Tagged: game gear

A Review of Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball (Game Gear)

1994

————————————————–Spoiler Alert——————————————————————-

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.

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

1993

?????????????????????????????????Spoiler Alert, Maybe????????????????????????????????

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.

A Review of Sonic the Hedgehog Triple Trouble (Game Gear)

1994

———————–Spoiler Alert—————————

The Story

Blackness. Six gems fall from the sky, glittering in the darkness as they fall to the ground, six different colours brightly flashing among the blackness. A pink ball bounces from the side, picking up each diamond-shaped gem. After taking the last Chaos Emerald, the ball uncurls and Knuckles stands, laughing following his triumph. He quickly leaps into the air and assumes a gliding position as Sonic appears, running after the flying Knuckles. The darkness fades as a background of a tree-lined shore slowly appears. Sonic pursues Knuckles, followed by Tails flying in the air. Dr Robotnik appears, using a rocket powered vehicle to hover above the ground, smiling as he extends his arm to reveal his possession of a golden Chaos Emerald. He quickly accelerates upwards.

Sonic travels through some levels, before reaching Knuckles, who uses a machine to attack Sonic. Sonic defeats Knuckles and reaches the Atomic Destroyer. Inside the Atomic Destroyer, Sonic fights Mechanix and finds Nack. After Nack wakes up and taunts Sonic, the ground shakes, causing Nack to run away (suddenly losing his desire to annoy Sonic)and Dr Robotnik to appear. Dr Robotnik then uses two machines to attack Sonic. After his machines are destroyed, Dr Robotnik flees,  closely pursued by Sonic, until he attempts to escape using a floating platform. While Dr Robotnik stands laughing, Sonic hits him, causing him to lose the golden chaos emerald and the platform to explode, leading to the device and Dr Robotnik to fall down a pit. Sonic runs along a platform and finds Knuckles, locked in a flashing cage (how and why are not explained). Sonic destroys the prison and the two shake hands, before escaping the Atomic Destroyer.

The game ends with Sonic sitting on the top wing Tails’ biplane as Tails flies the plane towards a distant island while the sun sets over a restless sea.

Are there plots that are more difficult to follow?

The Review

This game is a review of the version of the game available in the Sonic Adventure DX game, rather than the one released on the Game Gear.

The story for the game, while quite simple, is actually more developed than other Sonic games released at the time. There are a few animated sequences to show the story and demonstrate the personalities of the characters, outside of exploring a number of different levels with no link to each other. The number of characters has also increased.

This game takes place during an interesting time in the Sonic series due to the introduction of Knuckles the Echidna. In previous Sonic games, the characters had very simple personalities. Dr Robotnik was a villain interested in mechanising the world, Sonic was the laid-back hero and Tails was Sonic’s sidekick, a slower hero who seemed to worship the main character. These characteristics did not really affect the story of the game.

Knuckles, however, made the games more complex. During the early games to feature Knuckles, he was initially portrayed as a villain, interested in collecting the Chaos Emeralds, obstructing Sonic and working with Dr Robotnik. At some point during the games, he would be betrayed by the villain and would be shown to be a misguided hero who had been tricked by Dr Robotnik into believing Sonic wished to misuse the power of the Chaos Emeralds. Games featuring Knuckles would start to incorporate more storytelling devices to explain this characteristic and would develop the story of the game. In this game, he appears at the end of each level, laughs and activates a switch which causes a cascade of either snow or fire to fall down, followed by the beginning of the next level. In later games, Knuckles seem to become a more straightforward hero, who focussed on using strength rather than speed.

Interestingly, this game features the Nack character. I have not encountered this character in a game before and the only time I have seen this character was in the Sonic Comics. In the comics, Sonic is transported to a strange dimension where he encounters Team Chaotix. The team (consisting of Vector the Crocodile, Charmy the Bee, Espio the Chameleon, Mighty the Armadillo and Nack the Wolf) become regular characters and have their own game (some people might consider the two events to be a cynical marketing ploy). In the stories, Nack becomes a traitor and aligns with Dr Robotnik. In this game, Nack is basically a villain, although his exact role in the story is a little mysterious. He mostly appears in the special stages and prevents Sonic retrieving the Chaos Emeralds. This makes him seem like a guardian of the Chaos Emeralds, but he appears later in the Atomic Destroyer level, suggesting he is a henchman of Dr Robotnik. His function is never explained in the story, giving him a strange place in the story.

I have noticed that many of the Sonic games released on the Game Gear seem to use a mixture of strange ideas and unnecessarily difficult gameplay. This game is not as difficult as previous games in the series though.

The level designs are interesting, but the names of each level are very strange. Firstly, the levels in this game are not called zones, which is different to most other Sonic games. Unlike other Sonic games released at the same time, the first level is not named as a hill (such as Emerald Hill Zone and Green Hill Zone). The game begins in the Great Turquoise, which resembles an idyllic countryside, with clear skies, a lake in the background and waterfalls, except with the bizarre addition of trees topped with springboards. The second level is called Sunset Park, however, the level does not resemble a leafy park. The level looks like an industrial area with carts, tracks and trains, with a background coloured a bright orange to mimic a sunset (which I like, but suspect others describe as sickly). This level is followed by Meta Junglira (I have no idea what this name means). The level itself has a jungle theme (with dark greens and use of sinking mud), with the surface covered in springboards and baskets (which propel Sonic upwards at a fast speed) and circular objects, which behave like obstacles in a pinball machine, suspended in the air. The next level is called Robotnik Winter, which is a wintry level with no Robotnik. The level itself consists of structures, made of dark blue tiles, covered in snow and large pillars, with blue fire at the top. The background consists of a dark pink sky and a frozen sea, with icebergs visible. The foreground also uses falling snow and Sonic can fall through piles of snow to reach lower levels. I found the use of colours actually has a soothing effect. The following level is called Tidal Plant and is the game’s water-filled level. Strangely, unlike how I imagined tidal plants to look, this level is filled unusual shapes and items that are coloured using bright, garish colours, which become subdued greens and blues when Sonic is underwater. Like many water-filled levels in Sonic games, this level features the player travelling up and down as the game allows the player to reach the surface, before exploring underwater areas which rely on the use of bubbles to provide Sonic with oxygen. The final level is called Atomic Destroyer, which sounds like the developers were not allowed to use the name Death Egg and had to invent their own base for Dr Robotnik. The level uses a mechanical design and has a black ground (with flashing lights) and dark blue foreground, which seems quite calming. The level itself uses switches to release enemies and fire lasers, along with tubes to transport Sonic through the level.

Weirdly, each level begins with the name of the level in capital letters with an animation of Sonic running to the right. The first letter of each part of the level title has a colour unique to that level.

The game also has an interesting use of Special Stages. To enter the Special Stage, the player has to collect fifty rings and smash a monitor showing an image of a Chaos Emerald. This causes a ring of stars to hover over the remains of the machine, which, if entered, transport Sonic to the Special Stage. The Special Stages alternate between two forms. One form of the Special Stage takes place in a strange location with a futuristic-classical design (with metal columns and a background consisting of purple walls and a strange melting metal effect) and requires the player to reach a point in the location within a set amount of time. The second form of the Special Stage consists of Sonic flying through the sky in a biplane, with the player collecting a set number of rings. Both types of Special Stage end with Sonic fighting a machine piloted by Nack. Defeating Nack leads to the machine exploding and Nack running away, with a fall to prove his cowardice. The player would then find the Chaos Emerald placed on a weird altar.

The bosses in the game consist of large robots, with the final two levels using Knuckles and Dr Robotnik inside large machines. Each boss uses an unique gameplay to defeat it. The first boss requires the use of springboards to attack it, the second takes place on a high speed train with the player needing to build up speed, the third can only be hit on a dynamic part of the machine with the player needing to avoid falling debris afterwards and the player needs to negotiate steep slopes, while avoiding enemies, just before reaching the forth boss. The fifth boss consists of chasing Knuckles, piloting an underwater craft, while replenishing Sonic’s oxygen. The final level uses a series of bosses: a robotic Sonic, Dr Robotnik  inside a bouncing machine and Dr Robotnik quickly passing through tubes at either side of a platform, with electric bolts falling onto the platform to harm Sonic (which seems to be a staple of Sonic games during this time). Weirdly, the mini-bosses at end of the Special Stages resemble more traditional bosses from Sonic games (the player dodging a specific attack while hitting the enemy).

Much of the game uses similar gameplay to other Sonic games released at the time. Most of the game consists of Sonic running along landscapes and attacking robotic enemies. The player can also play as Tails, with that Tails can fly, while Sonic has the weird Dash manoeuvre. There are, however, parts of the game which rely on the player using different actions to progress. Some of the Special Stages feature Sonic flying through the air in a plane and the player needs to control Sonic in a range of directions. Each level also seems to use an individual characteristic which uses an unique gameplay, for example, the third act of the Sunset Park stage consists of Sonic running along the top of a speeding train (with the player having to battle wind resistance). Some of the power-ups in the game also introduces changes to the gameplay. The springboards attached to Sonic’s feet and rocket sneakers are used in the game, along with a new power-up that produces a snowboard to allow the player to slide across the Robotnik Winter level at a high speed. The game also uses a strange skimming action. If Sonic rolls towards the surface of a body of water at high speed, he will skim across it.

This game seems to be less difficult than other games released on the Game Gear. Most of the times Sonic is harmed, the player will only lose a maximum of 30 rings (for example, if the player has collected 100 rings before colliding with an enemy, they will still have 70 rings). If Sonic comes into contact with spikes,  he will lose 50 rings (I am not sure why there is this weird differing scale of damage). The spread of the lost rings following damage is less irritating than other games. While the game keeps the strange scale of the lost rings (so if Sonic has 10 rings, 1 ring will appear, etc.), the rings are easier to collect as they do not spread out widely or at a fast pace. The player can also collect rings before a boss to allow themselves to survive more than one hit.

The graphics are fairly good. The graphics in the game use vivid colours and are attractive looking. Some of the larger pictures are quite pixelated, which seems to have an artistic quality.

In conclusion, I, personally, found this to be one of the most enjoyable Sonic games available on the Game Gear. I enjoyed the level designs and the way the game changed the  gameplay to challenge the player and make the game less monotonous. The Special Stages were easier to access and were more interesting to play (due to the different gameplays). The bosses were also unique and interesting. I also enjoyed the little animated sequences to create a small story.

A Review of Sonic Chaos (Game Gear)

1993

————————-Spoiler Warning————————————

The Story

Sonic runs along ground covered in grass under a dark blue sky. He passes tall trees, purple flowers and distant mountains as he runs at a high speed along the ground. Dr Robotnik, seated in a small, grey machine, appears flying in the sky ahead of Sonic. Holding a red Chaos Emerald in the machine, Dr Robotnik flies in a strange pattern front of Sonic, taunting his enemy by flying just ahead of him and grinning. Suddenly, Dr Robotnik’s machine accelerates quickly and speeds off. Sonic chases after the villain, followed by Tails, running at a slower pace.

Sonic or Tails finds Dr Robotnik in the Electric Egg Zone. Dr Robotnik attacks the hero using a machine which explodes after they fights back. Dr Robotnik, vulnerable without any technology, is forced to run at high speeds to evade the hero, before leaping onto a platform which flies him upwards to safety. Soon after the villains escape, the red Chaos Emerald falls to the ground. Sonic or Tails picks up the item and escapes.

Such subtle complexity and development of character.

The Review

Unfortunately, I have no experience of playing the Game Gear and this review is based on the version of the game available as an extra feature in the Sonic Adventure DX game.

The story is very similar to the story used in many early Sonic games, explore a number of levels to reach Dr Robotnik’s base and defeat the villain. This game does use a few animated sequences to develop the story. This game also features the red Chaos Emerald as a desired item held by Dr Robotnik, however, the importance of this stone is not expanded and seems to be a device used to create a story.

This game allows the player to play as either Sonic or Tails. Sonic is fast and the player is able to complete the game more as Sonic, while Tails can fly and the game seems easier when playing him. I thought this was quite innovative, as it allows the player to choose their character and have two different experiences of the same levels.

As I have discussed in other reviews, I found many of the Sonic games available on the Game Gear presented with aspects which were bizarre and had an unnecessarily high difficulty.

While the game used some interesting designs for the levels, I found the names of the zones in this game to be quite unusual. The game begins in the “Turquoise Hill Zone”, which greatly resembles the “Emerald Hill Zone” from the Sonic 2 game available on the Mega Drive (with the large palm trees, ground patterned with squares and distant mountains rising out of the sea). The name “Turquoise Hill Zone” does not seem strange, except it seems to use a bluer colour than names for similar levels in other Sonic games. The second level is called “Gigapolis Zone”, which makes it sound like it was intended to resemble the “Metropolis Zone” from the Sonic 2 game available on the Mega Drive.  The level design consists of a city at night, with clouds reflected in glass skyscrapers, glowing stars and what seems to be moonlight reflecting on a ocean, even though the foreground consists of brightly coloured squares, futuristic tunnels and construction equipment. The third level is named “Sleeping Egg Zone”, which suggests it is the location of a dormant Death Egg. Instead, the level consists of purple and green patterned squares with grass on top and a background consisting of a fairly cloudless sky, with an image of Dr Robotnik carved into certain walls. The fourth level is called “Mecha Green Hill Zone”, I am not sure if this level is supposed to represent the first level transformed into a machine environment (with a mistake in the title) or if it just a strange mix of natural and mechanised. The level itself uses steel trees and small robotic plants, with a light orange background and distant pins-like structures disappearing into the horizon.The fifth level is named “Aqua Planet Zone”. Strangely, this level does not seem to have any water, instead the level consists of ruins and tubes, with a dark blue background with purple crystals (which look like oil rigs) and a strange cloud formation at the top of the screen which looks like the surface of a sea. The game ends with the “Electric Egg Zone”, which suggests the developers were not allowed to call the final level “Death Egg” and were forced to create a vaguely mechanical name for the level. The design is similar to similar levels in other Sonic games, with a dark background and light foreground with a science-fiction machine theme. I found the level designs in this game interesting, although the levels use less innovative ideas and changes in gameplay.

The graphics of the game are quite pixelated. I found the pixelated designs added an interesting artistry to the game, although some designs looked like lower quality versions of visuals found on versions of the game available on more powerful devices.

The bosses for this game are also slightly strange as they resemble mini-bosses more than usual bosses. Unlike other Sonic games, which feature Dr Robotnik attacking Sonic with a variety of machines, most of the bosses in this game resemble large machines (some of which look like insects) with Dr Robotnik using a machine the final boss. Weirdly, both the final boss and the boss from the “Aqua Planet Zone” both use an unusual feature. After hitting the bosses a number of times, the bosses will retreat and transform, using a new attack, but, for some reason, they become weaker and only one blow is needed to destroy the machines. I found some of the bosses in this game easier because they had a limited attack ability and were much larger targets then the bosses in other Sonic games.

The power-ups used in this game are also different to other Sonic games. There are no shield power-ups, which makes Sonic more vulnerable. The invincibility power-up is very similar to other games, with Sonic surrounded by stars. The ring and extra life power-ups are also similar to other games. The sneakers power-up has been changed though. Instead of causing Sonic to temporarily run at higher speeds, this power-up turns his shoes into rockets, allowing him to travel in the air. Jumping onto certain springboards causes these springboards to become attached to Sonic’s feet, allowing him to reach higher areas before he jumps off the device.

Other bizarre additions to the game include the Sonic dash. This involves Sonic running on the spot while the player holds certain buttons, releasing the button causes Sonic to surge forward, temporarily invincible. I found this move slightly pointless as it is less effective than the spin dash and seems to be a something the developers added because pressing the same combination of buttons as Tails causes that character to fly through the air. Like in other games in the series, each act of a level ends with a signpost that Sonic runs through to finish the act. In this game, however, the signpost will always land on the picture of Flicky (the blue bird common in Sonic games), the letters “Km/h” and constantly changing numbers will then appear. The changing numbers will stop to show (I presume) the speed Sonic hit the sign. I am not sure how hitting the sign at different speeds benefits the player. This game also removes the capsules usually found after defeating the boss in Sonic games. The end credits also has a small cast and thanks people like “Hitmen”, “The Hase”, “J.S” and “And You”.

I found the game was mostly difficult when collecting the Chaos Emeralds. To reach the Special Stages, the player has to collect 100 rings in the level, causing a bright light to engulf the screen and Sonic being transported to the Special Stage. Although the levels contain large amounts of rings, the fact Sonic getting harmed once severely affects the player’s ability to reach the Special Stage makes the game more difficult (especially considering the game does not provide a shield power-up). The Special Stages themselves are also difficult. Instead of using a similar idea in all stages, the Special Stages in this game are all different and require different skills to progress through and reach the emerald. The stages are also timed (even though power-ups are supplied which increase the time the player can spend). The end of the Special Stage (whether the player succeeded or failed) also ends the level, meaning the player can only attempt a Special Stage once in each act. The player cannot enter the Special Stage if they play the game as Tails (possibly because it is easier to collect rings playing as that character). The designs for the Special Stages use a dark clue background and vivid colours in the foreground, giving the areas a dreamlike feel. I found the Special Stages in this game interesting, as they tested the players problem solving ability, and difficult, because of the timing. The Special Stages were less innovative than other games in the series, as they used the same method of gameplay as the levels.

I also noticed a strange aspect of the game associated with the loss of rings, which also made the game more difficult. The amount of rings possessed by Sonic is an indicator of how vulnerable he is, as the character can only die if he does not have any rings. When Sonic is harmed, his rings, in most Sonic games, spread out and the player has to gather them to ensure they can survive future harm. In this game, if Sonic has between 10 and 20 rings, only two rings will appear. One ring will bounce to the side at a fast pace (making it difficult to retrieve) will the other bounce up and down at the point Sonic was injured. This means the player will only be able to get 1 ring after being harmed. If Sonic has less than 10 rings when he is hurt, a single ring will rise to the top of the screen and disappear. This effect makes the game more difficult, as it is difficult to keep a high ring count after being harmed, and hinders the players ability to reach the Special Stage.

In conclusions, I though the game was good. The gameplay was enjoyable and allowed the player to play as two different characters. The levels were interesting and used good designs. The game was fairly easy, with obtaining the chaos emeralds providing much more difficulty. The Special Stages could be irritatingly hard and some of the methods used to hinder the players ability to reach the Special Stage were annoying.

A Review of Sonic the Hedgehog (Game Gear)

1991

—————————–Spoiler Alert——————————–

The Story

Dr Robotnik has taken over South Island and Sonic the Hedgehog has to defeat him to save the island and its inhabitants. Following a battle aboard Dr Robotnik’s floating Sky Base, Dr Robotnik flees using a teleporter, followed closely by Sonic. The game ends with Robotnik escaping in the egg-o-matic, before being hit by Sonic and the machine bursting into flames. I hope Shakespeare has learnt a lesson from this game.

The Review

This review is based on the version of the game released as a special feature in the Sonic Adventure DX game available on the PC, rather than the game released on the Game Gear.

I have always wondered about the attitude of the developers who made the Sonic the Hedgehog games released on the Game Gear. I always remembered the Mega Drive was the more popular console and the Sonic the Hedgehog games seem to be more well-known and fondly remembered. I did not have much experience of using the Game Gear, which I always thought was less popular than the Game Boy. I have wondered if the developers were aware of this and were less concerned about the games released on the Game Gear than the more popular games. I believe this mentality possibly affected the production of the games, as I found that the Sonic the Hedgehog games released on the Game Gear were quite difficult, but used some bizarre ideas.

The story for the game is extremely simple, Sonic has to travel through the mountainous South Island to reach a base at the top of the mountain and defeat Robotnik. Collecting all the hidden Chaos Emeralds allows the player to view an extended ending sequence.

There are six levels in the game. Strangely, the levels are either copies of levels from the Sonic the Hedgehog game available on the Mega Drive (Green Hill, Labyrinth and Scrap Brain) or levels made up for the game (Bridge, Jungle and Sky Base). Each level consists of three parts: a first part, a second part and a part which contains the boss of the level. The levels are also not called zones in this game (unlike other games in the series). For some of the levels, the game also changes between the first and second acts, such as forcing the player to climb upwards or using a moving screen. I felt the levels were interesting to play and the different acts prevented the player repeating the same playing method in each level.

The level designs were also interesting. While the graphic capabilities of the Game Gear were less advanced than the Mega Drive, the game did have some interesting visuals. I found the pixelated graphics added an artistic dimension to the designs and didn’t hinder the gameplay. The backgrounds of the levels were also very detailed and looked good. Most of the levels were brightly coloured and created a cheerful atmosphere.

I also enjoyed the music of the levels. The music did not use a tinny sound (like many games at the time) and had a good quality. I particularly enjoyed the jazzy music of the Jungle level.

The game also uses a different method of obtaining Chaos Emeralds. Instead of completing challenges in Special Stages, the Chaos Emeralds are all hidden in the levels (with one in each level) and the player has to pick them up. At the end of each level part, the player is transported to the Special Stage. This Special Stage consists of the player collecting rings, lives and continues and, because Sonic is mostly rolled in a ball and the environment consists of springboards and bouncy obstacles, the player has little control and these parts of the game seem very energetic. The stage is also timed. The Special Stage also uses bright pink blocks and a background consisting of a dark night sky with vibrant moons and stars, which gives it a dreamlike atmosphere. Collecting all the Chaos Emeralds does not allow Sonic to transform into Super Sonic, instead it just allows the player to view the hidden ending. I am not certain if I liked the collection of Chaos Emeralds in this game. While it is enjoyable to explore the different levels, finding the Chaos Emeralds removes the puzzle element of the Special Stage, also the Special Stages are quite creative in other Sonic games and require the player to complete actions other than running through landscapes and attacking enemies. I was happy to find the developers still managed to use Special Stages in this game though.

The game has a high difficulty. The game is also needlessly difficult, with some aspects affecting the gameplay. Collecting 100 rings grants the player an extra life, it also resets the ring count to 0. Because the ring count also functions as a representation of health, it is possible to collect a large amount of rings, obtain an extra life and immediately kill Sonic after colliding with an enemy. Like other Sonic games, Sonic loses all of his rings when he is harmed. In this game, unlike other games in the series, Sonic’s rings does not spread out for the player to collect, instead all the rings are condensed into one ring, which floats upwards and then downwards before disappearing. Collecting the ring also gives Sonic one ring, rather than allowing the player to return to the previous ring count. The player can only obtain an extra life from a monitor once. If the player finds an extra life power-up, they cannot use the same power-up if they have to repeat the level after Sonic dies. When Sonic is harmed while using a shield power-up, he is not also briefly invincible (like other Sonic games and when he has no shield). This means that if a shielded Sonic is harmed while on spikes (for example), if he falls back and comes into contact with more spikes, he will instantly lose his rings with no input from the player. Sonic also spends more distance skidding in this game, which can cause him to touch harmful enemies.

The Bosses used in the game are also unnecessarily difficult. Like in the other early Sonic games, the Bosses consist of Dr Robotnik using machines, each with a different method of attack, to kill Sonic. In the parts of the levels containing the Boss, there are no rings. This forces the player to battle against a difficult enemy without getting hit, otherwise they would have to replay the Boss. However, hidden in each act with a Boss is an extra life power-up, which makes the game slightly easier. After defeating the Boss, their weapon remains harmful (unlike other games where Sonic appears to be able to walk through the leftover weapon), this is especially irritating in the Jungle level where the Boss leaves behind a metal ball which, if Sonic touches, causes the player to repeat the fight with an already defeated Boss.

A part of the game I like is the map. Between ending part of a level and beginning a new one, the game shows a picture of the island where the story takes place. A path is shown to symbolise the journey Sonic takes for the next part of the level, or the location of the Boss. I actually like this feature, I feel it adds context to the story (rather than other games in the series, which use a series of unrelated zones) and makes Sonic seem like a creature defending his home. The paths also appear to be quite accurate and reflect the levels well (for example, a level which involves climbing is shown to have quite a vertical path in the map).

There are a number of bizarre inclusions in this game. In many of the Sonic games released around the same time as this game, the Sega logo is shown at the beginning of the game after Sonic completes an action (such as running past or rolling past). In this game, the Sega logo appears after Sonic frolics back and forth and lands, raising his finger at the player and a hand at his hip. The shield power up in this game is also quite small. When Sonic obtains a shield power-up a small, flashing circle will appear around his chest (instead of surrounding him), which makes the power-up resemble a fashionable coat. Following the final score count, Sonic is shown in front of a light purple screen in front of stationary gold and dark blue stars while a pink block (shown fixed to the background by blue circles) displays the credits. Sonic, holding a microphone, appears to tap his foot and move his left hand while opening and closing his mouth. I cannot work out if this sequence is intended to show Sonic singing the credits and seems like an unusual scene to add to the game (considering other games just show white credits on a black background).

In conclusion, the game is quite enjoyable. It is simple to play and uses a variety of challenges for the player. It is not too long (considering it has to be played in one go). The level designs are interesting and the music is good. It can be annoying because of the difficulty and certain aspects which make the game harder.