TSS Review: LEGO Dimensions Sonic the Hedgehog Level Pack

LEGO and Sonic the Hedgehog. Now there’s two things we never thought we’d see officially put together in the same product. Sure, maybe it’s not as earth-shattering a crossover as the Mario & Sonic series (I mean, who’d have ever seen that one coming, and at the Olympic Games no less?!), but it’s just as mind-bogglingly unthinkable. But, then again, almost anything is possible in the crazy world of TT Games’ LEGO Dimensions. You know what’s even crazier though? This bonkers mash-up of blue blurs and bricks is arguably the best thing to come out of Sonic’s 25th anniversary celebrations this year.

Continue reading TSS Review: LEGO Dimensions Sonic the Hedgehog Level Pack

TSS Review: Eggman’s Dozen

Emphasis on the dozen, add more yolks.

If the history of fiction has proven anything, it’s that villains are far more likely to be more fun to watch than the heroes. So a natural way to get a great arc on paper is to shove all your villains in one place and see how it unfolds. Eggman’s Dozen does exactly that, but will it prove the perfect dish or be a case of putting all the eggs in the wrong basket? Read on and find out!

Continue reading TSS Review: Eggman’s Dozen

TSS Reviews: Mario and Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Wii U version)

Mario and Sonic was always the topic at the Copa.

With the Olympics just weeks around the corner, Mario and Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games for the Wii U is finally out on the shelves. Promising more characters, better graphics, 14 Olympic events and an array of content, will this game have you partying like you’re in Maracanã, or will you be left thinking of it as Barren da Tijuca?

Continue reading TSS Reviews: Mario and Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Wii U version)

TSS Review: Mario and Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (3DS)

The biannual bash of gaming’s top titans is here again and it’s a far more enjoyable fare than a certain recent movie featuring two other huge fictional rivals. Mario and Sonic return to the Olympics with their biggest roster ever and a surprisingly meaty single-player experience. However, with this being the fifth outing for this mascot sports series, is it too much of the “same-old, same-old”, or is there enough meat in the portable outing to be worth a purchase? Continue reading TSS Review: Mario and Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (3DS)

TSS REVIEW: First4Figures Tornado Exclusive Edition Diorama

Now… the last time I wrote about a First4Figures statue in detail was back in 2013, and it wasn’t exactly a happy experience, my statue along with several others had a number of problems, mysterious black marks, badly manufactured joints to name but a few. This, combined with problems with a number of previous statues finally broke the camels back. So I cancelled all my outstanding orders for statues with them, since then I have not bought another F4F product, that rule was in place for me until I saw evidence that they were taking their quality control seriously.

And oh boy, how they have gone above my expectations. Continue reading TSS REVIEW: First4Figures Tornado Exclusive Edition Diorama

Initial Impressions: Sonic Runners (iOS/Android)

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EDIT 24/6: Due to the ever evolving nature of mobile games, and the fact Runners has altered quite a bit since our initial review here, we’ve decided to re-evaluate this piece as an “Initial Impressions”. While it may have stood true for the game’s soft launch release, we no longer feel it accurately reflects the current version of Sonic Runners.

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.

If you recall, Sonic has three original titles for mobile devices. Sonic Jump and Sonic Jump Fever, where Sonic must use platforms to climb to the top of levels riddled with badniks and other obstacles, and Sonic Dash, and endless runner where you dodge obstacles and collect as many rings as you can. The latter game is pretty infamous for its microtransactions at this point. Red Rings are the premium currency which gets you second tries, new characters and other goodies which doesn’t come cheap, and you can one or two a day through normal gameplay. It gets addicting swiftly, but can often become frustrating, and nowadays is littered with ads which consistently interrupt whenever you’re on a menu.

This is why, upon Sonic Runners’ initial announcement, I had very low interest in whatever the title had to offer. Despite it being developed by Sonic Team themselves, I wasn’t interested in being hounded continually by adverts, told there’s a new sale on for premium currency or losing my progress in a level because of almost impossible to avoid obstacles. If anything, I assumed it could be an easy time killer for whenever the next major Sonic Team game comes around.

But yet, I find myself thinking that this is the best Sonic game that’s been released since 2011’s Sonic Generations. And I’m not sure how to feel about that.

Sonic Runners is essentially a classic Sonic game on rails. Your character runs continually on a 2D plane with your only control option being to tap the screen which performs a jump. Rings and different coloured score gems help to guide when your character should jump and when to use their unique abilities, and levels are littered with power-ups to help your runs, such as Invincibility, Shield and Combo Bonus. Drill, Laser and Asteroid Wisps also return providing quick and easy ways to cover distance or collect items. Laser is especially fantastic, letting you move quickly and tap to suck in all nearby score gems and rings.

Multiple taps activate a character’s special ability – Sonic (Speed) can triple jump which helps in a pinch, Tails (Fly) can gain a great height by either holding down the jump or pressing multiple times, and Knuckles (Power) can dash forward with a punch destroying rocks and powerful enemies, then jump once more following it. Each character class has a designated zone designed to put these abilities to best use, with levels which compliment the abilities. Windy Hill for Speed, Silent Forest/Sky Road for Fly and Lava Mountain for Power. Because of this, there’s no reason to use any other characters in these stages which quickly leads to a lack in variety, which I’ll come to.

There’s a great sense of speed and flow while you play Runners, no matter which character class you’re using. Since rings and score gems help guide your movements it’s all about timing your jumps right and trusting that you’ll make it, which can be very satisfying when it comes to complex areas. At the end of each “section” you’ll have a mini face off against Dr. Eggman where you can bag a ton of rings for a short amount of time, and once he flies off the game speeds up further. This also accompanies increasingly difficult hazards to avoid and jumps to make, creating a difficulty progression that feels fair. Once you reach max speed you’ll stop gaining rings, making the tension of perfectly executing all your jumps even greater. Though there are times when I feel there’s the occasional cheap death or obstacle, it largely feels fair and down to the player’s skill.

There’s an issue when it comes to this however. Since each level section contains its own obstacles and challenges, they quickly become familiar at lower levels, but higher level ones still remain a mystery because of the time it takes to get to them, the actual pace of the area and the increased difficulty. So if you’re to lose on max speed run and get sent back, you’ll have to go through all the previous areas with the same designs and obstacles you’ve already beaten before to take another crack at getting your high score, which quickly becomes repetitive. But this all comes down to the design of the game itself. Rather than having a general feeling of progression, Runners is designed to be played in short bursts to see how far you can get and beat your high score. It’s undeniably fun, just don’t expect to be bored for a few hours and be able to play the game without ever becoming exhausted with it. It certainly lacks variety for long play sessions.

One of the most pleasant surprises with Runners is how much it lacks the lifeblood of its other freemium companions. I’m yet to encounter a single advertisement outside of their own in game promotions (note however, this is a soft launch, so this could just be an early day thing) and I’ve barely been hounded to purchase premium currency, if at all. On top of this, premium currency (Red Rings) isn’t that difficult to come across either, since you’re able to bag a decent amount just by playing through the story alone. This currency goes toward saving yourself in runs or taking a shot at the premium roulette, which can grant you companions to help give you boosts. While these are helpful they’re not necessary, so it’s up to you to decide how conservative you want to be with your Red Rings. Even normal rings themselves are used as currency to level up your characters to make power ups and Wisps last longer, and they come in generous amounts.

The thing that will drive you the most to play Sonic Runners will be beating your high score, and trying to be head of your division leaderboard. There’s a story within the game, but it’s better left unspoken of. Story could even be a word too generous – the plot essentially revolves around Sonic, Tails and Knuckles solving the problems of animals and defeating Eggman at the end of each episode. There are plenty of these episodes, sure, but they do very little to engage you and cutscenes quickly become tedious (don’t worry, you can skip them). It’s nothing special and won’t encourage you to keep playing, and it isn’t helped by the pretty poor writing to boot. You’ll stick around for that burst of fun you’ll get from the gameplay itself.

And that’s what makes Sonic Runners so good. It’s all about the gameplay, and it’s great. Every time I go to pick it up, I know that it’s going to be a blast. You could almost say it’s a modern, bitesized interpretation of those side-scrolling Sonic games we know and love. It’s fast, frantic, addictive and just downright fun. The production values feel high and the visuals look lovely, with Lost World’s simple, cartoony art style adapting to mobile very well, and Ohtani provides some great catchy tunes to boot. Despite its lack of variety and monotonous story it’s probably the most overall enjoyable Sonic game since Generations and paints a positive picture as to whatever Sonic Team is working on next.

You’ll Love:

  • The fun and addictive gameplay, reminiscent of days gone by.
  • The high production values, reflected in the graphics, gameplay and music.
  • Despite being freemium, is surprisingly generous and not littered with ads… for now.

You’ll Hate:

  • The lack of variety.
  • Occasional cheap obstacles.
  • The “story”.

Sonic Runners is out now in Japan and Canada for Free, and is available on iOS and Android. There is currently no announced release date for the US or Europe.

This game was played on an iPhone 5C. Performance will vary depending on your device.

Second Opinion from Hogfather

Let’s start with the terrible things shall we?

  • The fact I can’t play this offline is ridiculous.
  • The Amy Rose unlock is completely ridiculous.
  • The music is pretty bad, no really it is, compare it to the original games and you’ll realise how poor it is.

What are you left with? An utterly fantastic little game that everybody should be playing. Sonic Runners is the best Sonic game in years, boy how sad is that? Since Generations, the best Sonic game is a free to play, on rails mobile game which has barely a plot to it… is this a sign of how bad the last 2 years have been? Or that this game is genuinely good?

The answer is probably somewhere in between, Runners is a high production cost free to play mobile game, but it is a free to play mobile game so if you’re expecting high console production costs, think again, turn your expectations down to mobile game.

Now that isn’t to say it’s bad, it’s not, but your expectations might be a tad high. For example, the game has tons of episodes, but these episodes are so basic, odds are you’ll be touching the ‘skip’ button after the first 8, why not; they’re all pretty much the same. “Oh no, Eggman has kidnapped/built a factory near my house, let’s go do something!” You then play a stage; if you score high enough odds are you’ll be taken to the boss fight, which is a very simple affair and that’s it, episode done.

It’s simple, not bad, but simple.

The strength of the title comes from the layout of each stage, it does branching paths really well, and the balance between challenge and reward is very well thought out and executed almost perfectly.

There will however be things people don’t like, Sonic can’t go into a spin dash on demand, but he does it automatically if you build up huge speed, normally resulting in a score or ring bonus. Most of the wisp powers feel like a punishment than a help.

Some people may have some issues adjusting to the new rules, Sonic can triple jump now and you can jump anywhere on a Catterkiller, going against nearly 25 years of gameplay. However, that said, Runners is fun, in fact it’s very fun, I almost wanted it to be terrible in case someone in charge says “This is how we do it from now on.” because whilst it’s a fun little game, I still want my console Sonic.

I could go into the technical reasons as to why Runners works so well, but all you really need to know, is that Sonic Runners is the best Sonic game in years which is genially fun despite the simple nature, don’t be put off by the words “Free to play” or “mobile” or that terrible tutorial, It’s actually an enjoyable experience.

Please don’t ruin it by suddenly adding adverts or some other restriction. Just please get rid of that online requirement and the let us unlock Amy Rose in a sensible manner and you might have a serious contender for mobile GOTY.

It’s fun and enjoyable, give it a try.

Update: Sonic Lost World: Review Roundup

zor

Added some more scores.

So Sonic Lost World is out, and it’s…. well.. you’ll see.

I’m not a fan of review embargos these days, mainly because given the price of a game, you really need an idea as to what to expect. So for people living in the EU, odds are this won’t be of much use. But here it is anyway, the following is a roundup of all the Sonic Lost World reviews so far.

Scores are out of 10 unless otherwise stated.

Wii U Version.

Gametsyde: Favourable

Famitsu: 9/9/9/9

Nintendo World Report: 9

Gamesbeat: 85/100

Games Radar: 4/5

Guardian: 4/5

GameReactor Spain/Norway/Portugal: 8

Digital Spy: 4/5

GameTrailers: 7.6

Destructoid: 7.5

Jeuxvideo: 15/20 (seriously? Out of 20?)

CVG: 7

Gameblog.fr: 3.5/5

Nintendo Life: 7

TheSixthAxis: 7

GameReactor Sweeden/Germany*: 6

Wiitalia: 6

Polygon: 6

IGN: 5.8

Digital Chumps: 5.6

Videogamer: 5

Gamekult: 5

Gameinformer: 5

Gamespot: 5

AnaitGames: 5

Joystiq: 2.5/5

The Escapist: 2.5/5

Edge: 4

EuroGamer: 4

Kotaku: Should you play it: NO

And now for the 3DS version

Kotaku: Should you play it: YES

Famitsu: 8/9/8/9

Wiitalia: 6

GameReactor Spain: 5

NintendoLife: 5

Polygon: 4

AnaitGames: 4

And thats your lot so far…

Well, I suppose it could have been worse? It seems that for many people, the game is quite an average experience. If you want the details you can click the links, but from reading the reviews and looking around. The game appears to be quite painfully average, boss battles are a let down, controls are bad, there needed to be a tutorial stage, the learning curve is far too high, at times it re-cycles levels and ideas from the game, some boss fights are copy and pastes from other games and well… I think you get the idea.

It’s not bad, but it’s no better than average, if you go along with the above scores.

Anyway, stay tuned to TSS for our own review which should be getting put up at some point next week.

Sonic Generations Review Roundup

Sonic’s big 20th Anniversary title Sonic Generations is now available to purchase in the US and the press are all unleashing their final verdicts on the game. Most critics seem to have enjoyed the game, with many scoring the game an 8 or an higher variant of the number. Below, we have a list of many of the reviews out there listed from highest to lowest.

[table id=2/]

Australian gaming website PALGN has also released its review of Sonic Generations today and has given the game its highest score yet – 9.5/10.

What are your thoughts on the critical praise so far? Share your opinions in the comments section below.

Thanks to SSMB member Blue Blood for the list!

[UPDATE: IGN 8/10] First Batch of Sonic 4 Reviews


UPDATE: IGN has posted up their review of the Xbox 360 version, in written and video form (see above). They give the game an 8/10. /UPDATE END

The first batch of reviews are in for the iPhone and PS3 versions of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 and they’re all pretty positive. We’ll focus on two of the reviews here and provide links to others at the bottom of this article.

AppTilt’s Dan Lee gave the iPhone version a 9/10, claiming SEGA has done well in bringing Sonic back to his roots, while still keeping him fresh.

Every level is bright, colourful, detailed and screams ‘Sonic’ at the top of its lungs. SEGA has done a fantastic job of bringing Sonic back to his roots, but also making him feel fresh and modern.

Lee says the game meets the classic Sonic level design of multiple routes, which encourage the various play styles of those who like to speed through a zone and those who like to be more adventurous and explore.

The good news is that the level design is classic Sonic. Each act has multiple routes depending on your play style – so those who enjoy the speed can simply put the hammer down and blast through, whilst the more adventurous can slow things down and eek out every ring there is on offer; just be wary of the ten minute level time limit!

The only complaint Lee had was with the controls. Lee didn’t find the touch or tilt controls to be as accurate as buttons and an analogue stick.

So now for the bad news – the iPod controls aren’t as slick as they could be, and occasionally ruin parts of a level. There are two ways to play the game – ‘Touch controls’ or ‘Tilt controls’. Touch gives you a faux analogue stick in the left hand corner, which controls movement, whilst a circle in the right corner simulates a jump button. This button is far too small and in the full flow of a level it’s very easy to miss – which usually results in death. Both the move and the jump buttons sometimes fail to register as well, which is beyond frustrating.

Tilt controls enables you to move left and right by tilting the iPod in that direction. Jumping is taken care of my tapping any part of the screen. I quite enjoyed the Tilt control as it removed the small jump button – however it lacked the precision of the analogue stick. Neither of these controls schemes are awful; they could have just done with a bit more tweaking. In terms of longevity Sonic 4 is as deep as you want it to be.

Lee finished up by highly recommending the game:

So there we have it – overall Sonics return is a rousing success. The occasional unresponsive controls are not enough to put a dampener on some top notch level design and good old fashioned fun. Highly recommended.

Full review here

GamesRadar’s Justin Towell reviewed the PS3 version of the game and also gave it a 9/10, stating that like most fans, he noticed the physics differences in early footage and had doubts the game would live up to its name, but after playing the full game he says that it surprisingly does live up to the title Sonic 4.

The physics are different, the art design is different… perhaps it was just too different to be worthy of the name ‘Sonic 4’. How could anything possibly live up to that name? To my utmost surprise, it does.

Towell also wasn’t overly bothered by another factor often complained about in the game, the homing attack.

You get the lock-on attack from Sonic Adventure, which threatens to change the game too much, but is actually used sparingly and works well almost all of the time. There are a couple of occasions where you want to use the air dash to power over a spiked enemy’s head, but the game thinks you want to attack it, resulting in a cascade of lost rings.

Towell explains there are new speed tactics not found in the previous Mega Drive classics that he enjoyed playing with and improve Sonic’s speed without having to wait for the next steep hill to come along.

Going back to Sonic 1 after spending hours with its new sibling feels very strange. Sonic 4 handles very differently. It’s more… bold. Clinical, even. Every movement seems more deliberate, and while the finer nuances of low-speed control have arguably been lost, it’s at high speed that it reveals its true depths.
I mentioned that lock on attack can be used as a simple air boost. When running at speed, this has a noticeable acceleration effect, allowing you to reach speeds on open stretches that old Sonic simply wouldn’t be able to do without a hill to help him. Jumps on hills still react as you’d expect, and landing a jump on a decline results in a welcome burst of speed, just like those loop-jumps of Sonic 2.

Towell then goes into the games replayability through various modes like Time Attack and brings good news that Super Sonic’s times will be ranked separately to Sonic’s.

So how much game is there for Sonic experts? I was able to beat the entire game, collected all the emeralds and beat the secret zone in one evening. After that, there are separate score and time attack modes to try for every stage, complete with online leaderboards. These are split into all/friends categories, and scores attained with Super Sonic are categorised separately from regular Sonic.
Add in the countless hidden routes through levels and it’s clear there’s a truck-load of replayability. Finding the fastest routes and mastering them is going to take weeks, maybe months. Maybe years.

Towell finishes up the review with the following positive thoughts and verdict:

A friend on Facebook asked me to sum up the game in one word. It’s a tough thing to do. I wouldn’t say ‘magnificent’ – it’s still a little too unambitious for that. I certainly wouldn’t say ‘disappointing’, because Sonic Team and DIMPS have done the impossible and managed to make this most critical of Sonic fans love a new Sonic game.
So I’m going to plump for ‘deserving’. And I mean that in two ways. It’s deserving of your time and your money despite its length. But more importantly, it’s deserving of the name ‘Sonic The Hedgehog 4’. That was always going to be this game’s biggest challenge, but it’s succeeded with aplomb.

9/10
You’ll love
+ The purest Sonic game for ten years
+ Works on so many gameplay levels, like its predecessors
+ So much game to master, despite its diminutive size
+ You’ll hate
– Can be ‘completed’ in one evening
– Physics are different, not necessarily worse
– Visuals could have been even better

Full review here

GamesRadar also shared the completed map screen:

Other iPhone version reviews:
GameShard 9/10
AppAdvice 4/5
iLounge (B)
Pocket Gamer 7/10
TiPb 5/5
SEGABits (B)
AppSpy 4/5

What do you think of the game’s positive critical reception so far? Share your thoughts in the comments.