mess littered with adverts and the very worst of  methods to try and extract money from you.

sonicrunnersadvert

That’s not a browser advert, I just felt you all needed to see a Game of War advert, since Runners wants you to see them all the time, maybe it’s viral marketing for Eggman’s army having a cross over in Game of War?

Don’t do it, do not waste your time with this, there was a great game here, it’s gone now, it died with the worldwide release. Unless they fix the blatantly broken android version, radically overhaul the red ring system and cut down the adverts avoid this game.

You’ll Love:
+ When it works, the simple gameplay which is fun.
+ The moment you manage to unlock a new character.
+ Knuckles threatening to kill Eggman.

 You’ll hate:

–  In terms of its technical performance, it’s easily one of the worst Sonic games of all time.
–  Stuttering, lag, freezes after a short period of play.
–  Adverts.
–  Always online.
–  It’s a gambling machine aimed at children.
–  Designed to take money from you, not reward your ability to play.
–  Overheating of your device.
–  Trying to explain to your partner why their expensive phone has melted/no longer performs well due to overheating.
*Review based on the Android version of the game, running on Galaxy S5, Nexus 7 (2013) & Sony Xperia Z3.*

Second Opinion by Bradd039243d0917679ed9762e415af2f9e8

Played on the iPhone 5C, using the latest version of iOS.

When I reviewed the initial build of the game, I had nothing but praise for it. In fact, I called it the best Sonic title we’ve seen since Sonic Generations. While I hold to what I said regarding that soft launch version… there’s no way I can continue to hold that opinion with this new worldwide release.

First, I want to go over the positives – the game is still simple and fun in terms of its gameplay. It inherits some of the classic design philosophies but modernised for a new platform and it’s fun to experience. Furthermore, the production values haven’t gone anywhere either. The music from Ohtani is still top notch (if not slightly repetitive by the game’s nature) and the visuals are still great.

Something I highlighted as a positive in my initial look was how it was fair with its freemium nature. This has, unfortunately, become quite the opposite. Runners’ worldwide build finally is using in game advertisements to a mixed approach. I don’t mind having the ability to use a free revive by viewing an ad, but I don’t appreciate them appearing when I try to see my results or return to the main menu.

Daily Challenges are at least more easily completed in the worldwide release.
Daily Challenges are at least more easily completed in the worldwide release.

Red Rings have also become a true premium currency with a questionable approach. The soft launch version not only was more generous in terms of how it rewarded players with them, but I also never felt pressured to spend them. This version has cut rewarded Red Rings in half for defeating most boss encounters in game and upped prices in the store – this, alongside the awful luck based system to earns new characters and buddies, only discourages me from playing the game or purchasing premium currency.

My other negatives still stand also. The game does lack variety (don’t expect to be playing Runners for long periods of time without becoming bored), the story is still abysmally uninteresting/poorly written, and some obstacles in the game feel very cheap. But aside from what I’ve mentioned above, there’s still one more gigantic negative the worldwide version has brought – which is performance issues.

Never during the game’s soft launch builds did I ever experience issues with how the game performed. It ran smoothly and meant that generally, players at fault would be punished fairly. The worldwide version has brought very noticeable stuttering and lag to the gameplay. And this wouldn’t be much of an issue… if it didn’t cause your runs to mess up completely. Lag will make your jump go a little too high, or for you to miss an enemy, or to hit that obstacle you had dodged a thousand times before suddenly smack you in the face. This issue affects the experience immensely.

A few other things I should mention about this worldwide version of the game, as it stands:

  • A great fix the game made was showing players what level they would be facing before they entered regardless of the progress you made. This allows you to be much more prepared, and not feel cheated when you enter a level with Tails and fail immensely in a power based stage.
  • Revive tokens have been completely nerfed. Not only have they been cut to three, the recovery time for them has been increased. This could be to encourage players to connect with their Facebook friends so they can send revive tokens to one another.
  • A new experience system has been introduced. A great idea in concept and would encourage you to perform better in your runs – however the experience system feels limited and not generous on any level, even at just level 10. It makes you think it may just be another nudge to spend more rings, which in turn may make you want to use premium currency to attain…?

I’d quite frankly call the worldwide launch of Sonic Runners a bit of a failure – not only have they made a fun little mobile game a money hungry monster, they’ve introduced new problems to soft launch players that never existed before. This version of Runners is not the same experience anymore, and that truly saddens me.

Review: Champions

I could make a whole Queen playlist to summarise this arc alone.

Smarmic
This is one of the more understated expressions you’ll see

Sometimes, you need to take a breather. Right now, we’re deep into the events of Unleashed as told by the comic, and right on our doorstep is a multi-franchise crossover. So in comes this arc, which is very peculiar when looking at it from the perspective of its placement. It occasionally references the Unleashed events, but it’s ultimately a Sonic the Fighters adaptation, which also adapts Sonic 2 on the Game Gear, and also adapts an episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, and even throws in Sonic Heroes for good measure. As you might be able to guess, this isn’t exactly the most serious of premises. But will this tale be picking up the championship belt, or will be a first round K.O? Let’s get to the post-game analysis and find out!

 

The Tournament

We start off Sonic #268 with a flashback to an event in the past which seems like a mix of Game Gear Sonic 2 and the start of AoStH’s ‘Lovesick Sonic’. It goes about the way you expect up until the last panel where Breezie definitely does not look like the same damsel in distress she was in the cartoon. The Freedom Fighters exposit on why only Sonic, Tails and Amy will be in the arc out of the entire team, and we see Breezie in the present, a media mogul who has the sass and forces to be able to have Eggman play to her rules as she finds out that Knuckles has been entered into the tournament (although we aren’t privy to that yet).  Eggman contacts the Hooligans en route to Casino Park to establish the plan, and he calls Metal Sonic as he’s assaulting Gergarios (the vicar person from Unleashed) in Apotos to summon him over there.

After this, most of the action takes place in Casino Park itself, with the rest of the first issue being set-up for the tournament. Sonic and Breezie reunite, exchanging passive-aggressive wit until Sonic uses his status to arrange for him to fight only in the daytime (because of a slight case of Werehog). Amy comes across Honey, who’s an idol to the young hedgehog, and we find out that she’s there to promote her clothing business and is willing to help the heroes in exchange for them promoting her next line. The Hooligans continue on with their primary plan to win the tournament (although Bean can see how that’ll go from a mile away), and Espio exposits to Vector that he was the one who put Knuckles into the tournament, convenient since Knuckles has just arrived with Chip.

Sonic #269, and cue another flashback, this time revealing that Breezie was gathering intel on Sonic all along after he rescued her, but bringing up the fact that she puts a lot of priority on herself as opposed to anyone else, as she sics Silver Sonic onto him. Back in the present, the first fight is already underway, and we get to see Sonic beat Segata Sanshiro (not named in the comic). Before he can bask in the glory too long, Amy reminds him that it’s almost sundown. He runs out of the arena and to his hotel room where he transforms into the Werehog. He watches Amy fight her match against not Jane from Fighting Vipers. He’s not the only one as Espio watches from the ceiling to see how the heroes progress, while wishing he could find Knuckles to tell him about his addition to the tournament.

Switch to Knuckles managing to pull a fast one on a wealthy lady who had a Master Emerald shard as part of her necklace. It looks like he and Chip will be watching Tails fight, but  Scratch comes along to inform him that he has a round coming up soon, which Knuckles decides to go along with because of the Chaos Emerald at stake. The rest of the issue follows three matches and various outside reactions to it. Honey beats Tails, the Freedom Fighters react (Cream being more angry than the others, quite humourously). Honey tries to console him after but it’s not exactly looking effective. Bean beats Espio (with Espio being…eh, see the character section), the Chaotix react. Knuckles beats Bark, Thunderbolt’s faction reacts (although Thunderbolt herself doesn’t seem pleased about them watching it), Axel’s faction reacts and team Dark react (with Rouge being overjoyed). Tails is non-plussed about Honey’s bow tie, Amy finds out she’s been drawn against Knuckles and panics while Honey has Sonic, and the issue closes off with a bit more discussion between the Hooligans and Eggman.

Rock Rose
There was something here, it is gone now.

Sonic #270 has another flashback to begin with, but this one starts with Breezie talking to (or flirting with) Neo Metal Sonic after seeing through his Eggman disguise and encouraging his independence.  Back in the present, Tails is still smarting from his defeat at the hands of Honey, and Sonic acts the big brother figure by cheering him up with his other feats (including a reference to Sonic Adventure). They’re watching Fang and Bean duke it out, which is cut short when Fang orders bean to forfeit. Sonic and Tails get exposition from Espio about the roster change before we cut to Knuckles and Amy’s match. It begins, but Amy is distracted by how Sonic would react if she got to fight him. This results in an out of the ring flying rock and a trip to Amy’s bedside in hospital. But there’s no time to waste as Sonic squares up against Honey. After an impressive show, Sonic tosses her out of the ring. The Hooligans are talking tactics before they face Knuckles, which is in vein as Knuckles makes light work of the remaining mercenary. Eggman watches in frustration, but he’s not dettered. The Hooligans always have a back-up plan, and Metal Sonic is close to the venue for his own assault. As Sonic and Knuckles get into the ring, we see Fang preparing a sniper shot…

Sonic #271 changes things up by being very linear in narrative. The final has started, and Sonic and Knuckles are exchanging memories of old fights while the fists fly. We cut to a flashback of how Breezie came to have the Chaos Emerald in the first place (the SSSSS Squad retrieving it while each trying to claim credit) and her deciding to use it as a prize to lure in the big names. Back in the present, Sonic and Knuckles talk goals and working together to find the Emeralds and shards while still fighting, and we see everyone reacting to the fight between them. Meanwhile, Bean and Bark rig the generator to explode (in typical Bean fashion) and Fang gets his aim set when it does blow up moments later. Just when thing are poised for the Hooligan, who should enter but Metal Sonic himself, ruining their plan but making easy work of stealing Breezie’s emerald from the vault.

From here on, it’s basically a chase action sequence. Sonic tries to ground him, but Metal Sonic quickly recovers. The other fighters each have a go at slowing him down but he dodges them easily. Just as it seems Metal Sonic will fly out of reach, Tails turns out to be waiting on the roff for him and uses the element of surprise to kick Metal Sonic, knocking the Chaos Emerald from his grasp. As if Tails wasn’t champ enough already, he warns Metal Sonic that the back-up generators should be starting at that moment, prompting Eggman to call a retreat despite Metal Sonic seeming to want to fight. We cut to Honey and Breezie working out a deal where Honey designs clothes for Breezie’s robotic staff. Honey uses the opportunity to call out Breezie on her inaction to help the Freedom Fighters, which Breezie refutes and then suggests that Honey takes to heart. Honey leaves, clearly a bit doubtful on what she’s done. Sonic, Tails and Amy meet up with Knuckles and Chip, Sonic trying to convince Knuckles to go back to the Sky Patrol with them.  Knuckles agrees, and introduced Chip to them (while still having banter with Sonic). They talk tactics on the jet (aka the car from All Stars Racing Transformed) before Sonic transforms into the Werehog, surprising the two newcomers. Finally, we cut to Sally, who’s receiving an urgent call from Gregarios, who says that he knows how to fix everything.

In all honestly, it’s a very simple story. The fighters get together, they fight, shenanigans happen in between (aside from the last part where there is one solid story thread). In this sort of situation, that sort of simplicity is pretty essential as you have to balance plot details with the action happening on the page. It’s all about the interaction that happens between the characters here, and that’s a joy to behold. Is this a profound narrative that will have you mulling and thinking about the implications of it on the wider Sonic universe? Not really, but that’s not what it exists for. It’s a serviceable story that lets the focus fall on what it needs to while still having enough to it that it doesn’t become repetitive or tedious to read through.

 

The Spectacle

Diana Skelly, in charge of pencils, is some new blood at Archie, and Champions is her debut full arc. And boy, is she wild with her art. Her strength is evident right off the bat; she can do expressions like nobody’s business, with a crazy one to spot and marvel in almost every panel. The result is a wild and off the wall sight to behold, with the inking from Terry Austin and colours from Gabriel Cassata (who I believe only started with Sonic since Waves of Change) doing well to complement the manic tone the drawing aims to achieve . Sonic #271 is slightly different, as the pencils were actually also done by Ryan Jampole. It sounds like a small difference, but the results are easy to see; the characters look a bit more restrained and on model, save for the times when they really want to exaggerate the looks. This leads to a more professional look, but it also takes some of the edge off the style. In this case it isn’t that detrimental since #271 is the most controlled part of the arc by far, but it would have been nice for consistency.

This page has about a dozen different things to process.
An example of Diana’s fantastic expression work.

As always, there’s also a cover review for each issue and its variant (glad I’m not doing Sonic Universe #75 and its eight variants, with that in mind);

-Sonic the Hedgehog #268; Evan Stanley, Austin and Ben Hunzeker are responsible for the main cover. It’s lovely to look at with all the characters and details, and I especially like the colouring, but the characters behind do seem a bit blurred together, and I’m not sure what’s up with the random fireball effect behind them, it looks out of place. The variant, from Jon Gray working with Austin, Casseta and Jack Morelli, has me conflicted. On the one hand, it’s nice and eye catching, with the casino motif very well communicated and Breezie’s nature just apparent from her gaze. On the other hand, I question the sensibility of putting a character who’s literally new to the comic as the focus of the first part’s variant. Maybe the second part would have been better. Ah well, see if you can spot the fun cameo.

-Sonic the Hedgehog #269; The main cover sees Austin and Cassata together again, this time with pencils from Jamal Peppers. On a technical level it’s really nicely done with wonderful lighting and shading, but it does come off as a bit plain with it just being a cropped profile view of Sonic’s head. T. Rex’s variant cover almost has the opposite problem. The image is interesting and hilarious, but technically it’s a bit off. Amy looks a bit strange, I’m not keen on the fuzz additions, ad Eggman is just off-model in the arms.

-Sonic the Hedgehog #270; This issue sees Jennifer Hernandez (who also debuted with Waves of Change), Austin and Matt Herms on the main cover. This one is stylised like fighter selection icons, and I’d call it my favourite cover of the arc (although it’s a difficult choice this time). The characters are cute and bold, and the layout and pattern choices for this one are particularly striking. Brent McCarthy, the sole artist for the variant cover, is not a name I recognise, and his style is nothing like I’ve seen before. It’s unique to be sure, but a tad on the static side as well. Then again that might be intention, as the cover is apparently homage to another famous comic cover.

-Sonic the Hedgehog #271; Tracy Yardley, veteran who mostly works on Sonic Universe these days, teams up with Hunzeker for the last of the main covers. It has Yardley’s trademark of managing to make a dynamic group shot without making it a mess, always appreciated for ensemble pieces. While it has a similar faded effect to #268’s main cover, the colour choices make it less of an issue. Rafa Knight brings us the last variant cover, going with emulating the arcade experience while still utilising 3D art (as well as some stock Sonic the Fighters character art). I don’t think the text adds anything, but I can’t hold it to the artist, and the overall result a nice throwback.

I’d say there wasn’t a cover I thought was bad during this arc. Certainly I had my preferences, but that’s more because I gravitate towards certain styles.

 

The Challengers

This arc boasts a huge number of central players. It’s almost to be expected when you have an arc based on a fighting game, but there’s plenty more on top of those. This section will be a pretty long one this time, so buckle in;

Sonic: Sonic may be sharing the spotlight with a huge cast of characters, but he manages to stay afloat and stand out as a highlight. First and most obvious is the fact he plays well to the camera, what with his ego and his natural ability to fight. But there’s more to him in this arc than that, he has an air of intelligence, or at least quick thinking. His manipulation of Breezie into giving him the day-only slots he wants was masterful and in character, and not something I think he’d get to do if the Freedom Fighters weren’t forced to stay out of the fight. His other shining moment is comforting Tails after all that Honey had put him through. Even with how jam-packed this arc is, the fact that it set aside a breather moment to let Sonic act the big brother to Tails was appreciated.

Tails: This arc is all about Tails suffering, but in the hilarious way. His interactions with Honey are great, both when they first meet and she wants him to model her clothing if she wins, and during the fight where she wins by sleight of hand (also known as telling someone to look behind them).  But this misery isn’t left as a punchline. In the second half of the arc, we get a great moment of brotherly love as Sonic reassures Tails of his own ability despite the loss, and him being the one to ultimately beat down Metal Sonic long enough to obtain the Chaos Emerald from him is a crowning moment for him. Really great show here (especially off the back of his passive role in Spark of Life).

It's like if Pinstripe and Tawna fused together and the resultant turned hedgehog.
All that money and still only a cheese board?

Breezie: Breezie has proved a pretty divisive character upon her revamp reveal.  Within the context of the arc itself, she does absolutely fine, nothing too spectacular in the wake of others. Her history with Sonic makes for a golden opportunity for Sonic to show his wit, although after that her presence falls by the wayside with more focus being about her past, and the flashback to her talking with Metal Sonic is an interesting way to give a basis for her owning Casino Park and act as setup for the game events. Otherwise, it’s a lot of setup for future appearances she might make, as there’s still an apparent mystery as to what her origin truly is, not to mention her deal with Honey. So why is she so divisive? Essentially, she’s very different to her original incarnation in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. There, she was an agent for Robotnik before being swayed to the good side and eventually starting her life anew. Here, she starts out the same, but takes a very different road when she breaks off from Eggman once she’s got what she needs and becomes her own villainous force. Whether you like the drastic change or not seems to be a big element of how much you’ll enjoy her character.

Knuckles: In my last review, I mentioned how Knuckles seemed to be just a means to bounce off comedy as opposed to being a source of it himself. Not so this time; Knuckles is every bit as fun to watch as any other in this arc and really gets to be a highlight. Whether it’s him tricking his way to a Master Emerald shard, being oblivious to Amy’s moral deliberation which ends in her booking a new bed (in the hospital), or the on-going rivalry between him and Sonic, it’s just great to see him banter, while also being able to dish out the slapstick.

Honey: Another debut for the comic, Honey gets a lot more time to stretch her (literal) wings and stand out as a brilliant new addition. Devious and mischievous, she’s out for self-promotion and she’s not afraid to let it be known (with Tails being on the butt end most often). But vanity is not all her character, as she’s also feisty, a very capable fighter, graceful in defeat (in fact finding it great if the opponent used awesome moves to do so), and has more of a moral fibre than you might first suspect. The last scene with her calling out Breezie while doing deals cements her as a multi-faceted character, and I look forward to seeing what she’s got herself into.

Amy: Not exactly as much of a standout as some of the best, but she brings consistent entertainment nonetheless through supporting Sonic (and Tails when needs be). Her complete fangirling at the beginning towards Honey is both understandable and enjoyable, while her utter defeat at Knuckles’ gloves and the subsequent stay at the hospital draws some great reactions out of her. There may be some questions as to whether she would deliberate that much (since she’s shown no hesitation to fight Sonic in this sort of setting in the games…or even outside of this setting given Heroes), but it’s not a big point.

Chip: While he is in the arc, he doesn’t exactly have much of a presence. His main is to provide Knuckles someone to bounce off, and he’s serviceable in that role with his naivety and genuine caring for him. In the end, he finally gets to meet Sonic, and that’s when he reveals that Knuckles hasn’t exactly been telling Chip everything about Sonic honestly. That’s a nice moment for him.

The Super Special Sonic Search and Smash Squad: Comprised of Scratch, Grounder and Coconuts as always, here they’re acting as staff for Breezie’s casino. Comparatively speaking, they’re very underplayed. They do get to show their bumbling antics as they fumble over a roster change and (in flashback) argue over who found the Chaos Emerald, but otherwise they’re there in small bursts and rather reserved (except in the very early flashback where they were still working for Eggman and doing actual schemes to catch Sonic), which is surprising. I’m also kind of iffy on how Grounder looks in this arc, although a cover revealed after this arc (Sonic #275 Villains variant) is much more appealing so I don’t know if it’s down to artist interpretation.

Metal Sonic: Technically the biggest threat of the arc, although he’s not actually there for most of that time. He does what you’d expect Metal Sonic to do; wreak stuff, cause havoc and carry out Eggman’s orders of getting the Chaos Emerald. This last part does get to show off Metal Sonic as a force to be reckoned with as he manages to avoid every other fighter and only gets stopped by a surprise attack from Tails. We also get little bit strewn about showing Metal Sonic’s subtle independence from Eggman, with him showing hesitation to follow Eggman’s orders presumably because he’d rather keep fighting. Not only is this fleshing out his character, it gives the flashback to his stint in Heroes, where he’d gone fully independent of Eggman and was doing his own thing, some contextual link to the present events.

The Hooligans: There’s actually a rather big difference in character utilisations amongst them. Fang was the one focused on the job as usual, so he’s obviously the one who gets to suffer most. His banter with Bean is great, and he actually gets a shot at being a legitimate threat for his troubles, only being stopped with Metal Sonic literally entering the picture. Bean continues his streak of good writing in the wake of the reboot, his humour far more fitting for the setting he’s in. He’s also given a bit of depth as it’s shown that he can be quite the deceiver when given the opportunity and is creative when it comes to his demolitions role, giving him a legitimate root in the villain status. I’d say this is his best outing yet.  Bark doesn’t really do anything, but with the Hooligans he comes with the package so he can’t help it if he has no purpose…unlike the next character.

If his singing is anything like in Heroes, his rendition of the song would hurt.
Adam Levine would like a word.

Espio: Espio feels like he’s literally only here because he was in Sonic the Fighters. His only plot contribution was signing Knuckles up, which to be honest I don’t think was that necessary (Knuckles could have signed up himself if he sensed a Master Emerald presence there, or Breezie could have put him in if she figured he was there too). After that, he fights and then hangs around to react (and has one panel throwing a shuriken at Metal Sonic, when others were trying to stop him as well), and even in the fight Espio came off as a bit out of character. He’s supposed to be cautious and wary, but here the Sonic the Fighters persona (which did not follow that in the slightest) is forced into play to keep up the reference, right down to the tornado attack. At the very least, him being made too rash for his known personality makes Vector’s rant at him later seem very justified. Speaking of, aside from fighting with Bean, the most interaction he gets is with a payphone. At least his reactions are top notch, and some of the things they do to compare his habits with Vector’s are interesting, but I don’t think the arc would have missed him if he were gone (especially with how many key players there are already). Still surprising that Espio didn’t get to meet with Knuckles and tell him about the change despite expressing a desire to do so.

And even with all these characters directly affecting events, there’s still some callouts to be made to characters who weren’t there. Cream, Antoine and Sally all get small moments to cement themselves as great periphery cast (Sally being embarrassed by her reliance on the bank of dad, Cream’s anger at the result of Tails’ fight, and Antoine playing the rival to Sonic by supporting Knuckles in the last fight). Vector gets a lot of time to bring in his brand of comedy; in fact, he’s the only periphery character with a presence in every issue of the arc, impressive since he’s not physically there. Finally, the last issue shows us a random fish character amongst the double spread of Knuckles fighting Sonic. This is, in fact, not random, and is very likely to be a character mentioned in passing in an earlier part (the character wasn’t designed by Diana, and Diana’s fanart of her shows that the comic drawing is actually erroneous in missing something that would make her identity obvious).

 

The Underdog Story?

This arc aims for one very specific emotion; pure, unadultered fun. And to that end, it does its job with flying colours. The action is frenetic and the art complements that to a tee. There’s references abound that will garner at least an amused smile; Segata Sanshiro makes an appearance as a fighter, as does a animal version of Jane from Fighting Vipers (the same series with the character that Honey is an animal version of, Candy). There’s also fictional adverts interspersed like a real sports event, each showing some humorous reference to Sonic games past and present (Sonicman from Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) does shows at Casino Park in this comic, and Chao Boom is a pretty obvious reference to the other Sonic branch currently active now [except it doesn’t have a Chao Sticks since SEGA don’t want the branches mixing outside of the crossover]).

Right in the kisser.
Sweet, sweet retribution.

The real meat of the emotional draw come in the form of character interaction, as the arc is packed to the hilt with personalities bouncing off each other for comedic effect. Right at the start you have Breezie and Sonic’s passive aggressive manipulation of each other, Amy and Honey freaking out over fashion choices, and Tails being completely suspicious of both new introductions. This maintains throughout, whether in the ring (Bean playing up his oblivious façade to do some hilarious deception, any time Honey’s in the ring) or outside of it (the ending with Knuckles and Sonic, the gambling parallels of Vector and Espio). Surprisingly, it’s not as if it’s only kind of interaction we see. The scene with Amy in hospital shows how much cares for Amy’s well being and is uplifting to have right after she got crushed into a wall. And the aforementioned scene of Tails being bummed about his loss and Sonic reassuring him that he has plenty of ability and capability plays two functions; it shows us the brotherly dynamic between the two best friends, and it plays an instrumental role in setting up Tails’ victory against Metal Sonic in the climax.

On top of this, the arc an underlying sense of mystery to it. For something so straight forward, there’s a lot of little hints left vague. There’s the whole issue of Metal Sonic seeming to have a mind of his own in regards to Eggman’s orders, which will no doubt work against the good doctor later. There’s also the obvious cliffhanger with Breezie’s deal, and how that will affect Honey in the future. Then there’s the mysteries the arc doesn’t even put on the page and require you to have a more rounded memory to figure something is amiss. Breezie in her original incarnation wasn’t just an agent of Robotnik, she was a robot built for the purpose of luring Sonic. So while the flashbacks suggest she’s just a hedgehog, the sense of media control and some statements made outside the comic still leave It as something to be seen. And then you have the fish girl, who seems like a non-factor, but Waves of Change wasn’t that long ago.

 

The Results

All said and done, this arc is a real winner. It’s definitely the most complete story of the stories following the reboot thus far. The plot is fairly simple but has enough hooks to create interest, the art is appropriately zany and vivid to match the tone of the arc, most of characters are on point and at their best and there’s just this overall sense of fun that the comic has with the material its using. Any issues I have with the arc are minor at best, and aren’t enough to really alter the fact that this is one of the best that Archie Sonic has put on the table. I’d say this is pretty much a must-read; you don’t need it to understand the ongoing plot since it’s mostly detached from the overarching narrative, but it’s a fantastic display of what makes an entertaining comic tale.

See you Air Kitten
This is pretty much the summary.

Initial Impressions: Sonic Runners (iOS/Android)

Freemium. A word almost associated with fear to many nowadays. You hear the horror stories everywhere – a kid downloads a little free app, next thing you know their parent’s bank accounts are emptied and they have 500 coins of in-game currency to spend. It’s becoming so bad that Apple themselves need to offer consumers the ability to block these purchases from happening, and even market against them. It’s an undeniably profitable market, one which Sonic has dabbled in before. Continue reading Initial Impressions: Sonic Runners (iOS/Android)

TSS Review: Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric (Wii U)

SBROL

Developer: Big Red Button Release Date: NA/EU/AUS: Out now, JP as Sonic Toon: Dec 18th, 2014

So here we are, the game that was supposed to mark a new chapter in Sonic’s long and treasured history as a new side-series running in parallel to the current Modern Sonic series. Sega entrusted this new series to a not-so-new developer named Big Red Button, I say not-so-new as they’ve been around since 2008! Big Red Button is a team formed by veterans from Naughty Dog, however, that’s where seemingly that relation ends. For a further look into Big Red Button and the folks who worked on the game during the last few years (note that some have departed from the company in the past few months), check out Part 1 and Part 2 of my articles about Big Red Button.

Now before I get to the main review, I want to make clear that sadly I have NOT completed the story for the game as I originally intended, so I want to make sure you know that fact to judge my thoughts on the game more fairly, my deepest apologies.

Also note that this is my very first professional review, so this is a new experience and I hope you’ll enjoy what I have to say.

So I will make the following into a few categories, rather than just put the whole thing in one, as in, I will speak about the game’s Gameplay, Story, Graphics, Audio, and the overall conclusion. I will also do something a lot don’t; I will provide an additional opinion based on the current price, and a bargain price in the conclusion, as a lot of people judge games based on price and can be more willing to pick a game up if they find it for like $10 or $20, also a lot of reviews pan a game for being too short for $50, that sort of thing.

Let’s begin!

WiiU_screenshot_TV_0175B

Gameplay:

So the gist of the gameplay is; it’s a beat-em-up with a decent amount of platforming, why can’t I call it vice-versa? Because I kind of find it’s more focused on the combat than the platforming though there’s quite a bit of it as well. You have your punches and your ground pound moves. All characters function basically the same but have some special touches to them, such as Sonic having his homing attack, Tails can glide and use long-ranged weapons like what appears to be a fire cracker shooter, Knuckles is obviously the strongest but I also find Amy with her hammer to be not far behind Knuckles. Amy is able to kill the snake enemies with a single swing which is pretty handy.

Combat is relatively simple, I never felt I needed to go beyond just mashing X or Y to attack, there’s no real strategy, I also find using the enerbeam in fights to be very clunky and they just don’t seem to work, even when I grab, swing, and throw them. Maybe I’m doing it wrong. It’s certainly not as elaborate as in Sonic Unleashed. You are able to unlock things such as upgrades and acquire items to help, but I didn’t really get to experience those fully yet. You also once in awhile find these tiny robots that run from you, and when you kill them, they drop a weapon. Only one I got to try out was a wind gun that shoots a tornado. It was cool, but it has a limited amount of uses. Fun gimmicks I guess.

As far as exploration is concerned, I don’t find any of them to be that fast, only Sonic is when you spam the Spin Dash move, and that’s a stretch since it’s only a bit faster and is absolutely nothing like in Sonic Adventure or Sonic Lost World. Outside of the auto-run sections, Sonic is not his Gotta Go Fast self, so get that out of your head if you came in for speed. And as far as the number of said sections, there aren’t that many and they’re over after a minute or two. You’re slowly running around and fighting a lot more. It’s a side dish. I did find the running on water sections to be pretty fun, at least I wasn’t bumping into obstacles every 2 seconds.

Boom-WiiU-H

Story:

Now we get to what is arguably my favorite part of the game. Yeah the cutscenes are very unpolished so you see jerking objects here and uber low-res textures there and you wonder why they had the camera up close in clean sight of then. But the character animation and writing is a true highlight, especially the former. The animation is very high quality and the animators should be given high praise. Buuuut I would not say the same thing for the in-game “cutscenes” where you see the characters just stand there like zombies flapping their gums, Amy is not a pretty sight in these. As for the story, the plot is interesting if not the most original (guy stumbles upon an ancient evil, lets it loose, he done goofs, he tries to undo it), but I really like the characterization. Knuckles is probably my fav of the group, but I also really like Lyric and how he animates, I wouldn’t call him intimidating, but he works, still it would’ve been cooler is he was an Owl (Owlyric?), but what can you do? The humor is part of the highlight. From the subtle facial expressions to the one liners, I certainly laughed and I love anything that can make me laugh.

I will say some of the story so far is really out of place, such as Shadow’s appearance is so far unexplained and feels very shoehorned and that is NOT a good thing. I like to know why things are the way they are unless they let the audience figure it out as a mystery. This is not one of those times. Will there be some big reveal that explains everything? From what I’ve read, that’s not likely.

Eggman

Graphics:

It’s a double-edged sword. At times it can look really nice, but the severe lack of polish hurts it so badly. It’s got a very lovely style, especially when you’re outdoors. But the graphical issues such as really bad shadow pop-in, the horrifically low-res textures, especially in cutscenes. Not to mention the game only runs in 720p and 30fps, so they don’t even make up for the short comings with trying to be more ambitious with the technical specs. The game was made using Cry Engine 3, and is the very first Wii U game to support it that’s been released, and honestly I feel that was a huge mistake. The engine very likely not only was not optimized properly for the console, but also they had to exclusively try to work in a function that the engine never used before; split-screen. I’ve not used the mode myself, but as I’ve seen in footage, when you use split-screen/co-op via the TV and GamePad, most shadow and lighting detail vanishes, and apparently the framerate can be even worse, which by the way can get a bit sluggish at points, even in cutscenes.

Lighting is another visual highlight, but again, it’s hard to overlook the flaws. However, I also want to bring to attention some of the geometry and effects of the outdoor sections. When you’re up-close to plants, they do have subtle animation and you see some particles floating in the air, I really, REALLY liked those details.

sonic-boom-rise-of-lyric-wii-u-wiiu-1401974567-014

Audio:

The voice acting is REALLY good in this game. No one really stood out as being bad, they all really delivered and were really fun to listen to. The music which was composed by Richard Jacques of Sonic R and Sonic 3D Blast Saturn fame, which to me is nothing like the aforementioned games, it does set the mood and some of the outdoor areas had a really nice tune to listen to. Personally the soundtrack could’ve been less orchestral and more upbeat like previous games, but it’s not a big deal. I personally hoped they would’ve brought in someone familiar with classic western platformers like Crash, Spyro, Jak, Ratchet, and Sly (Rocket gets no love…), but I guess they wanted someone familiar with Sonic to do it, even if the music isn’t anything like the series ever had before. Also, Jun Senoue was in the US for a long time as part of the now closed Sonic Team USA, wouldn’t he have been a way more appropriate pick?

Boom-WiiU-B

Conclusion:

So in conclusion, it was not at all what I was really hyped for, I mean I was hoping it’d be a gorgeous adventure though big expansive open worlds, like that infamous Cry Engine 3 demo showed. What’s that, they took that out? *sigh*

The game in a word is… okay. It’s not the worst thing ever, but it’s really hard to recommend it, especially at $50. What really needs to happen is after like 6 months, is that they release a patch that fixes so much in the game, that could give it a much needed and deserved second wind. If you find it for $20, I would say check it out. Compared to Sonic Lost World, if you want exploration, go with Sonic Boom, it’s got that, even if some environments like the desert level are really boring and some of the indoor ones also don’t feel all that exciting to look at or explore. I really hope we see a patch, I truly do. It needed many more months, like at least 6 more months in the oven to polish what they had. Why do so many not follow the wise words of Shigeru Miyamoto?; “A delayed game is eventually a good game, a bad game is bad forever” or something along those lines.

Also, click here to check out Jason Berry’s review of Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal for 3DS!

So that’s it! What did you think?

TSS Review: Sonic Boom Episode 1 & 2

Can you believe it’s been over 10 years since Sonic X left the airways? We’ve had a long time to debate the good and bad of Sonic X , love it or hate it, it’s been 10 years since the last Sonic cartoon, unless you include Night of the Werehog. Continue reading TSS Review: Sonic Boom Episode 1 & 2

TSS Review: Sonic Pixel Bricks by Paladone

DSC06935

Paladone has recently released the two items I was the most excited for when they announced their range of Sonic the Hedgehog goodies: The Sonic and Tails Pixel Bricks sets! So no sooner than they were released we got our hands on them.

The premise is simple: Get bricks: Make Sonic and Tails! Due to the natural blocky-ness behind this kind of toy, it almost seemed a natural idea to make something pixellated out of them! And that’s what Paladone did. Two small figures built out of lego-styled bricks.

DSC06932

The boxes were a LOT smaller than I was expecting for the pair of these. These tiny boxes contain an instruction sheet and a lot of sonic-y coloured building bricks.

The bricks used in this set are of the ‘Nanoblock’ flavour, and are about a quarter of the size of the typical Lego brick. This means that even though each of these models are made up of nearly 400 pieces between them, the finished models stand not much higher than 4 inches tall.

DSC06930

I’ll admit this right away. I was more of a K’nex child when I was growing up, so to me, this build went on a little… longer than I was anticipating.

Just how long you ask..? Well, just check out this little video I created below.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jM2-WjAlTl8

Yep. That’s nearly an hour and 20 minutes to finish just ONE of these little suckers. Granted my time was likely impeded with me building over the top of my camera, but yeah: If you’re not adept at building Lego style constructions, I just pray that you’re patient enough to see the construction of one of these through from start to finish.

With small models of this complexity, a set of good and comprehensive instructions are essential, and I’m sad to say that this long build time wasn’t helped by the instructions. I found following them very confusing at times. The instructions follow the typical Lego formula of building one part shown from an isometric view, then adding further pieces on to it as you progress further through the build. The isometric views given were good, but unlike normal Lego instructions, each step greys out the pieces built in the previous step. Some people may go ‘so what?’ but it get’s very difficult to position certain pieces accurately when you only have the shape of what was built in the last step as a guide. Simply colouring in the diagram would have made this build a LOT easier, and would have taken out a bunch of the guesswork. I appreciate that the construction of these things are probably meant to be savored, but I feel that building one of these should be a fun activity, and not a test of patience and skill.

But yet, after all that though, the finished results I think are lovely little things. They’re awkwardly cute in a way, and pack in a curious amount of detail for something made up of nothing but bricks. Of the pair, I’d say that Sonic is the more impressive of the two, especially when you look at him from behind and take in the shape of his spines. It all looks grand!

DSC06911

Display wise, these make for great little conversation starters, and are certainly something more ‘out there’ than your typical Sonic action figure. One important word though… these are very much display pieces, so don’t move them around too much. Some of the parts (namely the arms) are held together with nothing more than a single stud, and handling them too much will ultimately end in disintegration. I can probably count at least 3 times when I’ve held Sonic wrong, and he literally came apart in my hands, meaning lots of rebuilds. If you don’t glue them together (which I honestly considered doing at times), just hope they don’t take a shelf dive. You’ll be searching for the pieces for weeks.

Thankfully, these models do come with a few spare pieces, so don’t despair too much if you find yourself losing one of the two (yes… that’s seriously how many there are in the finished model) minuscule yellow bricks that make the buckles on each of Sonic’s shoes.

Overall, I do love these little things. They really are quite unlike anything else, and possibly one of the most unique Sonic collectibles to come along in a while. But… I have to say that the experience building them was a lot more trying than I was expecting it to be. If you’re amazing with Lego, then I think you’ll have a blast putting these together. For the rest of us though… The challenging build and the constant falling apart may get on your nerves.

=========

Second Opinion by TSS Staffer Hogfather

I’ll get the bad points out of the way first.

1: The instructions for both Sonic & Tails can get very confusing, angles on where the pieces should connect are not user friendly and in some cases your eyeline is draw to begin construction on an area which will be impossible to connect since it requires another part to be constructed.

2: The photos provided for the finished model on Tails are not what the instructions state, on more than one occasion the instructions clearly differ in design to the photographic reference model, this makes one particular tricky section harder to complete than it should.

3: The pieces do not connect very well along the Z axis, unlike lego, when connected the pieces are free to move along their Z axis, this means sometimes parts of the model would move out of place and for pieces which are connected by a single point, they WILL fall off on the slightest touch, huge problems are found with Sonic’s arms and Tails’ whiskers.

4: The models ‘cheat’ with perspective, parts of it are not a fully solid object, you’ll be convinced that some additional pieces should go in certain places, but nope, it’s their way to save construction costs since you won’t see them, even though they would aid to stability.

5: Parts of the model are VERY fragile when finished.

Now for the good points.

It takes somewhere in the region of 1:30 – 2:00 to create just one of these figures, so if you were afraid that these would be simple things aimed at kids, think again, it takes time to construct these.

However, when you get started and you see the models take shape, there is a strong sense of enjoyment as you see these things come to life. Suddenly it goes from “Why does this body look like a blue sheep” to “Hey it’s Sonic!”

There is something very unique and charming about both the idea and the execution of the product, it really does look like a pixelated representation of Sonic & Tails. There really is nothing official which looks or behaves like these products do. Very unique and a very welcome addition to all the recent Sonic products of late.

Packaging is also very attractive and very well designed, small and portable, yet quite nice to look at despite the use of stock art, even if it is odd how the Tails box has Sonic stock art all over it.

Another huge bonus is that several of the pieces include additional parts, so if you lose one during construction, odds are there’s a spare.

Overall, this is a really well made unique piece of merch, certainly recommend it, however I would advise kids to get a parent to help build since it can become tricky at times to complete certain segments, step 1 on Tails for instance will get you very confused since part of it isn’t possible to attach until the end of step 2.

=========

You’ll Love:

  • Totally unique and quite unlike anything in your collection
  • Very well detailed given the nature of the set
  • Attractive price
  • Nicely presented

You’ll Hate:

  • The confusing instructions
  • Instructions sometimes differ to the reference photographs
  • The long build time if you’re not a Lego expert
  • VERY fragile when finished

Review: Egmont Activity Books

A whole bunch of books came out in May, but are any worth the ink they’re printed with?

sonic totally

In October, we reported on the announcement that Egmont would be partnering with SEGA to release a slew of new activity books for May 2014. Because of my insatiable need to own Sonic books, I put down my money for the ones that came out at this time and can now weigh in with my absolutely professional (citation needed) opinion. Are these books worth your time, or are they best left gathering dust on the shelf?

Now, let’s get one thing out of the way; these books are very much aimed at kids. As such, unless they’re blatantly lazy on a level that cannot be excused, I’m not going to hold it to the same strict standard I would of a book aimed at older fans (for example, Pix ‘N Love’s The History of Sonic the Hedgehog). That said, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to be thorough with my analyses.

As a side note, if you’re a fan of E-123 Omega and like to collect merchandise of him…you can ignore these books. He doesn’t make an appearance at all. Even Chaos got a single sticker at least.

Sonic the Hedgehog Joke Book

sonic joke book

Price: £4.99

The Cover: The art itself is used nicely, although I can’t help but think that I’ve seen it a lot before. That would be because it was a very common style to use on the stationery that came out way back in 2012. That’s more of a nitpick than anything though, especially when the background is nicely stylised. What isn’t such a nitpick is the use of text on the cover. It’s all nice and well having a sample of the content but not when it looks so obnoxious on the front. That said, one of the other books shows a preliminary cover that looks even more obnoxious, so I guess I’d rather this than that.

The Inner Art: I’m sure it would look fine. Repetitive given how every single page has the same sort of layout, but fine. The problem is that Sonic art doesn’t look so nice in black and white. Because of this detail, it’s really rather dull, especially when certain characters sort of blend in to the backgrounds that they’re put on. To top it off, the paper quality is poor as well. Remember when you were a kid and you got colouring books with that really coarse stuff that felt shoddy to the touch? That’s what the pages of this book are made out of.

The Content: It’s a joke book. There’s jokes. There isn’t anything more to it than that. It wouldn’t even be so bad if they were Sonic-themed jokes. Instead, most of the jokes are the same generic jokes that you’ve seen in every joke book, with some being modified slightly to include Sonic elements.  What else can I say about it?

Overall: Just…no. If you want jokes, you can get any other joke book out there and you’d pretty much have the same thing.

 

Sonic the Hedgehog: Sticker Mania!

sonic sticker mania

Price: £6.99

The Cover: The cover shown in the October news article was very much a preliminary cover. Now the emphasis is on the abundance of stickers, with Sonic being swamped by dozens of square stickers (all in the book, so it’s not false advertising at least) and only Eggman, Tails and Knuckles standing out on top of them. It’s busy, but it’s actually pretty cool and it shows off the content at the same time. An addition since the announcement is a little thing in the corner indicating the heavy use of Sonic Lost World in the book.  I’ll go more into that later.

The Inner Art: Like many books recently, the art is all stock art. Despite this, at least it’s used appropriately and doesn’t go into overkill per page. The consistency of the layouts and styles accompanying the art and activities are particularly effective in making the book coherent where there would otherwise be a risk of making it a random jumbled mess. Not the hand-drawn meticulousness of yesteryear, but still sleek and stylish. It helps that the paper quality is up to standard this time as well.

The Profiles: Weirdly enough, there are four pages dedicated to small profiles of the characters. When I say small, they really are small, only covering four stats; name, species, key feature(s) and skill(s). There’s nothing really new here (unless you didn’t know that Jet had advanced piloting skills or that Big had a keen sense of smell*), but at least they’re accurate for the most part. The only obvious factual error is the fact that Blaze doesn’t harness Chaos energy (it’s Sol), and I’ve seen far more errors in books aimed at fans of the series.

The Content: Most of the book is taken up by random common activities given a bit of a Sonic twist. You have your mazes, your pseudo board game races, your word searches, that one square draw activity that makes no sense, trivia quizzes, character recognition and all that jazz. Because of the Lost World tie-in, ten of these pages are themed after that game specifically (although one Wisp game mention other characters coming to rescue them from a chemical factory. Isn’t that Sonic Colours?). Not exactly a good advertisement of how the game is for little kids, but it’s raising awareness at least.

The Stickers: As it says on the cover, there are indeed over 1000 stickers. At least with this book, the vast majority are related to the Sonic franchise (some are not for one or two activities). Okay, there are quite a few duplicates, but at least it means you can have your favourite characters on multiple items if you wish to use them (because really, who’s going to use the stickers in the book itself?). The downside is that most of the stickers are very small in size, about 2x2cm. But hey, there is that one aforementioned Chaos sticker!

Overall: If you like stickers, and you like Sonic, then decide for yourself if £6.99 is worth it for a bunch of them. For the young’uns, there’s plenty to do in the book, character info that’s actually dependable and it actually looks nice. Honestly a decent pick-up, although I’m not sure how the price tag compares to other books of a similar nature.

*This technically contradicts Sonic Chronicles since he was oblivious to smell there. Not that anyone really takes Chronicles as a measure of canon.

 

Totally Sonic

sonic totally

Price: £6.99

The Cover: Before we begin an actual analysis, let’s go over where this came from; in the initial announcement, there was mention of a book called the “Super Sonic Poster Book” which would also contain activities. We can reasonably assume that Totally Sonic is what that became, as this is the only book with any kind of posters in it. It’s definitely downplayed though.

With that out of the way, the cover is far more open compared to the others. For the most part, it’s a Sonic render on a blue background, with Tails, Knuckles and Amy packed away at the top. It’s nice, but I wonder why they made it this way compared to the other two.

The Inner Art: Go back and read the Inner Art analysis for Sticker Mania, it basically covers this book to a tee. The one thing I would say that differs is the fact that the spine on this book is stapled, and therefore weaker than both the Joke Book and Sticker Mania. It’s justified though; anything with posters inside tend to have stapled spines, although this one encourages the reader to cut the posters out. Huh.

The Profiles: Definitely bigger here than in Sticker Mania. In fact, I’d say that half the book is profiles. There are six “standard” stats; Species, Height, Age, Personality, Likes and Says (aka a quote). Some profiles omit a stat or two, Blaze switches Likes for Dislikes, and the Chaotix just don’t abide at all (preferring to go with Species, Job, Personality, Likes and Skill…and the skill isn’t the same kind of skill as in Sticker Mania. Alrighty). Despite the slight inconsistencies, they’re more in depth with the raw stats and other character trivia, and they’re once again robust in accuracy. Okay, it only says Blaze is friends with Cream and Sonic, and Sonic is said to be Rouge’s rival, but nothing on a fundamentally erroneous scope. One thing I would raise an eyebrow at is the fact that there’s no Babylon Rogues here, whereas they got profiles in Sticker Mania.

The Content: Surprise, this book also has a small range of stickers! It’s definitely a smaller range and less thorough than Sticker Mania, and there’s even an issue of a red ring render accidentally getting on Amy’s image. To be fair, this is just a bonus, not the main point of the book.

Totally Sonic also does the activities in a different way. Instead of having a whole mass of activities with mostly random ideas and themes running through them, they format in a very specific manner; there’s an activity linked to a set of characters profiles. For example, Knuckles has an activity focused on him, as do most individual characters, with the occasion activity attached to a whole group of character in the cases of the Chaotix (and they totally used this opportunity to slip in a codebreaking puzzle. At least they’re paying attention to the content they put in), Rouge with Metal Sonic (that’s a weird choice) and the Deadly Six. Because of this, there’s not as many activities, but they feel like they gel with the book more.

The Posters: Four doubled-sided pages slap bang in the middle means that there are eight posters in all, and they’re actually pretty nifty. The two Lost World posters aside (which are basically the promo shots used for the game’s marketing), they actually try and use the assets available to them in creative ways. And they definitely feel like poster quality in design because of it. I’m still not certain on the way they ask you to detach the posters. I guess a little kid might easily rip them if they tried to pull it out, but they’d still have to ask an adult to cut them out.

Overall: Another decent book for kids with some content that older fans might be able to get use of. The formatting choices made may make it slightly emptier on the stuff to do, but it simultaneously makes it more useful to go back to. Again, it’s a matter of whether you can justify the price tag for the content.

 

So, I’d say two of the books are worth at least a cursory glance, while one of them is to be avoided completely. What of Secret of Sonic the Hedgehog, the book most likely to be appreciated by older fans?

secrets sonic
I.e. The one where only this one picture exists of it on the internet.

 

Well, while that was slated to be released in May like the other books, but for whatever reason appears to have been pushed back to the end of August. There’s a little bit more new info we can glean as well; Waterstones’ listing has a price of £6.99, the same as Sticker Mania and Totally Sonic, and one pound more than originally stated. In addition, it has a page count down of 64, making it the longest of all the books (Sticker Mania only clocks in at 48 pages, and that’s pretty thick for an activity book). It’s still advertised in the back of the other books as being available, which might mean the change was pretty recent. In any case, I’m going to keep an eye on that one given my satisfaction with the majority of this batch.

Source: Waterstones

Image sources: Amazon.co.uk (Joke book, Sticker Mania, Totally Sonic), Easons (Secrets of Sonic)

Review: Countdown to Chaos

Where’s the kaboom? There was supposed to be a Mobius-Shattering Kaboom!

The reaction everyone had to this arc.
The reaction everyone had to this arc.

Let’s get things clear; the last year of the Archie Sonic comic has been like no other. Following some rather bitter endings in Endangered Species way back at #243-#246, we got “At All Costs”: Part 1. This led us on the hunt for Mecha Sally up in the Arctic region, and team Fighters, together with the Arctic Freedom Fighters and Silver, had her where they wanted her. Team Freedom, meanwhile, had a rather abominate-looking Tails Doll to deal with.

That’s where the normality ends, though. Right on the cliff-hangers of these shenanigans, the planet was warped by a reality-altering wave, which allowed for the headline-grabbing “When Worlds Collide” crossover between the Mega Man and Sonic franchises. After dealing with allies and enemies alike, the two blue heroes teamed for a final assault against nefarious doctors Eggman and Wily. Mega Man’s attempt to alter reality back to normal went smoothly, with his comic resuming just about where they left off before the crossover. Sonic on the other hand, suffered a bit of a hiccup thanks to Eggman, and here is where the review truly begins.

Be warned, as there are detailed spoilers for issues #252-256. The last is especially important as it isn’t even widely available yet.

The Story of New Beginnings

Sonic the Hedgehog #252 is where this story really begins. Technically speaking, the story in the issue is the second part to the one started all the way back in #247. I’d personally also call it Countdown to Chaos: The Prologue. While a bit disorientating at first, it does quickly reveal itself to make a nice bridge between the realities. You have the wrap-up of Naugus besieging the throne, the Tails Doll monster still wreaking havoc in not-new Mobotropolis and the Death Egg still being in Artika (new name for the Northern Tundra), which sets up the side story for Eggman neatly since he’s stuck way down in Efrika with a broken Egg Mobile.

Tails' game tendency of exposition on the plot in the most obvious manner is carried over.
Tails’ game tendency of exposition on the plot in the most obvious manner is carried over.

Speaking of set-up, much of the issue is dedicated to setting up points which will be referenced often in the true Countdown to Chaos (CtC) arc. Naugus gets a memory jolt from NICOLE, which not only sets up the fact that NICOLE has memory restoring energy in her, but also the fact she’s broken. Tails having a jolt sets up the point that the restoration of memory slowly fixes her, and gives the readers an idea of the plan of action to follow. The numerous game references strewn into the narrative makes clear that this is not exactly the same world we once knew, which is only further reinforced as Sonic’s memories of King Acorn (not Max any more) trusting Dr Robotnik are altered to be more attuned with the world he’s landed in. Mix this in with new characters and snappy game-influenced action when Sonic and Tails take on the Tails Doll, and this makes for a great link between old and new while beginning its own mysteries.

The four issues that form CtC itself have a defined but flexible narrative structure to them, and how much you’ll notice really depends on the issue. The basic framework is that each issue has some sort of breather period for exposition and contemplation for the characters, an introduction to each freedom fighter in turn, a couple of Eggman intermissions where he gets to strut his stuff, an action piece and a scene where the Freedom Fighter introduced earlier has their memory restored, although not necessarily in that order. This uniformity is quite an ironic echo to the growing chaos that approaches the world, but the purpose of this arc is to reintroduce readers into the changes that have occurred so the organisation seen is to be expected.

#253 and #254 are quieter arcs that are more focused on Sonic and Tails getting to grips with new locations (for example, the Sky Patrol that gets used for the base of operations was parked in the Mystic Ruins, and Knothole is now located in or nearby the scrapped Wood Zone from Sonic 2). Even though it is quieter, it does skip by a lot. In #253, Silver Sonic (one of the big threats of the comic circa Sally’s transformation) isn’t even dealt with by Sonic, it’s left to Big in quite a comical fashion. And the rediscovery of Knothole, Sonic’s home for much of his childhood prior to the Super Genesis Wave, is relegated to an off-screen event. It doesn’t knock the stories overall, but they might be little things you notice when you think about it afterwards. Otherwise, the narrative in these issues flows like a charm, with more than a few hints to what’s going to happen at the end of the arc.

#255 and #256 are the issues that ramp things up a bit more in the action department. #255 is action set pieces for our heroes interlaced with exposition, as the plot demands both high stakes wrapping up Bunnie’s mission and revealing some of her new backstory (since the last time we saw her, she’d had her robotics removed by magic way after the Bem had failed to because she got upgraded and the parts were incompatible and…it required quite a bit of prior knowledge). The way the comic goes about this feels rather clunky though. The transition between action and exposition isn’t smooth and the quiet parts especially drag on a bit too long. #256 handles it much better, with the action piece having good pacing despite its length, and any explaining to the characters and readers being succinct enough to get the job done while delivering on actual interaction.

And then the arc ends…with a cliffhanger, as the world is beginning to really fall apart. It really is the countdown as it turns out, since the damage has only just begun!

This Review Has No Maximum Character Limit

In CtC, a big part of what holds it together is the character writing. If we didn’t empathise or care for the Freedom Fighters and baddies caught in the ruckus, there would be pretty much no investment. Fortunately, Ian Flynn is on the ball in this department. There wasn’t a single character who overstayed their welcome, and everyone had their part to play in the show.

  • Sonic, of course, is our main focus here. Thus, he gets the most elaboration on his reaction to the new reality. Shaken up at first due to unfamiliarity, he quickly hits his stride as the adventure-loving, robot-busting hero everyone is familiar with. Aside from getting in on the action with his trademark speed, he has plenty of slow moments where he gets to contemplate what’s going on and have emotional reunions with all the friends he comes across. Between kicking Metal Sonic to pieces and meeting his “uncle” Chuck, Sonic reacts to each situation as you would expect him to, without ever losing his defining traits.
  • Tails is Sonic’s sidekick almost from the word go, and does everything he can to support Sonic. Due to being relatively fine before the Wave hit, he’s the least affected by the memory jolt, but he still reacts like a kid would to it. It’s here, and various moments like it, that really show how close their brotherly bond is. The whole bout against the Tails Doll and the scenes where he has to fly to rescue someone in #254 and #255 cement his usefulness as an active Freedom Fighter.
  • Eggman, Orbot and Cubot don’t get emotional moments in their little side plot. Their job is to give the reader a brief guided tour on what’s changed in the new world, as well as demonstrate the memory overwrite and the planet splitting apart gradually. Of course, given that this is Eggman and his robot lackeys we’re talking about, this tour is ever so entertaining. Eggman never misses a moment to ham it up, even when he has to improvise his plans and questions, and his Weapons Bed assault in #254 is a highlight for his sheer awesomeness. Orbot and Cubot provide the cutting cynicism and dense naiveté for Eggman to bounce off, and have their own little funny moments.
  • NICOLE, despite being the other character appears in every issue of the arc, doesn’t really get as much to work with as the others. She does her job as a plot device fine, and she gets her moment to sass off Naugus, but otherwise she’s stoic exposition regarding the memory jolts. If you were expecting her to get into the fray herself based on the cover of #255, you will not find it here.

    Every character is likeable here. Bloody miracle, I'd say.
    Every character is likeable here. Bloody miracle, I’d say.
  • Rotor gets repurposed as the genius bruiser here, helping Tails build the Sky Patrol and keeping systems running as well as pounding the innards out of Badniks. His flippant response to getting his memories back (probably especially to the fact his back was injured) demonstrates his dedication to his work as he refuses to let the shock get to him (although he is a bit agitated).
  • Antoine keeps up the character traits we’d seen after 20 years of development. He’s haughty with the accent, but is still a brave soldier willing to put his life on the line. Even though he’d seen himself brought into a coma with his memory jolt, his first concern is seeing Bunnie again, reinforcing his dedication to his marriage.
  • Bunnie, while being in an issue that was less than brilliant, doesn’t suffer for it from a character writing standpoint. Her exposition dumps might be a bit too long, but she’s thoughtful as well as a good complement to Sonic’s hasty attitude. The shock of the memory jolt sends her into an emotional breakdown that Antoine has to support her through (finding out that you had been turned flesh but were contemplating reversing it due to your husband being in a coma does that), but she demonstrates her sisterly traits an issue later when she does the same for Sally.
  • Amy has a slight leg up on the other characters, as she already had a full arc under her belt by the time #256 came out. As such, the issue of introducing her isn’t covered here. What is on show is her sisterly bond with Sally as they work together to beat down Metal Sonic. She still has her crush on show, but they still work together great and manage to bounce off each other. She doesn’t have such a strong reaction to her memory jolt, but she’s only confirmed to remember a game event and beating up Fang so far. She didn’t have that much to lose.
  • Sally has probably been the character a lot of prior fans have been waiting for, and she comes back kicking! Packed with new energy blade ring things, she cuts into the action more than she ever has. Aside from being shown as a stealth member from #252, she gets most of her time to shine with Amy as they use combos and banter to leave Metal Sonic vulnerable for when Sonic arrives. She does get a small reunion with Sonic, but it’s mostly emotion from him as he recalls last seeing her as a robot, and she doesn’t have the relationship with Sonic that she had prior to the wave (and I’d say that’s a good thing). We see her break down when recalling her stint as Mecha Sally, but we can’t really see her after that because the end of the world is a-knocking.
  • Naugus isn’t really used that much, but he sets the memory jolt plot in motion and demonstrates the effects such a jolt can have. It also gives a very loose closure to the King Naugus plot from before the wave.
  • Metal Sonic takes hits much better now, so he isn’t destroyed at the end of the issue fully for once! He stills, albeit not as much as before, and his attitude is very similar to Sonic’s. Not unexpected from the metal doppelganger.

The other characters aren’t really there enough to expand on, but all have some relevance to the advancement of the plot. Axel, Mordred and Tundra, for example, re-establish the Egg Army and how it’s shaping up, and side protagonists like Cream, Big, Chuck and Ben give support to the main characters and provide interaction outside of the core. Also Ben being new Muttski is the biggest surprise of the entire arc.

Beauty in Anarchy

Firstly, we have to judge the cover by the book. #252 stands alone on this front, as the regular cover is a single piece as opposed to the official CtC issues which are connected. The regular cover demonstrates Sonic pulling off his flashy stomp maneuver, with dynamic colouring and posing to match. Ben Bates puts in a fine effort with this one, and even though it doesn’t match the scope of the next ones it holds great on its own.  The same cannot be said of the variant, though. Although the Sonic render provided is at least in a more action-orientated pose, it’s still just pasted over Green Hill Zone quite lazily. This is a trend in a lot of SEGA variants, unfortunately.

#253-256 (the regular covers, anyway) do something very different. Just take a look at it for yourself;

If's that's not just awe-inspiring, I don't know what is.
If’s that’s not just awe-inspiring, I don’t know what is.

All the covers in the arc form one single piece of artwork when put together. This art by Ben Bates is meticulously pieced together so that each individual issue looks dynamic on its own, but looks really spectacular when all the covers are put together. Granted, this little cover trick isn’t new by any stretch; the Knuckles comic series did this with three issue arcs on a regular basis. In Ian’s run, “Darkest Storm” and “Bold New Moebius” did the same thing. But this is certainly the largest scope that’s been done across, and is probably the best example of it in the Sonic comic’s history. I would urge anyone to get the regular covers if they were to get the individual issues. But for the sake of fairness, here’s what I think of the variants as well;

  • #253’s variant is easily the best variant of all of them. Taking the otherwise under-utilised Silver Sonic and giving it a schematic drawing style that’s vivid and in stark contrast to every other cover, T.Rex really knocks it out of the park.
  • #254 is great for Eggman enthusiasts, but it follows the same style of #252 in which it’s a SEGA variant with a render pasted on top of a background. That said, the background this time has a few little details and shout-outs that make it somewhat interesting.
  • #255 has a layout and concept that would be cool to look at…except the character art is too off-putting for that. The characters have these weird lanky proportions for some reason, and it doesn’t look good. It wouldn’t be too far to presume that Tyler Capp, the one who did the cover, isn’t used to working with the Sonic style so much. This is a running theme with this issue.
  • #256 just boils down to a personal opinion for me. From a technical standpoint, it’s a great cover. It conveys the destruction that you’d expect in a variant called “The End of the World” variant and has some great colours to it. However, I think that Sonic himself doesn’t exactly gel too well with the rest of the art on the cover, and thus it has a bit of the SEGA variant stiffness underscoring it, albeit with a much better execution. This cover was done by Tracy Yardley, Phyllis Novin and Dustin Evans.

For the most part, the artwork throughout CtC is at the very least pleasing to the eyes. That said, the artwork in this arc is very inconsistent, which is slightly jarring when it’s supposed to be the big arc that redefines the world.

This is what you have to look forward to in #253 and #254.
This is what you have to look forward to in #253 and #254.
  • #252 has an art team consisting of Evan Stanley, Terry Austin and Matt Herms. The colours are nice, and the lines and inks are fine for the most part (although there are certain times when characters, especially Tails, look off). If there was one major negative I could note, it’s that the outdoor backgrounds were very simplistic, with most additional detail being larger building shapes. As a side note, the Tails Doll monster has had a significant redesign since it last showed up in #247. If you’ve read that issue, it’s not hard to guess why.
  • #253 and 254 have Austin and Herms back, but pencils are provided by Tracey Yardley and Lamar Wells. These issues are just fantastic for art, with pretty much everything being on note. The landscapes and details are lush, the characters look lively and on-model, and the action is given extra oomph throughout. Truly feasts for the eyes, it’s best to see them for yourself.
  • #255…unfortunately goes to the other end of the quality scale. Just like the variant cover for this issue, the art here is pretty terrible in comparison to what went before. Featuring the début of Jerry Gaylord and Kent Archer, I would say that it might have been better to let them practice in more side stories instead of slotting them into such a linchpin story arc. The colours are nice as always (Herms is still here), but the proportions of the characters vary all over the place, and the outline inking of them is also inconsistent. It goes so far as to affect the impact of pretty much every scene. I’ll bring this up again in the part where I talk about the emotions of the issues…
  • #256 has Yardley come back for the pencils, and switches up Herms for Steve Downs. While the line art looks good, and the backgrounds are nicely detailed, the colours look flatter in this issue than any CtC issue before it (aside from the odd panel where the colours go deeper for dramatic effect). That doesn’t make the art bad at all, it still looks good. It just makes the art look a little less polished.

Jack Morelli did the lettering for #252, while John Workman handled it for CtC. It’s easy to tell them apart, but both styles compliment the art and action around it. Nothing particularly stands out as being bad, at least.

Emotions Run As High As Stakes?

The meat for the arc lies in the emotional journey that our protagonists have to face in  order to restore their memories. In every issue, there’s at least one memory restoration, and each one is given the panel space needed to really convey the pain that the character is feeling from a psychological standpoint. These little money shots, while not big, are the payoff for the entire arc as characters relive memories from their past and have to reconcile it with the memories they had already. One could argue that these don’t last long enough in fact, given that there’s more action than reaction. The only issue where it felt a little cut short was #256, and that was because of that thing we keeping referring to known as the end of the world. What also has to be said is that #255’s moment is heavily affected by the art quality. What should be a heart breaking moment where Bunnie learns of her regained robotics and how Antoine was before the wave is more funny than anything else because of how skewed the proportions are and how stiff the expressions are. It completely broke the moment for me, but that might vary between different readers.

Sonic gained Antoine's leg length?
Seriously, what is wrong with their legs?!

Of course, that’s not where all the emotion lies. There’s some joy to be had when Sonic’s face lights up upon seeing a fellow Freedom Fighter for the first time since after the wave, especially with the knowledge of how they were immediately prior to the wave. Sonic rushing up to “uncle” Chuck because his closest family figure after Tails is safe (let’s not bring up Jules and Bernie) is a very sweet moment, and Sonic rushing up to Sally to give her a tearful hug is completely understandable; you’d do the same if your close friend was being controlled by an evil scientist and you had to knock them out to stop them killing anyone last time you two met. There’s also plenty of fun in arc, as Sonic and Tails get accustomed with everyone’s little quirks and differences. Their reaction to Sonic’s pet dog now being an anthropomorphic research assistant is one for the ages, and Antoine’s reaction to the reunion in the same issue is probably the best of all the Freedom Fighters.

There’s one emotion that stays quiet for most of the arc, and that’s the sense of utter futility in the face of imminent danger. This is introduced in #253, and is slowly built up throughout until the chaos finally hits. While Eggman doesn’t have any emotional moments aimed at himself, his plot is the best demonstration for this element as he watches the cracks spread around the globe as he travels and realises there is nothing he can do to prevent it, all while his old memories are slowly overwritten at the same time. The protagonists have to deal with it on occasion as well, although not as centrally; one of its earthquakes is an action piece in #254, another one affects the heroes’ escape from the Metropolis Zone base in #255 (although, again thanks to the art, it doesn’t have the impact it should). That way, NICOLE’s analysis of the situation being complete anarchy with the multiverse collapse and the planet splitting itself apart is expected but still a rather large revelation at the end of the arc, and the final panels where she and Eggman proclaim that there is no fix and the heroes are left to helplessly watch the cracks get more intense are really good to end on. Although since the games had the world splitting apart once before, there’s no doubt that there’s at least some way to fix it…

There is one final disclosure that has to be made regarding emotion, and this is aimed primarily at the older readers who came in with likely years of comic experience under their belt. Some of you may find yourself disappointed with what you read. As referenced in the off-panel of #252, there were quite a lot of plot points that were left hanging before the crossover occurred. And because of the new universe, a lot of these hanging points will never be covered within the pages of the comics. There are quite a few characters from before the crossover that won’t make the transition to the new reality. Emotionally, this could affect how invested you are with the new plights given that the old plights are gone. For those readers who are fans of said plots and might miss their personal favourites, I’d suggest to treat this as a new slate, where new favourites and mysteries can be found. If all goes to plan, there will be something that will quench your curiosity later in the year.

In Conclusion

Countdown to Chaos is a very solid arc overall. It presents its purpose with clarity and a sense of steadiness which propels it forward despite it essentially being a four (or five) issue introduction. Certainly not without its weaknesses, but with a neat narrative and some great visuals to carry the reader along, this first look into the new world is an interesting one that’s likely to keep you hooked for the ride.

Best issue: #254. This issue has the best blend of elements in my view, and makes a perfect snapshot of the tone that should be in future stories. Emotional moments that hit home whilst being short enough to fit into the narrative, some unexpected twists and good, fun action to boot. The fact that the art is great here isn’t to be snuffed at either.

Worst issue: #255. The art is by far the worst thing about it, but whether it’s enough to break the emotional core of the issue depends on the reader. Art isn’t the only thing that works against it, since the dialogue feels more jilted here as well. It’s best to get this for a complete arc narrative as opposed to what it offers as a standalone issue.

But even with Countdown to Chaos out of the way, it doesn’t mean that reintroducing the characters of old is done. Far from it; we’ve only just begun. And we all know who everyone wants to come back into the fray as soon as possible, right?

Who wouldn't love a face like this?
Who wouldn’t love a face like this?

Source: DeviantArt (for Countdown to Chaos full art)

TSS Review: Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games (Wii U)

The Mario & Sonic series is one that I personally have a lot of history with. I remember almost exploding with excitement when the first title was announced – my two favourite videogame characters, together at last! Sure, it wasn’t the ideal crossover scenario everyone wanted and the game itself wasn’t anything that special, but I lapped it up for sheer novelty value alone, alternating between the Team Mario and Team Sonic t-shirts that came as pre-order bonuses while I shook my Wii Remote around in glee. Continue reading TSS Review: Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games (Wii U)

TSS Review: Sonic Lost World (3DS)

From the moment of its official unveiling, Sonic Lost World was poised to drift away from certain standards of games past, making this new title one of the most anticipated games of the year. Gone was the Boost, making way for a fusion of Genesis-era gameplay and parkour-inspired controls! Although, while eyes were certainly glued to any and all information of the Wii U release, many questions arose concerning the Nintendo 3DS version that would surely follow, especially with it being the first ever 3D handheld Sonic game. With Dimps once again behind the wheel, has the Osaka-based developer crafted a solid Sonic handheld experience with its first venture into 3D territory, or has this game only met with 3 dimpmensions of sorry expectations? Does Sonic Lost World 3DS stand on its own apart from Sonic Lost World Wii U, or does it fall short of grabbing that ledge and fall straight down? Let’s dive right into the mellow and find out!

Continue reading TSS Review: Sonic Lost World (3DS)

TSS Review: Sonic Lost World (Wii U)

Without a doubt, Sonic the Hedgehog has been making something of a comeback in recent years. After falling to his lowest point in the mid-2000s, SEGA’s blue mascot has slowly but surely been climbing his way back onto the pedestal he proudly stood upon in his early days. Sonic Colours propelled him into relevance once more, while the time-travelling anniversary adventure of Sonic Generations cemented his newfound return to form. The question is – with a brand new gameplay style to show off, does the Nintendo-exclusive Sonic Lost World see the hedgehog grab the edge of success with a well-executed parkour move? Or does it buck the trend and see him stumble, falling back down towards the depths of mediocrity from whence he came? Continue reading TSS Review: Sonic Lost World (Wii U)

TSS Review: Funko’s Sonic the Hedgehog ‘Pop!’ Vinyl Figures

For 15 years, Funko have been making products based on characters from pop culture. Their range is expansive with hundreds of franchises and over a thousand different products. They’re also no stranger to the Sonic brand. A few years ago they made several Sonic toys based on their Wacky Wobblers line, so it’s not like this is the first time they’d had a go with the Sonic license.  However, it is the first time that they’ve used the Sonic license for their ‘Pop! Vinyl’ line. Now the Funko Pop range has a certain ‘style’ to it, so how do Sonic, Tails and Knuckles look after their Funko Pop transformation? Well… Continue reading TSS Review: Funko’s Sonic the Hedgehog ‘Pop!’ Vinyl Figures

TSS Review: Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed

You know… Every time I hear the words “kart racer” I always have a negative thought. Am I wrong to do that? Let’s think about it for a moment. How many times have we seen a random character or series suddenly decide that they can make a video game? The result is usually a random party game or… “kart racer”. Crazy Frog, DreamWorks Super Starz Kartz, Wacky Races, Beanotown Racing and even Disney have made either a very poor or incredibly average “kart racer”. Yes, there are some very good kart racing games out there, but considering how the bad vastly outnumbers the good, I can’t be alone with instantly coming to a negative disposition when I hear “there is a new karting game starring *insert character/series here*”. Continue reading TSS Review: Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed

TSS Review: Sonic X Hello Kitty Plush

I am going to make your room explode with cuteness!

It’s that time of year again Blue Believers, when our wallets tremble as the stores start getting filled with all manner of new toys and products that have been teased to us all year long. So here at TSS, we’ve decided to try and review as many Sonic related products as we can to make your wallets life a bit easier, or harder if everything ends up being awesome! To start with, we’re going to look at a product which has been out for over a month, but had quite the reaction when it was announced. The Sonic X Hello Kitty plush!

Continue reading TSS Review: Sonic X Hello Kitty Plush

TSS Review: Sonic Generations (3DS)

Now, before I go into this review it should be noted that I’ve been a big fan of Dimps works up until late. Sonic Rush was one of my favorite Sonic games and I loved the first two Advance games. But lately, they seem to have been faltering. Sonic Colors on the DS was basically another Rush, but not quite as good as the previous two and incredibly sub-par compared to the Wii version. Sonic 4 I felt had good level design and was decent enough for a downloadable title, but the odd physics turned many people off. Now, they have their hands on their first foray onto the 3DS. Continue reading TSS Review: Sonic Generations (3DS)

M&S London 2012 Wii Review in Latest Nintendo Power

GoNintendo reports that the first review of the Wii version of Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games is featured in the latest issue of US magazine Nintendo Power. No excerpts have been given, but the publication has scored the game 7.0/10, which is the same score they gave to Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games and .5 lower than the score they gave to the first game in the series Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games.

The November issue of Nintendo Power is available at US retailers and newsstands now.

Source: GoNintendo

IGN US Reviews Sonic Generations

IGN US has released their review for the console version of Sonic Generations as promised and it’s received a lot of praise, with barely any complaints outside of missions and occasional clunky controls.

We’ll let you find out the score and the rest of their thoughts for yourselves.

To see their video review, go here.

To read their review, go here.

First Sonic Generations Review is in, New Screenshots

German website VideoGamesZone.de has today provided the world’s first review of the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC version of Sonic Generations and the game earned a high score of 85%. The website praised its many unlockables and hidden secrets, its stage selection and the combination of 2D and 3D gameplay. Negatives include its “inconsequential story” and the controls.

VideoGamesZone.de has also shared three new screenshots, which you can view below.

You can read a Google translation of the full review here.

Thanks to SSMB member Neon for the heads up!

ONM Previews Sonic Generations 3DS, Review in Next Issue

The UK’s Official Nintendo Magazine has previewed the Nintendo 3DS version of Sonic Generations in their latest issue and within it are a few details about physics, Casino Night Zone and the Metal Sonic Rival challenge.

* Regarding Classic Sonic’s physics, the magazine says “The Mega Drive physics are more or less spot-on, and far better than they were in recent WiiWare release Sonic 4.”
* According to ONM, Classic Sonic’s Casino Night Zone music is “slightly modernised but for the most part it’s faithful to the ditties from the older games.”, while the remixed Modern Sonic version is “bursting with saxophone solos and various other musical flourishes.”
* The Metal Sonic boss battle is a race to reach the end of the level before he does. ONM says “It reminds us of the two-player mode in Sonic 2 and it’s a fun, challenging stage.”

ONM will have a review of the game in next month’s issue, which is due out in UK stores November 17th. To read their full preview, pick up their December issue at your local retailer now for £3.99.

Sonic Colours Out In AU, Review Round-Up, More DS Characters

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvjLf21n9no[/youtube]
Sonic Colours for Wii and DS was made available to purchase in Australia today, the first official release for the game, with Europe receiving it tomorrow and the U.S. on the 16th. With the first official release has come many story mode spoiling details and media in the Sonic community for both versions, which we won’t relay here, but some interesting news you may want to hear is that more characters make non-playable appearances in the DS version than first thought. Joining already confirmed Amy & Knuckles are; Shadow, Blaze, Silver, Rouge, Cream, Vector, Espio, Charmy, Big and Chao.

You can hear some voice clips of the new voice actors portraying the characters in the video at the top of the page, courtesy of YouTube user MidniteWv4. The clips are played in the following order of characters: Sonic, Tails, Yacker, Eggman, Cubot, Orbot, Knuckles, Shadow, Blaze, Amy, Silver, Cream, Big, Espio, Charmy, Vector, Chao, Rouge, Omega and Wisp.

In other news, more reviews have been published across the net for both versions of the game, some scoring the game high and some scoring it low. British newspaper Guardian, along with Gamekult have given the Wii version its lowest scores of 3/5 and 6/10 respectively. Guardian cite dull presentation, lack of polish and an untidy interface as their reasons for an average score.

Eurogamer put their review of the Wii version out today and it was a positive one, with an 8/10 score awarded. The game received positive marks for its controls, simple storyline and replayability. Videogamer are equally positive in their review, where the Wii version got another 8/10. Videogamer’s Jamin Smith says “The controls are tight and simple, and even the camera is on its best behaviour throughout.”, the latter being something most modern console Sonic games are often panned for.

As for the DS version, Game Informer gave the portable outing an 8.5/10 for its fluid high-speed, the Wisps adding interesting gameplay and the addictive special stages. Elsewhere, the DS version was given a 7.9/10 by GameTrailers, a higher score than the 6.4 they gave the Wii version. GT’s reviewer appears to have really enjoyed the multiplayer modes of the DS version and the Wisp abilities that encourage exploring and replayability, but they say the game can get frustrating, because of the gap between the two screens resulting in you losing sight of Sonic from time to time.

You can check out more Sonic Colours Wii and DS reviews at Metacritic.

What do you think of the critics impressions of Sonic Colours? Have you picked up or will you be purchasing the game? Let us know in the comments.

Thanks to Woun at the SSMB for first revealing details about the cast of characters in the DS version!

Sonic Free Riders: New Screens, Videos & Reviews

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RV2chnj0-qU[/youtube]

More reviews for SEGA’s first Xbox 360 Kinect title Sonic Free Riders have rolled out to join IGN’s 7.5/10, GameInformer’s 5.75/10 and G4’s 3/5 that we reported about yesterday. GameTrailers put out the above video review, scoring the game 4.5/10. Elsewhere, Kotaku, a site that doesn’t give scores, called the game’s controls broken, but said if SEGA could fix them he would recommend the game. Joystiq put out the game’s lowest scored review yet, with a painful 1/5, but there has been another higher score from the U.S. Official Xbox Magazine that matches IGN’s score of 7.5/10. The main complaint among the reviewers is the controls and how poorly they work, especially the steering. Check out the reviews at the links provided and share your thoughts in our comments section.

In other news, SEGA Japan updated their official Sonic Free Riders website with fifteen more screenshots from the game and two images from later unlocked tracks Final Factory and Metal City. You can check out those screens and images below.

Finally, we have some new gameplay videos from Kotaku, Giant Bomb and GameTrailers:
GameTrailers gameplay video:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqMtffhzX0Y[/youtube]

Kotaku gameplay video:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDdDFytRjJY[/youtube]

Giant Bomb gameplay video part 1:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKfeENnObTY[/youtube]

Giant Bomb gameplay video part 2:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpUUXQ70fIs[/youtube]

Thanks to SSMB member Woun for the YouTube conversions and for obtaining the images and screenshots.

Gamepro.de’s Sonic Colours Video Review

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30ecHD-DeBY&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

It turns out that the rumour we reported that about Gamepro German division reviewing Sonic Colours (Wii version) in the latest issue of their magazine is true and they have indeed scored the game an 87%. The publication has now released their video review of the game, which features plenty of new gameplay footage of the various stages and even some cutscenes clips with English and Japanese voice acting. If you’re trying to avoid all story spoilers, then we advise against watching the video. The written review has not yet been published on their website.

Thanks to Slashhedgehog at the SSMB for the heads up!

IGN Gives First Sonic Free Riders Review

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NN1XU0ST5J0[/youtube]

IGN has put out the worlds first review of Sonic Free Riders, SEGA’s first Xbox 360 Kinect title. Associate Editor Jack Devries has given the game a 7.5/10, just .5 less than the website gave Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing. Devries is very positive about the multiplayer aspects of the game, even the new relay and tag modes. The only real complaints expressed are that the game is shallow, isn’t so easy to jump into for casual players. You can check out the video review for yourself in the video above or read the written review at IGN’s website.

Outside of the review, we get a look at more gameplay footage from the various tracks and characters, as well as some of the static cutscenes and voice acting.

Source: IGN
Video review
Written review

Thanks to Doctor Eggman at the SSMB for the heads up!

ONM Sonic Colours Reviews: “Sonic Cycle Has Finally Been Broken”

Issue 62 of Official Nintendo Magazine is available from today in stores across the UK for £3.99 and inside are reviews for both Wii & DS versions of Sonic Colours. The game grasped an impressive 86% score from reviewer Chris Scullion on Wii, closely followed by an 85% score from reviewer Simon Bramble for the DS edition. The Wii version is highly praised for not containing any gimmicks that ruin the game, such as the Werehog, talking swords or the motion controlled gameplay of Sonic and the Secret Rings. Scullion sees the Wisps as a gimmick, but says they don’t ruin things and are completely optional, so you can completely ignore them if you like. Scullion especially likes the Yellow Drill Wisp, saying “You’ll have a blast manoeuvring Sonic through the dirt and underground passages at stupidly fast speeds,”.

Another feature praised about the game is the new voice acting of Roger Craig Smith as Sonic the Hedgehog. Scullion says Roger makes Sonic seem pretty cool and not the equivalent of The Simpsons‘ Poochie The Rapping Dog. Elsewhere in the sound department, the music receives some positive criticism, with Scullion saying the ONM team were humming along to the tracks for each level. Speaking of levels, Scullion doesn’t rank them as high as the best of the daytime stages Sonic Unleashed had to offer, but he is happy with lots of the stages. Scullion wasn’t impressed with multiplayer and says “if you’re buying this for multiplayer, you’ll probably be disappointed, as Sonic Colours is far more enjoyable when played on your tod.”

Scullion finishes the review with a statement that many fans will be happy to hear:

Colours hits the jackpot for Sonic fans. It’s one of his best 3D outings since the Dreamcast days. Round of applause for Sonic Team – the Sonic cycle has finally been broken.”

As for the DS version, it’s highly praised for being developed by Dimps who did the very well received Sonic Rush titles, because this game sticks closely to the fast-paced gameplay in those games. Bramble says Sonic Colours on DS is at its heart “speed-run gaming at its finest” and has a lot of good things to say about the replay value of going through levels again to improve your performance and earn a higher rank and/or using later unlocked Wisps in earlier stages to find new paths and goodies. Like Scullion on the Wii version, Bramble is happy to see the Wisps are completely optional in this version, so you can speed through in usual Sonic fashion without ever using one if you so wish to.

The only complaint Bramble brings up about the DS version are the boss battles and bonus levels, because they break the flow of the game and says “the story’s a tenuous load of old tosh – but at least Sonic doesn’t talk.” The review is ended like the Wii one, with another positive statement that will put a smile on the face of fans.

“In fact, Colours on DS manages to silence not only its star, but those looking for yet another Sonic game to complain about. By ignoring the mistakes that did for recent titles, Colours manages to glide along, happy and oblivious, just as you will when you play it.”

For the full reviews, pick up a copy of Official Nintendo Magazine issue 62 in stores now, or order online at myfavouritemagazines.co.uk

NGamer Reviews Sonic Colours Wii, Supports Miis

According to reports, the UK edition of NGamer magazine has put out their review of Sonic Colours on Wii in their new issue released to store shelves today and it’s good news, because the magazine has given the game a score of 86%. NGamer has many positive things to say about the game, praising the single player, the Wisps and the replay value given when returning to stages to find hidden routes with later unlocked Wisps.

“The Similarity to the Mario Galaxy Games is it’s abundance of ideas. This is Sonic Team in an uncharacteristically creative and generous mood. It’s one that suits them well. The addition of the power-altering wisps is what does it.”

– “These aren’t powerups, they’re toys – single-use shots of pure fun that have the happy side effect of opening up new pathways in already pleasingly labyrinthine stages.”

– “The lists of powers goes on and on, and backtracking to find new areas in which to use them is a big part of the fun.”

NGamer weren’t too keen on the multiplayer section of the game though, claiming it can feel like a tug of war at times.

“As a multiplayer game Sonic Colours is less than perfect (the speedy action often results in a game of tug of war using the screen as a rope).”

The review reveals a new feature in the game’s multiplayer mode, the ability to play as your Mii.

– The ability to swap Sonic for your Miis means there’s still throwaway fun to be had.” (in multiplayer)

They finish the review up with a high note in their summary.

Summary – “Colours Rockets Sonic closer to the stratospheric heights of past glories and hints at a great future. Welcome back old friend, it’s been to long.”

For the full review, pick up the latest issue of NGamer in-store now or you can order it online from MyFavouriteMagazines.co.uk

Source: Sonicka at the ONM Forums

Thanks to SiLeNtDo0m at the SSMB for the heads-up!

IGN & 1UP Review Sonic Adventure XBLA/PSN

Gaming media giants, IGN and 1UP have given their opinions on the downloadable port of Sonic Adventure that is due to hit Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network today. It appears both of reviewers didn’t have a lot of fun with the game, just look at the scores, IGN’s Arthur Gies gives the game a 3.5/10 and 1UP’s Ray Barnholt a D.

Why such a low score and a low-grade? Both put an emphasis on complaints about poor controls, a bad camera, outdated graphics and sections that don’t require any player input. IGN’s Gies goes so far as to say the game borders on unplayable:

The game was so fast, in fact, that you probably didn’t even realize how broken it actually is. Sonic Adventure is so fundamentally flawed that it borders on unplayable – the sections that move the fastest, that work most, that are even slightly interesting, require the least input from the player. In fact, in many of these sections, input from the player will result in death or catastrophe, and there’s really no way to know which until you either fly through not completely sure what happened or die, also not completely sure what happened.

1UP’s Barnholt also seems very frustrated and think the developers should have implemented some improvements to the game:

But the thing is, Sonic Adventure DX wasn’t all that improved over the original version, so all of the questionable physics and maddening controls are still here; not once re-evaluated, not even thought to be improved. If you remember getting Sonic caught on loop-the-loops or practically begging Amy to jump a little higher over one little ledge, you’ll experience all of it in the same spots. If levels like the Sky Deck drove you insane with its narrow walkways that were so easy to fall from, prepare to go crazy again. And while the game was already somewhat touchy, it also feels like it wasn’t even tuned for the Xbox 360 controller and its analog sticks. Listen carefully and you can hear the shattering of rose-tinted lenses.

For the full reviews, head over to IGN and 1UP.

Do you agree with IGN and 1UP’s opinion’s? Do you plan on downloading the game today? Let us know in the comments.

Sonic & Knuckles Wii VC Gets An 85% From ONM

Official Nintendo Magazine UK have reviewed the recent Wii Virtual Console release of Sonic & Knuckles and given it a good score of 85%.

The reasons restricting them giving the game an even higher score is as follows:

Naturally though, the main gameplay change is the addition of Knuckles, whose ability to glide and climb walls changes the feel of the game drastically. The levels aren’t laid out as well as those in the previous Sonic games however, and the game suffers slightly as a result.

So while it’s not as essential as the main Sonic trilogy, Sonic & Knuckles is still highly recommended for all platform fans.

Guess ONM arent fans of Knuckles gameplay change though they do give a + at the end of review for being able to play as him, the only – they give the game is in their words “Not as good as Sonic 2 or 3”.

What do you think of their review? Let the debate begin in the comments section.

Nintendo Power Review Scores For ASR

We’ve just had word that Nintendo Power’s new issue is out and in it they have reviews for both Wii and DS versions of Sonic & SEGA All Stars Racing. According to GoNintendo reader Nez the magazine has given the Wii version an 8/10 and the DS version a 6/10. GamesMaster magazine put their reviews out on Tuesday where the game got scores around the same area with Xbox 360/PS3 version earning an 83%, Wii version also got an 83% and DS version a lower 70% score.

If you have this new issue of Nintendo Power and can confirm the scores let us know in the comments.