A Review of Tails’ Adventures (Game Gear)


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The Story

One peaceful morning, Tails was lying on a tree trunk in the Poloy Forest, sleeping deeply. His orange fur was illuminated by shafts of bright morning light and the sound of Tails’ gentle breathing filled his surroundings. Two small, blue birds flew among the branches of a nearby tree, emphasising the tranquillity of the dark wood. Suddenly, Tails woke and quickly rose to his feet.

A large green and grey airship left a nearby island to fly across the sea to reach Poloy Forest on Tails’ island. The serene forest suddenly burst into flame, with Tails running in a panic among the burning trees. A machine, piloted by a large blue bird and walking on two mechanical legs, appeared nearby, launching balls of fire at the forest for no reason.

Tails explored the different areas of the island. He climbed the exterior of Mount Polly and found a green bird. He pursued the bird up the mountain and, upon reaching the summit, the bird flew away to another island floating in the sea. Tails piloted a submarine underneath the mechanical island and infiltrated a docking bay at the base to enter Coco Island.

Inside Coco Island, Tails met an elderly bird and used a large rock to knock them unconscious, before escaping the island (he is supposed to be a hero). The island then rose into the air, revealing itself to be the Battle Fortress. Tails flew to the Fortress and landed on the top of it. Inside the mechanised island, Tails fought and defeated the green bird and a tall, grinning bird. Tails left the Battle Fortress and returned home, leaving the flying island to fall into the sea and sink below the waves.

The game ended with Tails building a mechanical fox while being hindered by a small bird, his own urge to sleep and his incompetence.

Finally, a game with a beginning, a middle and a weird end.

The Review

This was a review of the game available online and not the version of the game released on the Game Gear. The versions of the game were identical, but the methods of controlling the game varied between the two versions.

There were two games released on the Game Gear which featured Tails (Sonic’s sidekick) as the hero and, interestingly, the two games were very different. This game, Tail’s Adventures, was the more complicated, darkly coloured and in-depth game of the two.

The story for the game was more complex than other games in the Sonic series. There were animated sequences during the game to describe the story and suggest how the player should proceed, which was different to the sequence of levels used as a story in the previous games. The story was still quite simple, unexplained and used no dialogue, which seemed to consist of Tails fighting an army of strange, bird-like creatures that invaded his island for unknown reasons. The more developed story was most likely used because this game was a role-playing game, rather than a simple platform game like other games in the series. I, personally, found the story, while more complex, had little impact because there were few animated sequences in the game and there was little explanation of the events.

The gameplay for the game required skill and was explorative. In the game, Tails could run, jump and briefly fly, although his movements were slower than Sonic in other games in the series. The amount of time Tails could fly was presented as a meter and his stamina increased as the player collected more Chaos Emeralds, which were hidden  throughout the game. In some levels, Tails used a submarine to travel underwater. While using the submarine, one button controlled which direction Tails faced and the player could only move while facing that direction (so he could move up, down, forwards and reverse). The submarine also moved fairly slowly and used it’s own weapons and equipment. One level used the submarine as an aircraft, but the controls were the same.

There were 12 levels, including an area called “Tails’ Home”, which became accessible as the player progressed through the game. The Tails’ Home area served as a base of operations, which allowed the player to select equipment to use, activate a vehicle or display the password. Before entering the levels, the player could select up to 4 items to take into the level, with each item having a use that either allows the player to reach an inaccessible area or alters the gameplay. During the game, the player was also able to obtain a submarine that allowed the player to access underwater levels and this machine used separate equipment. Part of the games’ difficulty was knowing what items to equip when entering a level to proceed through the game.

There were also a number of hidden elements within each level. Some of the levels used different pathways (which only be followed if the correct items were selected) that allowed the player to reach different levels. The items were hidden in blue containers within the levels, so the player needed to collect items to be able to obtain other items. Some of the levels contained a single path that lead to a boss.

Many aspects of the gameplay contrasted with the more familiar Sonic games. The enemies in the game could not be defeated by colliding with them at speed or jumping on top of them, instead the player had to use a weapon to attack them (the default attack was throwing a small, cartoon bomb). Rings were used as a health meter in this game, but functioned differently to the rings found in other Sonic games. In the game, Tails could only accumulate a fixed number of rings (the maximum amount he could carry increased as the player collected Chaos Emeralds) and, if hurt, the player only lost a set amount of rings. This was different to the unlimited rings the player could carry, which all scattered when harmed, in the other Sonic games.

I, personally, enjoyed the gameplay for the game. The gameplay was easy to learn and worked well. I liked the puzzle aspect of the gameplay and using the objects to progress through the game. I also thought the changes to the gameplay for the other Sonic games was appropriate for this type of game. There were, however, some negative aspects of the game, such as Tails only equipping 4 objects and the submarine was difficult to control properly.

Another negative feature of the game was it was also difficult to know where the player needed to go next after Tails completed a level, as the player can obtain an item without being informed which level contains an obstacle that can be overcome by the item. Another example occurred after I completed the first Battle Fortress level, as the animated sequence showed Tails entering his submarine to indicate the next level used that machine, but I did not realise that I could select the Battle Fortress again after equipping a Rocket Booster and Proton Torpedo. As a result, I explored all the levels which used the submarine to find a hidden path to the next level, rather than choosing the appropriate level.

One of the irritating aspects of the game was the little information provided about the objects. This was possibly due to the version of the game I played, but there was no way of knowing what each object did. This resulted in me obtaining an object, entering a level with it equipped, finding an obvious obstacle and using the object on the barrier to see if it helped me progress. I actually had to resort to using a guide available online to find out what each object’s function was (it actually turned out that many of the objects had the same function or were almost useless).

The level designs for the game were fairly interesting, but repetitive. There were 12 levels in the game: Poloy Forest, Volcanic Tunnel, Polly Mountain part 1, Polly Mountain part 2, Caron Forest, Lake Rocky, Cavern Island, Green Island, Lake Crystal, Coco Island and 2 Battle Fortress levels. Each level appears to resemble either a forest (Poloy Forest, Caron Forest and Green Island), a cavern (Volcanic Tunnel, Cavern Island and Polly Mountain part 2), a mountainside (Polly Mountain part 1), a mechanised structure during evening time (Coco Island and Battle Fortress), an aerial assault (Battle Fortress) or an underwater cavern (Lake Rocky). As a result of the limited settings for the levels, each level shared common objects and backgrounds with other levels in the game, with only the level’s colour scheme differentiating it from similar levels.

While the designs for the levels were quite similar, there were some interesting ideas used in the game. I enjoyed the Polly Mountain part 1 level as it resembled a climb up the side of a mountain and it was challenging fighting enemies positioned on higher platforms. Cavern Island seemed to consist of a cave filled with water that the player had to explore by navigating the underwater currents. Lake Crystal was also unique as the player had to follow a river flowing down a mountainside and had to jump to each cliff to progress.

The graphics for the game were satisfactory. The game did use some interesting designs and all the objects were recognisable, although the graphics were a little pixelated. There were no effects in the game. I felt the graphics were better than other games on the Game Gear and were able to create some interesting visuals.

The music for the game was fairly low quality. The music used a lot of high notes and had an artificial sound. The music also quite repetitive, with each soundtrack consisting of repeating a few bars and the same soundtrack was used as background music to multiple levels. The music did, however, manage to convey some interesting atmospheres, such as one that created a feeling of spirited adventure, another formed a sense of jeopardy, another created an atmosphere of fearful danger and a menacing score was used for the enemy’s headquarters. I found that the music had little effect on the game, despite the atmosphere it created, due to it’s repetitive feel.

There were also some definite problems with the game. The game used a password system to allow the player to resume playing from specific points in the game. Passwords could be entered after selecting the Continue option on the main screen, however, the player could not navigate back to the main menu and had to either enter a password or reset the game when this screen appeared. Another problem was that, after entering a level, the only way to leave it was to walk through the entrance or one of the exits of the level, however, if the level contained a boss, the player could only leave the level through the entrance. I can remember exploring a level with a defeated boss to find secrets, but, after fully searching the level to no avail, having to travel to the beginning of the level just so I could leave the area. Also, a small mistake was that the radio item was called a “raido”.

In conclusion, the game was very enjoyable. The gameplay was unusual for a Sonic game, but was enjoyable to play, despite some obvious deficiencies (such as the ease of getting lost and not being told how the items were used). The story had very little impact on the game. The level designs were good, but were repetitive. The graphics were satisfactory. The music was slightly atmospheric, but had little effect on the game due to the repetition of the soundtrack.


A Review of Tails’ Skypatrol (Game Gear)


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The Story

On a bright day, Tails was flying across a meadow in pursuit of a witch riding a mine cart. The witch accelerated to escape and a trio of enemies (consisting of a rabbit, dog and wolf) riding different flying vehicles appeared to taunt Tails before flying away.

Tails finds the witch in the Darkcastle Area. Tails defeated the witch, causing her to fly out of her mine cart, then Tails used his ring to grab her out of the sky and take her away. The game ends with Tails flying through the night sky.

I have no idea why Tails was chasing the witch or what happened to her after he apprehended her.

The Review

This was a review of the version of the game played on another source, not played on the Game Gear. Many of the features were similar, but this review did not discuss things directly related to using the Game Gear (such as the controls).

There were two games released on the Game Gear which featured Tails as the hero. Of the two, this game was brighter, more cheerful and seemed to be intended for younger players.

The gameplay for the game was quite unique. Throughout the game, Tails was perpetually flying forwards, while the screen continuously moved from left to right. If the player touched the ground, obstacles or any ceilings, it was fatal, forcing Tails to stay airborne and move forwards. The game also presented a meter, which was constantly being reduced and caused Tails to be sent hurtling to the ground if it ran out. Tails also held a single ring below his body, which had various uses in the game.

A large part of the gameplay was based around a ring Tails held beneath his body. Tails’ ring functioned both as a weapon and a way of interacting with the environment. The ring could be launched at enemies to kill them. There were also a number of objects spread across the levels that affected Tails’ motion when the ring came into contact with them, such as balloons that would cause Tails to float upwards, heavy weights that forced Tails to fall downwards, conveyers and bars that propelled Tails in a specific direction and poles that caused Tails to rotate downwards before being launched sideways. Holding down the button used to launch the ring caused the ring to loop around Tails, however, this manoeuvre had absolutely no use.

There were also a number of power-ups in the game. There were crystals (which added to the player’s score), sweets with green stripes (which helped recover time on the flying meter and were placed in piles of 1, 2 or 3), bells (which saved the player’s progress through the level), 1-up signs (which added an extra life) and signs with a star on them (which surrounded Tails with four balls and made him temporarily invincible). Weirdly, these items could only be obtained if they come into contact with Tail’s ring while it is next to his body, except for the bells, which can be activated by the player launching the ring at them.

I have observed that the Sonic games developed for the Game Gear use some very unusual elements and it has already been stated that some aspects of the gameplay were strange, but the weirdest part of the gameplay concerned Tails receiving damage. Tails could only be killed if he came into contact with the ground, obstacles or any ceilings. If the player collided with an enemy or was hit by an attack, Tails stopped flying and slowly fell to the ground, which was fatal if he hit it. If the player pressed a button, Tails moved in a large loop and resumed flying, however, the game seemed to use an unknown method of measuring how much time could elapse before Tails could recover. Sometimes, Tails could immediately resume flying after colliding with an attack, other times, he remained falling for a little while before he could recover.

A boss appeared at the end of each level. Three of the bosses were animals in flying machines, while the final boss was the witch riding a mine cart. The bosses would fly away from Tails and the player had to chase them and attack them using the ring, while avoiding the bosses attacks. The ring could be used a projectile to hit the boss and cause them to briefly pause, or the player could attach the boss to the ring and launch them into an obstacle.

Like many Sonic games released on the Game Gear, I found there were some unnecessarily difficult aspects of this game. There were items within the levels that the player could use to reach new areas, however, these items could also cause Tails to be harmed (for example, the player would need to use a heavy weight to drop vertically down a pit to progress, but Tails could be killed if the player was still attached to the weight when it fell beneath the screen). I found this part of the gameplay induced a feeling of paranoia as it became difficult to trust the objects I was using to progress.
Another highly difficult aspect of the game was avoiding a particular obstacle. During certain parts of the game, small circular objects would suddenly appear to block the player’s path. These objects were instantly fatal if Tails touched them, although they could be destroyed by launching Tails’ ring. The only way I could pass this challenge was to either activate an invincibility power-up to allow me to safely navigate the objects or by already knowing where the blocks would appear so I could quickly fly through the area before they could create a substantial obstacle.
I also wondered if the high difficulty of the game influenced other aspects of the game. As I played the game, I became convinced that the player had an infinite number of continues. Whenever I lost all of Tails’ lives, I would always be able to use a continue to return to the level, no matter how many continues I seemed to use, and it was not stated how many continues remained. There also seemed to be no repercussion to using a continue, other than restarting the previous level from the beginning, as the player’s score seemed to remain intact.

I, personally, felt the gameplay was quite enjoyable. The game used a very unique method of playing the game, which was very different to other games in the series. The use of the ring as a weapon did require the player to develop their aim and it was also particularly enjoyable to use during boss fights. I also enjoyed using the ring to interact with objects as it created a problem solving aspect to the gameplay because the player had to work out how to use the objects to progress. One of the problems I encountered with the gameplay was working out what objects affected Tails if he touched them. For example, in one level, there were archways, but only the top of the archway killed Tails, because he could pass between the vertical parts of the structure. In another level, part of the design included propellers which seemed harmful, until I realised that Tails moved behind them and would not get hurt.

The level designs for the game were cheerful and varied. There were four levels in the game, including a training area. The training area was filled with tall palm trees and used a background consisting of islands located across a sea. The second level was called Railcanyon Area and contained mine carts, which allowed the player to travel along rails in front of bright green fir trees and rocky mountains.  The third level was called Ruinwood Area and seemed to consist of a flight through a dark cave filled with brightly coloured rocks followed by a structure, made of realistic looking bricks and cartoonlike blocks, situated above a wood (which had an interesting moving effect which made it look like Tails was flying over tree tops). The forth level was named Metal Island Area and used a bright blue background (which resembled the sky) and consisted of an assortment of floating, metallic platforms containing flight equipment, such as propellers and rocket boosters. The final level was the Darkcastle area, which was built using large stone bricks and situated across a sea from a city (with brightly lit buildings, neon lights and skyscrapers visible). The final level took place at night.

There were also some strange aspects of the level designs. The bright colours used in the Railcanyon Area level seemed to suggest this level took place during mid-morning, however, the shadows on the mountain rocks made it seem like early evening, which created a strange effect. The foreground for the Ruinwood Area used a shadowing effect which made it seem like a bright day, while the background used a colour scheme which resembled twilight. The Metal Island Area level did not seem to have a bottom, which made it fairly easy as the most prominent way for the character to die was to touch the ground after being hit, instead Tails fell through an endless loop of the environment repeating.

Many of the levels also seemed to use objects from the Sonic 2 game on the Mega Drive. The Training Area resembled a brightly coloured version of the Emerald Hill Zone, the fir trees from the Hilltop Zone appeared in the Railcanyon Area, the floating islands in the Metal Island Area looked like parts of the Wing Fortress Zone and the background for the Darkcastle Area was similar to the background for the Casino Night Zone. Some of the enemies from the Sonic 2 game appeared in this game, including the Whisp and Turtloid badniks.

I, personally, liked the level designs. I found them to be bright and colourful and used some interesting effects. I did feel, however, that the levels all felt similar to play and could have used features to add challenges and alter the gameplay in individual levels.

The graphics for the game seemed low quality. The visuals were quite pixelated, although the level designs did incorporate some animated effects in the background (such as moving clouds). This effect may be caused because the version of the game I played used a larger display than the one used for the original Game Gear.

The music for the game was low quality and repetitive. The music had a high-pitch and consisted of repeating a few bars of music, although it had an upbeat quality. I, personally, found that the music was of a low quality and had very little impact on the game.

A strange aspect of the game concerned the credit sequence. At the end of the game, the credits appeared on screen, however, the names of the people involved in the production of the game seemed to be either one word names (such as “Kazunechan”), obvious nicknames (including “Captain Alice”) or initials (such as “K3”). I have noticed this was a recurring theme in Sonic games available on the Game Gear, but I do not know the reason for it.

In conclusion, I thought the game was fairly enjoyable. The gameplay was enjoyable and interesting, although the levels felt similar to play. The game did has some difficult aspects, which could be more irritating than challenging. The level designs were bright and colourful, although a little childish. The music was of a low quality and was easily ignored.

A Review of Sonic Labyrinth (Game Gear)


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The Story

Sonic appears in the Labyrinth of the Sky. After reaching the end of the labyrinth, he travels through the Labyrinths of the Sea, the Factory and the Castle. After the Labyrinth of the Castle, Sonic fights and defeats Dr. Robotnik’s final machine.

The game ends with Dr. Robotnik running along a catwalk and dropping a green Chaos Emerald. Sonic, in surprisingly slow pursuit, seizes the Chaos Emerald, turns to an alternative route, curls into a ball and rolls away at a fast speed (smashing a barrier to escape). Sonic then runs down a curving road, decorated with black and white squares, towards an unreachable doorway filled with bright orange light, while the credits are displayed above him.

The meaning of that story may not be clear to everybody.

The Review

This is a review of the version of the game available as an extra feature on the Sonic Adventure DX game and not directly played on the Game Gear.

This game seemed to be one of the most unpopular Sonic games ever released, particularly among the games released before 2000 (where the popularity of the Sonic games diminished rapidly). I was not sure exactly why this game was so disliked, but many of the features of this game were different to other Sonic games, with some aspects seeming to contradict the most famous parts of the series. For example, the Sonic games usually used high speed gameplay (with Sonic being described as one of the fastest creatures alive), in this game, however, Sonic moved much more slowly (explained by Sonic wearing “slow-down boots”), which seemed to contradict one of the core elements of the series.

While the story for many older Sonic games were very light, the story for this game, however, seemed to be much less substantial than other games in the series. In many Sonic games, the defeat of Dr Robotnik’s final machine resulted in the retreat of the villain, destruction of his base and some resolution of the story. This game, however, ended slightly mysteriously, with Dr Robotnik escaping along a strange catwalk and Sonic leaving after collecting a Chaos Emerald. It was never really explained why this Chaos Emerald is so significant (as 7 Chaos Emeralds are usually collected as an optional extra in other Sonic games) or shown what happened to Sonic after leaving Dr Robotnik’s base. The ending itself also seemed to be a continuation of the story, rather than a proper ending, as there was no evidence that Sonic had escaped to safety.

The level designs were quite interesting. There were four levels in the game, with each level comprising of three acts of collecting keys and a forth act with the level’s boss. The levels consisted of a series of platforms, decorated with a square pattern. The first level was set high in the sky, with the background decorated with one colour and sparse clouds. The Labyrinth of the Sea level seemed to take place down the side of a wall of rock, with streams of sunlight glimpsed at the top. The Labyrinth of the Factory level was located across a sea from a city and consisted of industrial platforms rising from blackness (which created an interesting contrast in colours). The Labyrinth of the Castle level resembled a spooky castle during full-moon. A different colour scheme was used for each act within the levels, which mostly meant each act either used a calming colour scheme or was decorated with vibrant colours. The most interesting example of this effect was the first level, which gives the impression that the level began during bright morning, before continuing into an orange sunset and then finished during a dark blue evening.

There were no special stages used in this game, unlike other Sonic games. There was, however, a large doorway labelled as “BONUS” in the third act of the Labyrinth of the Sea level. I was not able to enter this room because it was blocked by a force field that I was unable to remove (despite collecting the keys and using the secret command).

These levels also seemed to differ from ideas featured in other Sonic games. The names of the levels in previous games in the series were more descriptive, rather than the vague names of Sky and Sea, and were also usually called zones, not labyrinths. The levels in the older games also consisted of two or three acts (with the boss usually appearing at the end of the final act in the level), rather than the four acts in this game, with a separate act containing the boss.

The graphics for the game were satisfactory. The designs were not limited by graphics and some visuals were a little detailed. Some of the 3D aspects of the designs, however, were not very well implemented. In the Labyrinth of the Castle level, the corners of the castle wall could be seen in the background, but the angles of the walls were not the same as the edge of the platforms, which created a strange effect. Also, the different parts of the level were supposed to be at different heights, however, because the design appears very 2-dimensional, the platforms look as if they are on one level.

The gameplay for this game seemed to be different to other Sonic games. This game was played with an isometric perspective in a 3D environment, with the player navigating a series of platforms to find three keys (a bronze, a silver and a blue key), which were used to deactivate a force field blocking the exit. An additional challenge is that the player is required to obtain all the keys and locate the exit within a set time limit or Sonic loses a life. Collecting keys and defeating enemies caused the player to regain a few seconds of time. If Sonic was hurt, the keys would escape and the player would have to find them again. The boss fights, however, function more traditionally, with rings available so that Sonic can collect them and be protected against enemy attacks. I felt this method of gameplay was innovative and interesting, as it focussed on using a different way of playing the game and caused the player to explore each level more, rather than focus on reaching the end of the level as fast as possible.

The game also rated the player for their performance. After completing the game, a screen displayed the time the player took to complete the game, the overall score, a star rating, a best time and a highest score. This seemed to be a way for the player to evaluate how well they played the game and determine if they could improve their performance. I was not sure if there was any reward for attaining a top score and felt this aspect was slightly pointless.

The Sonic’s movements in this game were also slightly different. Sonic moves slowly in the game and cannot jump (which is attributed to him wearing “slow-down” boots). Sonic could, however, use his spinball attack. In this game, the player presses a button to start spinning and, while the button is kept pressed, the potential speed he will roll across the ground (after the button is released) increases and decreases. The potential speed of the attack was represented by a series of triangles, which increased to three for the fastest speed and then reduces to one for the lowest speed. If the player kept the button pressed when the speed decreases to one, Sonic automatically launched a low speed spinball attack. I felt this negatively affected the game as the lack of a jump attack removed a precise method of attacking enemies, forcing the player to rely on using the spinball attack, which could result in the player accidentally falling into traps after defeating the enemy robots.

This gameplay method is very different to previous Sonic games. The gameplay in this game is slower, more explorative and focussed on finding objects, which is in contrast to the quick run to the end of the level in the other games. This game also focusses on beating a time limit and does not feature the rings, which are used to maintain the character’s health in the older games. The gameplay for this game is similar to Sonic 3D: Flickies Island, which uses the same perspective and features a hunt for lost birds. I have wondered if this game and Sonic 3D: Flickies Island were attempts to use 3D environments in Sonic games.

Weirdly, the power-ups in this game were slightly different. The power-ups were contained inside three triangles, which seemed to move slightly and change colour, that the player destroyed to obtain a power-up. There was no indication of what power-up was contained within the blocks and I suspected that each block contained a random power-up, which changed each time it was destroyed. This feature was different to the monitors used in the other Sonic games to distribute power-ups.

The music for the game was high pitched with metallic notes. I, personally, found the music annoying, mostly because it had a low quality and high pitch. Strangely, each level does not have an unique soundtrack, instead the acts of the level have the same background music (for example, the first act of each level uses the same music).

I have noticed that many of the Sonic games available on the Game Gear present with some strange ideas and unnecessarily difficult aspects. While the game was fairly easy to complete, the third act of the Labyrinth of the Castle level was difficult, which resembled a complicated maze. One of the weird features of the game already mentioned was the power-ups, which resembled moving groups of triangles.

One of the strangest aspects of the game was the title, Sonic Labyrinth. According to Dictionary.com, the most prominent definition of labyrinth was “an intricate combination of paths or passages in which it is difficult to find one’s way or to reach the exit”. The majority of this game did not resemble a combination of passages, but instead consisted of a series of connected platforms, which made it unclear what the labyrinth of the title refers to.

One of the few features of the game that actually resembled a labyrinth was the use of doorways in some of the levels, which gave the game a slightly surreal feel. Usually, doorways in games connected two locations, in Sonic Labyrinth, however, entering a doorway led to another location, but re-entering the doorway did not necessarily lead to the first location (sometimes it would lead to a third location, as if it was a different doorway). Also, more than one doorway sometimes led to the same location (as if two doorways lead to one area). The doorway effect was most prominent in the third act of the Labyrinth of the Castle level, which resembled a highly complex maze and was made extremely difficult. While playing the game, it was clear that each level took place in one room, therefore, it seemed that using a doorway was not a way of entering another room, but transporting to another location within the same room. This effect could be interesting, as it added an extra puzzle element to the game, or irritating, as it meant the player continually returned to a certain area and made exploring the level time-consuming.

There were also a number of other strange aspects of the game. Despite Sonic  deliberately moving at a slower speed, Sonic’s average speed was displayed at the end of each act (in Km/H) and added to the player’s score. Each act begins with a title screen containing the name of the level and the phrase “GOOD LUCK!!” and ends with a screen congratulating the player on completing the level. It felt strange for a game to encourage the player so much. During the credit sequence at the end of the game, a “secret command” appeared which described a sequence of buttons to be pressed during the title sequence. It seemed a little unusual to present the player with a hidden feature to be completed at the beginning of the game when they have reached the end as there is no incentive to replay the entire game.

In conclusion, the game was fairly enjoyable. The game was very different to play compared to other Sonic games and did not really resemble a labyrinth (I have wondered if it would be more successful if it was called “Sinoc’s Platforms” and it could be judged as an independent game, rather than a weird Sonic game). The story was unexplained. The gameplay was unique, with a focus on exploration and puzzle solving, although the controls did present some problems. The level designs were colourful and used some interesting ideas, while the graphics were satisfactory. The music was cheerful, but could be annoying.

A Review of Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball (Game Gear)


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The Story

A sudden shaking disturbs the calm ocean. A strange, dark structure slowly rises from the dark blue sea up towards the sky, which has turned into a foreboding scarlet colour. The weird mountain, completely black except for where it is lightened by the setting sun and from a hot glow at it’s base, grows to a huge height.

A small aeroplane, piloted by Tails with Sonic hanging from the bottom (an economy class ticket in his hand), flies over the sea, passing distant mountains. Somewhat nearing the mountain, Sonic jumps off from his place on the aeroplane and into the dark water.

Sonic climbs the mountains through the Toxic Pools, Lava Powerhouse and The Machine before reaching Dr Robotnik in a Final Showdown at the top of the mountain. Sonic fights Dr Robotnik, who uses a flying vehicle to attack Sonic.

Sonic defeats Dr Robotnik. Following the fight, both Sonic and Dr Robotnik’s empty machine fall spinning, through space, to the ground. From a distance, a glowing red shape is seen to fall into the mountain. Explosions suddenly break out around the mountain, which sinks back into the water.

That is how to create a story based on pinball action.

The Review

This is a review of the game available as part of an extra feature in the Sonic Adventure DX game.

The main idea for this game (and the version released on the Mega Drive) was to create a Sonic game based on pinball. Many Sonic games use pinball elements in some levels, either as a mini-game or using flippers to propel Sonic upwards, particularly in levels based on a Casino theme. This game, however, with the vertical level design, use of flippers and rounded edges to send Sonic in different directions, seemed to resemble a digital pinball game.

The story for the game is simple, the game began with an animated sequence showing Sonic reaching the mountain, the player completed each level in turn to reach the Final Boss and then an animated sequence showed the end of the game. Like most early Sonic games, the hero was silent and there was no description of the events at any point of the game. Each level began with a screen showing the player’s progress through the mountain (basically each level was the next floor higher in the mountain), which I liked as it added context to each level.

The gameplay was similar to playing a digital pinball game. For much of the game, Sonic was curled into a ball and launched across the levels. The player could slightly control Sonic’s trajectory through the air and activate the flippers used to propel Sonic. Each of the levels used curved edges (to help Sonic move around the level), features to force Sonic upwards at an accelerated speed and used suspended obstacles to impede his progress. The bottom of each level consisted of a hazard that will kill the player. There were also some parts of the level where Sonic was able to walk.

There were also a small amount of items in each level which aided the player. Small flags were placed in each level, which, when all were collected, sometimes caused a change in the level to help the player (such as draining liquid from a container). There were also small, glowing orbs which, if the player touched them, caused lightening to appear between pairs of flippers located above a fatal hazard, which prevented the player falling in. There were also a few monitors (which were more commonplace in other Sonic games) placed in secret locations, which gave the player extra lives, continues and part of a code.

Each level required the player finding a specified number of Chaos Emeralds hidden in the level. Within each level was a pathway, which allowed the player to reach the boss if all the Chaos Emeralds had been collected. The pathway would lead the player to a separate room to fight the level’s boss. Falling to the bottom of the room caused the player to return to the level and they would have to reach the path to face the boss again (I am not sure, but I believe the boss is still weakened by the player’s attack from before they returned to the level). The bosses would also need to be fought using pinball methods. I found the bosses to be quite enjoyable and it required skill to force Sonic to a specific area where the boss could be harmed.

After completing the boss, Sonic would enter a bonus stage. The bonus stage consisted of a series of connected rooms which ended in a tunnel. All the rooms were oval-shaped (which allowed Sonic to roll along the floor and climb the walls) and contained a series of platforms. Situated on the top of the platforms were large, robotic eggs. Hitting the eggs enough times caused them to open and the player was rewarded (with extra rings, score or lives). Bizarrely, each room seemed to be themed around an ancient civilisation, one room contained animal-headed statues resembling ancient Egyptian sculptures, one had a background consisting of an ancient Japanese pagoda and one seemed to contain columns from ancient Greece. The extra items obtained by destroying the eggs could only be implemented if the player reached the end of the tunnel.

I found the gameplay quite enjoyable. It required skill to use the flippers to progress through the level and it was fun to explore levels using this mechanic. The bosses were particularly fun. It was, however, frustrating to repeatedly attempt to launch Sonic in a specific trajectory, particularly if it needed effort to reach the launching area. Because the levels were vertical and the ease of propelling Sonic into the wrong area, it was also quite frustrating to accidentally reach an unintended location and spend time to return to the area before the mistake was made.

The level designs for the game were quite interesting. The game began in the Toxic Caves, which resembled a cavern with light blue water at the bottom and a background of stones, coloured using muted colours. The second level was Lava Powerhouse. This level consisted of steam-powered machinery and stone background, with bright red and yellow colours featured prominently. The third level was The Machine. This level used a mechanical design and a colour scheme mostly consisting of grey and purple (unlike other levels with a tangible hazard at the bottom, Sonic died after touching nothing). The game ends with the Final Showdown level, which resembled a construction site above lava (with a square pattern background), before Sonic flies upwards through the night sky and fights Dr Robotnik in a mechanical structure. The graphics did seem to be of a lower quality than other Sonic games on the Game Gear, with indistinguishable shapes, fuzzy outlines and box-like designs. I enjoyed the level designs as they felt different to each other and used features unique to each level.

The music for the game was quiet and repetitive. The music was slightly tense, but did not really stand out. I did not think this music was as good as soundtracks used for other Sonic games.

I have observed that the Sonic games released on the Game Gear contain some unnecessarily difficult elements and bizarre features.

A lot of the game’s difficulty seemed to come from the gameplay. The game requires the player to launch Sonic from flippers. I found it very difficult to eject Sonic at the correct angle to reach the desired areas, particularly if the target area was a narrow corridor. It was also difficult to find the Chaos Emeralds in the levels because it was difficult to explore using pinball methods. Another difficulty was preventing Sonic from falling between two flippers into a fatal area, as there was no way to transfer Sonic from one flipper to the other, so the player had to rely on catapulting Sonic to a part of the surroundings which would lead him to the other flipper.

There were also some bizarre aspects of the game. As previously mentioned, the bonus stages had a strange, ancient aesthetic. Weirdly, one of the bonus stages showed consisted of room connected vertically. Upon entering each room, Sonic would sink through water to the bottom and hit a plug, which caused the water to drain and allow Sonic to move. Entering the pipe at the bottom of the room lead to the next room.

There was also a strange, unique feature added to the game. If the player lost all their lives, the game created a mini-game before allowing the player to choose to use a continue to keep playing. Part of the score (accumulated while playing the game) would be highlighted, along with an continually increasing number. The idea of the game was for the player to push a button so the number would stop changing and resemble the highlighted number (eg. if the score was 13400, 400 would be highlighted and the player would need to stop the count near to 400). If the player is successful, they continue the game with the same score, but replenished lives. If they fail the challenge, the player has to use a continue to keep playing. I enjoyed this feature, it gave the player an opportunity to keep playing the game with the accumulated score, even if they lose all of Sonic’s lives.

The ending credits of the game were also slightly eccentric. Following the final animated sequence, a pinball machine appeared on screen and credits were shown across the top of it, which seemed to suggest that the game’s story took place within a pinball machine. The credits ended with the phrase “Thank you for playing Sonic Spinball!!! Now go to sleep”, which seemed to suggest that the developers considered the market for the game was kids playing it clandestinely at night (which gives me the image of a kid hiding in their bed sheets, eagerly completing the game at the dead of night and finally sleeping at the end).

Hidden in each level was a monitor which, when destroyed, causes a banner to appear at the top of the screen and reveal part of a secret code. I destroyed all the secret monitors (which were all located in hidden rooms in one side of each level) and the code was shown to be “08-31-71, SFX Get that???”. I have no idea what this means, I have attempted to play each of the corresponding numbers for the sound effects in the Options menu, but this seems to have no effect on the game.

In conclusion, the game was enjoyable. The story was almost non-existent. The gameplay was unique, enjoyable and required skill, although it presented with some difficulty and frustration. The bosses were enjoyable and used the gameplay well. The level designs were interesting, but the graphics were of a lower quality. The music had little impact on the game and was quite repetitive. The extra features, such as the mini-game and the secret rooms, were enjoyable and added to the game.

A Review of Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine (Game Gear)


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The Story

Lights flash and steam erupts from brightly coloured, cartoon-like machines. Small, round creatures sit on moving conveyer belts, which feeds them into the machines. Each creature waits while the machines transforms them into miniature robots.

Nearby, Dr Robotnik addresses two robotic minions. One minion resembles a chicken standing on two legs, while another is a smaller robot with drills in place of a nose and hands and caterpillar tracks in place of feet. “Witness my dream to rid Mobius of music and fun forever.” he gloats, waving a pointed finger for effect, “My latest invention, the mean bean-steaming machine will not only dispose of those fun-loving jolly beans of Beanville but turn them into robot slaves to serve my evil purposes. ”

“Robots. Bring me those beans.” Dr Robotnik commands.

Each of Dr Robotnik’s minions are defeated until the villain is beaten.

The game ends with a mass of joyful beans celebrating while the machine explodes.

I think that is the story for the game, I am not actually sure.

The Review

This is a review of the game available as an extra feature on the Sonic Adventure DX game as, unfortunately, I have not played this version of the game on the Game Gear itself.

I, personally, have been slightly fascinated by this game. The title seems to suggest that Dr Robotnik was the main character and I was interested by what “Mean Bean Machine” could refer to.

At the time this game was released, there were quite a few games created that were based on an idea similar to the Tetris game (having to prevent falling blocks from filling a screen by making them disappear). I have been informed these games are called puyo puyo. Some of the games were independent titles (such as Baku Baku Animal), while some seemed to be part of a franchise (eg. Dr Mario). This game seems to be a version of the puzzle using the Sonic series.

The story for the game seems to be irrelevant, the game consists of the player fighting against a range of enemies, which become more difficult as the game progresses, until they defeat Dr Robotnik. There are no animated sequences in the game, which consists of a series of combative Tetris-like puzzles, and only a slight resemblance of a story (somehow, making the beans disappear frees them from Dr Robotnik’s clutches). I thought the lack of a plot is probably due to the fact that the game is intended to be an entertaining game, rather than an in-depth story (a more cynical explanation is that the game was released to exploit a fashion for similar games and was made with little thought).

The gameplay is very similar to the Tetris game. Interestingly, while there has been a large number of games based on the gameplay of Tetris, each game seems to present with an unique aspect. In this game, beans fall from the sky in pairs (like the miscellaneous objects in Tetris) into a space, except the beans can be one of four colours (green, red, yellow or pink). If four or more beans of the same colour are in alignment, the beans disappear. The alignment can consist of rows, columns or a mixture (eg. three beans in a row with one on top). Like in Tetris, if the mountain of beans builds up to the top of the space, the player loses. In this game, however, the player is competing against a computer-controlled player and the aim is too keep the pile of beans as low as possible before the opponents space is overwhealmed by beans. Two buttons are used to rotate the pairs of beans either clockwise or anti-clockwise.

Another addition to the format was the use of “blocker” beans. These beans, which were black with a white outline, function by building up the pile and blocking groups of beans forming. These beans were removed if the beans adjacent to them disappear as part of a group of four. I am not sure the precise mechanisms that make them appear, but it seems that if one player makes beans disappear, these “blocker” beans will fall into the other player’s space. Seemingly, the amount of “blocker” beans added to the space changes, sometimes a few will appear, sometimes a lot will.

I felt this game to be quite difficult, like many Sonic games released on the Game Gear. As the player progresses through the stages, the game becomes more difficult by increasing the speed at which the beans fall. I found an interesting effect occurred. With the high speed, I was not able to plan a strategy and needed to develop quick reflexes (and to be very lucky) to position the beans as effectively as possible. This meant I was highly focussed on the dropping beans, with little consideration on the arrangement of the beans within the structure or the progress of the computer opponent. I felt myself become more involved in the game and more surprised as the game developed. I remembered feeling anxious as the pile of beans reached the top of the space, the sneering portrait of the enemy adding to the tension, then sudden relief as huge blocks unexpectantly vanished from the pile after shifting forces caused groups of beans to form. As the pile rose again, I felt fear as I realised that my efforts were not decreasing the height of the structure and each bean was helping the pile reach the top of the space, followed by confusion as all the beans vanished from view yet there still being some space left before defeat, followed by happiness as I realised that the opponent had actually been less successful and I had won by an extremely narrow margin. It was interesting to feel so many emotions from such a simple game.

The designs used in the game were interesting. I found this game to be one of the most vibrantly coloured Sonic games I have experienced, the background of the space is a black block, while the beans are brightly coloured greens, yellows, reds and pinks. Each player’s score is displayed in white lettering, with pink outline, above each space and the next beans in the sequence are shown underneath white lettering with a bright blue outline. For the first 8 stages, the background resembles a wall of emerald green stones. In later levels, the background seems to be decorated with parts from a machine.

The character designs differ to other Sonic games. Instead of using a Dr Robotnik similar to other games, the Dr Robotnik used in this game resembles the character from the Sonic animated series. The enemies do not appear in other Sonic games and I remember two of them being henchmen in the animated series. Each enemy is portrayed in a small portrait between the two spaces and their expressions change depending on the progress of the game: fixed expression when either player could win, keen joy when the human player is failing, celebration after winning, fearful desperation when their pile is nearing the top and defeated looks after losing.

The music for the game is quite strange. It is slow and ranges from tinny thumping to high-pitch whistling, which does not seem to fit with the tense gameplay. The music is also quite repetitive.

I have observed that many of the Sonic games available on the Game Gear use some bizarre aspects. One of the most strangest parts of this game seems to be the credit sequence. Following the end of the game, the background turns dark blue and the credits scroll upwards in bright green and bright red lettering. Weirdly, the names of the staff appear to resemble nicknames, rather than actual names, such as “KAZU&KOZU” credited as Planner, “E.D.A” listed as a Programmer and “7LY BIG KING” and “AAA”return among the Designers. I am not sure what the reason for this is, whether they are actual names, mistranslations, a joke to use nicknames or the staff genuinely did not want to be associated with the game.

The game also uses a number of alternative modes of play. The main game, which uses an interesting password system which uses the beans and an extra, moving bean, is one player. There is also a 2 player mode (called “Gear to Gear Mode”), which I assume uses 2 connected Game Gears. There is an “Exercise Mode”. There is also a “Puzzle Mode”, which requires the player to complete specific challenges (using the same gameplay) and is designed to resemble a piece of lined paper.

In conclusion, the game was fairly enjoyable. I enjoyed the gameplay, it was interesting to use different colours, as it caused some unexpected moments when groups of same coloured beans suddenly formed groups. The game also increased the difficulty at an even pace and to the right level. The game also used some interesting alternative modes. The story for the game was non-existent. The design for the game was interesting and vibrant. The music was repetitive and unsuitable. I also found the music a little annoying.

I also felt that this game would work well on a portable console. I would not be motivated to play a simple game like this on a large screen and spend long amounts of time on it. Instead, it seems like a nice game to play on a small machine for a short period of time while waiting for an appointment or somewhere with little entertainment options, recording the password afterwards to allow the player to continue where they had finished previously. I owned Tetris on the Game Boy and, while I would not have selected it if I had the time to play more in-depth games, I did like playing it for a few minutes while waiting for something. I felt this game could have a similar use.

Nomination for “The Entertainer Award”


This post is in response to a nomination for The Entertainer Blogger Award, therefore, I will try to be more entertaining in honour of the award. Thanks to the Well-Red Mage (link:Well-Red Mage) for nominating me months ago (life moves very slowly in moresleepneeded land, like those dreamlike levels in old side-scrolling games where the character moves slowly and the background consists of clouds).

The Rules of The Entertainer Blogger Award

  • Write a post including the award picture.
  • Nominate 12 other bloggers who are funny, inspiring, and most importantly ENTERTAINING!
  • Add these rules to the post.
  • Thank the person who nominated you and leave a link to their blog!
  • Answer the questions down below:
  1. What do you hope to gain from blogging?

I just enjoy posting reviews and sharing my opinions. I hope people enjoy what I write and it causes them to think about the subjects. It would be nice to become wealthy from my blog, but I do not think that will happen.

2. What genre of film entertains you most?

I like comedies, preferably ones which ramble on about a subject endlessly for too much time (just like my blogs). Only joking. I like thrillers (including courtroom, detective and action). I like following a story, gradually learning more about the events and then discovering the truth. It is also interesting following characters and watching them develop personally and in their relationships with others. Sometimes a story about a murder is also an opportunity to examine a someone’s life and the reasons for their death.

3. Do you consider yourself a writer, and what inspires you to write?

If these celebrities bringing out books are considered writers, I am considering myself a writer. Actually, I consider many bloggers I read to be writers because they produce work that is more enjoyable and insightful than many professional writers writing in the mainstream media. I am inspired to write because I enjoy it. I like researching a game, deciding how I feel about and creating a document to describe my opinions.

4. What is your biggest pet peeve?

My biggest pet peeve is blame culture. I hate it when a mistake has been made and people, rather than help solve the problem, spend time finding someone to blame. It just functions as a way for people to divert any negative attention from themselves and ignores the causes of problems. It also encourages people to not volunteer or do anything themselves, but to wait for someone else to try something and then complain about them when it goes wrong. I have a particular hatred for those in positions of responsibility (such as managers or teachers) who will put down their juniors in front of their peers when they should be taking responsibility for making sure the work was completed properly or the person was aware of what they needed to do.

5. Why did you choose your particular WordPress username?

Unfortunately, my username is a bit of an accident. I originally planned to call myself notenoughsleep because it sounded like an interesting name (people would wonder why I called myself it and question whether I was an insomniac), but, because that name was taken, I experimented with different names around the same theme. I eventually chose moresleepneeded, which sounds like a cure for insomnia (which, judging by my reviews, maybe justified).

I would like to nominate the following bloggers:

  1. Very Very Gaming,
  2. Particlebit,
  3. pine717,
  4. benez256,
  5. Mr Panda,
  6. evilwizardesq,
  7. Lightning Ellen,
  8. Sylvio Konkol,
  9. Blow In My Cartridge,
  10. Culture Geek,
  11. Next Level Reviews,
  12. Astro Adam.

I am not sure if I am supposed to create my own questions or ask the same questions I answered (the nominator seemed to suggest they made up their own questions to rebel), so I will just ask the same questions:

  1. What do you hope to gain from blogging?
  2. What genre of film entertains you the most?
  3. Do you consider yourself a write, and what inspires you to write?
  4. What is your biggest pet peeve?
  5. Why did you choose your particular WordPress username?

Follow the rules and I am interested to learn your answers.

2nd “Liebster Award” Nomination

This is the second blog produced as a response to a nomination for the “Liebster Award”.

Thanks to pine717 for the nomination, the following questions were asked by this blogger and I have provided my answers.

  1. “What made you want to start writing a blog?

I have always enjoyed writing and wanted to develop this skill. I also enjoy reviews which discuss stories (such as the meanings and symbolism used in films) and wanted to produce reviews which reflected this.

2. “Outside of gaming, what hobbies do you try to cultivate?”

I play a sport. I enjoy the team aspect and using my skill and strategy to win. I also enjoy reading and watching films.

3. “Night Owl or Early Riser?”

I used to be an Early Riser, but am now a Night Owl. I still like the look of dawn on a clear day and the bright, morning sunlight, so it is a bit of a shame I stay up late.

4. “Book or movie that had the greatest influence on you growing up?”

I am not really influenced much by books and movies. I have always enjoyed the James Bond stories, so I would have to say those books and films. After reading how the James Bond films were influenced by fashions in film, I would have to state that the films themselves seem to chronicle the history of film (from the glamorous sixties to blaxplotation to king-fu to science-fiction to understated eighties to action thriller to gritty noughties to remake). The books are also interesting, as the writer seems to use varied ideas (such as highly political thriller, gangster story, short stories, domestic drama, point-of-view of another character, etc.). In one novel, a heroic character describes how he seduced his wife, won her in a fight, carried her away unconscious when she resisted, kept naked under a table and fed on scraps of food when she tried to escape, until she eventually loves him. This is described as a good way to treat women, so it is probably good that I was not easily influenced.

I also feel my life has been affected by a book called “The Colour Atlas of Clinical Gynaecology”, but I was not a kid when I read it.

5. “Favourite beverage to relax with?”

The eighth beer. Not really. I actually like chilled cola.

6. “Favourite character from a game?”

My favourite character from a game would be Naked Snake from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. I enjoy the game and find this character interesting. The character seems to go through a change during the story and is shown to have a close relationship with some of the other characters. I also find it interesting how this character changes in later games (the fact that he is first shown as a 3D character in this game also gives him a strange aura).

I am also interested in Donald Love from the Grand Theft Auto series. The Grand Theft Auto games between Grand Theft Auto 3 and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories seem to show the development and characters and stories in a fictional universe, the most prominent of these characters include Donald Love. In 1986, he is the protégé to a Vice City property magnate. In 1998, he is a wealthy business owner trying to run for mayor of Liberty City, who is bankrupted before he regains his wealth, partly by destroying a neighbourhood of the city. In 2001, he is a media tycoon, who orchestrates the rescue of a friend and becomes obsessed with a mysterious object he retrieves from an unknown source, before disappearing. Amongst this, there are references to unexplained “morgue parties” and darker elements of his personality. It is also interesting how his character changes from shy to jolly to suave.

7. “Favourite season of the year?”

My favourite season would be Spring. I remember it being the right temperature (not too warm or cold) with interesting weather (sometimes being bright, sometimes downpour), without the steady damp of other seasons.

8. “What was the first game that really made you like video and computer games?”

It would have to be Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Until then, I had mostly played simple games, such as Mega Drive games like Sonic and Ecco, which were enjoyable, but uncomplicated. Playing Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was much different. The story was much more involving and featured much more heavily than older games. The puzzles required more thought and practice. The settings were interesting and the dungeons were themed.  The world outside of the main story was much more complex, there were collectibles, characters had their own stories and there were many areas to explore. Interestingly, some of these details had no affect on the plot, which was strange considering everything in older games were designed to influence the single story running through the game. This game demonstrated that games were not just a diversion for an hour or so, they could be story-telling mediums which used well-designed environments and allowed the player to explore. It was also interesting the impact of the game on the outside world. People, who I did not think ever played computer games, wanted advice on completing dungeons and friends would talk about their progression in the game.

9. “The Beatles or Led Zeppelin? (Or neither?)”

I prefer  The Beatles, particularly the later music. I like the way the music ranged from simple, peaceful music (“Here Comes the Sun”) to surreal (“Glass Onion”) to playful (“Octopus’ Garden”), which seem, to me, to represent sixties popular culture.

10. “Pie or cake?”

What is the intention for this question? I prefer to eat cakes than pies (cakes have icing).

11. “Favourite number”

I like the number ten. It was always easy to add, subtract, multiply and divide by ten at school and I have loved the number since then.

As part of the award, a group of bloggers are selected and invited to answer a number of questions.

These are the questions:

  1. Why did you choose the name of your blog?
  2. If you could go back in time to experience any event, where would you go?
  3. What subjects do you enjoy finding out information about?
  4. What is a mystery you would like to know the answer to?
  5. What is the funniest way that you have heard anyone mistake the lyrics for a song?
  6. What is the weirdest question you have been asked as part of a Liebster Award Nomination?
  7. What is the name of a dance song (which sounds like it was from the eighties) which features energetic music and a deep voice singing “Hold me”?
  8. How do you like to write blogs?
  9. What would you do if I sang out of tune?
  10. What is a song that reminds you of a specific time or place?

These are my nominated bloggers:

  1. mrpanda,
  2. evilwizardesq,
  3. LilSamuelJones,
  4. LightningEllen,
  5. AstroAdam,
  6. Anyone who reads this blog post