Review: Sonic the Hedgehog 4 - Episode 1
Saturday, 16th October 2010, 6:20pm (BST), 12 Comments
I think it's fair to say that from the moment it was announced, Sonic 4 has come under a highly unique level of, at its worst, meticulous, often ridiculous, claustrophobic scrutiny, and at its best, somewhat constrained, hesitant excitement. For such a small game, it's gone the journey of any full-fledged 3D juggernaut of the series, with twice the expectation on its back, and, it would seem, twice the usual number of vultures in the fanbase harassing it, and predicting its demise at any opportunity. To me it seemed almost as if, rather than transporting them back to the simple excitement of their childhood, it opened the doors to cold, hard, surgical analysis as the whole game was picked apart, studied and criticised ruthlessly, well before it was even ready. By contrast, the normally harsh critics greeted the game with practically universal support. And now it's finally here, but after everything that it's been through, everything it's promised and everything it's flying in the face of, has the journey been worth it? Let's find out..

How we got here

During its long, storied development, Sonic 4 broke boundaries never before even touched by another Sonic game regarding the intertwining of SEGA and the fans. Late last year, the game was teased and hinted at as "Project Needlemouse", a new 2D adventure with hints of classic stylings, and from there, they had us in the palms of their hands as they drip fed us tantalising concept art and nuggets of info and media, as we jumped through their hoops, completing their various messageboard challenges to earn our prizes. The mysterious title was finally announced, to the not-quite-so surprised fanbase, as not just any nostalgic throwback but an official continuation of a long idle series - THE series, the original Sonic series - this was Sonic the Hedgehog 4!

Whether your opinion was positive or negative, it was probably intense, but there was still little of the game and its most important aspects to go by. That was until the fans took matters into their own hands however. Suddenly it was no longer SEGA in control of us - the tables had turned with the materialisation of leaked videos of early builds all over the place. Fans took back control as, over the course of days, the entire episode was busted open through a series of off-camera videos, eliciting several concerns, from big to small (and most famously concerning "that minecart level"). As a fan who tries to preserve the magic of his first play-through of a new, exciting game by not spoiling too much of it, I thought this was a terrible thing to happen for all concerned, however it may have proved to be a blessing in disguise. Whether it was the scale of the game, the fact that it would be the template for future episodes, or simply that too much was riding on this little game for it to fail, SEGA did what was unquestionably the right thing and delayed it from Summer to Autumn, in order to tweak, balance and reconstruct to fit even the most specific of fan concerns. This has never happened before, and is astonishingly clear proof that SEGA listen.

Before launching into the review I should probably clarify (as I seem to keep rabbiting on about, and you're probably sick of hearing if you follow my blogs and tweets regularly) that I've avoided seeing anything to do with the latter three of the four zones of this game before playing them first hand, and even dodged the latter two acts of the first zone as well. No trailers, no screenshots, no music and heaven forbid, certainly no low quality leaked videos! Although this means I can't comment on a lot of what has changed between the early builds and the final version, it has allowed me to come in completely fresh and experience surprise after surprise as I waded my way through Sonic 4, never knowing what to expect around any corner. It'd be a shame to have seen everything that SEGA or anyone else had thrown at you and felt somewhat deflated after completing the game without being surprised by any of its contents, because there's certainly a lot to be surprised about. So I strongly recommend the path of abstinence from their PR for any future game - it really does pay off, even if it means you have to hide away from the Sonic community for a while to avoid spoilers (which is probably a good thing anyway, lets face it - it's mostly full of idiots). I also waited for the XBox 360 version, rather than jumping straight on the iPhone. It really didn't seem right to have my first memories of it on a little phone rather than a big heaving console - competent as the little phone may be. I've also avoided any other in-depth reviews to ensure that my opinions are my own.

A Question of physics

Let's get the matter of Sonic himself out of the way first before sinking our teeth into the juicy new levels. When I play-tested Splash Hill Zone Act 1 at Summer of Sonic in August, brief as my time with it may have been, I did note that the physics of moving Sonic around still needed some tweaking. Whether or not they would have co-operated well with the level design regardless, I wasn't sure, but it didn't feel the same as the classic template of Sonic physics established on the Mega Drive, so it was harder to predict how smooth a ride the game would be overall. Fortunately, there's been some extremely noticeable tweaks that anyone who's played both versions will be able to spot instantly. Now, when Sonic jumps gravity pulls him back down at just the right height and speed - nothing "floaty" about it anymore, really. His acceleration feels good too. Before, it was slow to get going, with a sudden, unexpected increase in speed after a few seconds of holding the stick forward. This is a bit more balanced now, and as far as I'm concerned, allows for both steady, clean platform hopping and a pleasantly thrilling pace of running through loops. As far as I've seen, there aren't really many break-neck speed sections ala Star Light or Chemical Plant Zones, although I'm not sure if this is because the physics don't quite allow for it or simply because the levels of this episode don't happen to be set up in this way. Still, it's suitably fast and there's ample opportunity for building momentum, although you may need a good grasp of the level layouts to really hold on to it. To me, there's nothing really wrong with the physics of this game, although perhaps those who know Sonic physics inside and out, such as speed runners or just general experts, may disagree. If you're not one of those people though, chances are, you'll notice barely a hiccup.

Sonic's homing attack, to some a slightly controversial inclusion in this classic-styled game, is just a little bit less reliable. For the most part, it works well and does add an interesting new twist. Target markers on home-able objects such as badniks and items are useful, and as soon as you see one, a double jump will send Sonic hurtling towards them, with a brief mid-air pause as he bounces off. While its tempting to make the most of it early on, the more you play, you'll often start to find that bouncing off of things simply through a regular jump may just be more efficient anyway, if a bit more demanding of skill. For example, lines of floating "Bubbles" badniks, the only common badnik across all zones, are designed for repeated homing attacks much like Sonic Adventure 2's Beetles or Sonic Unleashed's Spinners, however it's often quicker to knock through them all with a single jump, each one taking Sonic higher to reach the next, when it's destroyed. Bosses, particularly the final one, can also go down quicker by jumping rather than homing, particularly as the homing attack can bounce Sonic away quite far afterwards. Perhaps this mechanic was intentional though, to provide gradual mastery over the controls the more you play the game and understand it, but it does make you wonder if the game would have been just fine without the homing attack, especially when you occasionally get the split-second timing wrong and end up jump-dashing your way straight into danger rather than homing in on it, which can be very annoying if you're building up rings to access the Special Stage.

The spin dash and rolling spin attack, two moves that have either been abandoned entirely or implemented without much real use in recent games are back in full force in Sonic 4. They don't feel quite the same, but they are useful. The spin dash is as handy as it ever was for whipping across the screen in an instant and getting through loops, while for the most part, the rolling spin increases speed when on slopes rather than decreases it. However, there's something in the back of my mind telling me that over more long sloping distances, the roll doesn't quite build up as much speed as it would "back in the day".

In summary, the overall physics and moves may not quite be absolutely pixel perfect to the originals but I think it'd be foolhardy to expect them to be, and I don't think they even need to be either. Sonic games have no more need to handle exactly the same way as each other than cars do, but this feels close enough to me. It provides excellent versatility for slower and faster areas, and time has clearly been taken to really refine them from what they originally were. Furthermore, Sonic himself is beautifully animated, with real fluid motion between each movement, and an absolute joy to see in action.

Nostalgic romp or a game of its own?

Probably my biggest concern about this game while in development was that it'll lack its own personality, instead borrowing a mix of traits from its older brethren, and adding little of its own. Had there been a Sonic the Hedgehog 4 in 1995, it's doubtful that it would have based all of its levels very clearly on specific ones from its predecessors, rather than inventing new ideas, of which the barrel would have been plenty full at that point. However, that appeared to be what this Sonic the Hedgehog 4 was going to do, given the decade-and-a-half gap between this and the last entry of the series, and the need to prove how faithful it was to the stylings of the much loved gems. That's a logical attempt to recapture those who have wandered away from the franchise since and inextricably link those fundamental levels to the very nature of Sonic, but loyal fans are overly familiar with these concepts, and constantly looking for new, inventive ideas from their games rather than recycled level clones.

Recycled level clones was, initially, exactly what it looked like we were getting when the levels were revealed. We've got Splash Hill Zone - a textbook tropical paradise level borrowing traits mostly from Green Hill Zone, Casino Street Zone - a glitzy night-time Vegas, ala Casino Night, Lost Labyrinth - a maze of sunken ruins rather like Labyrinth Zone, and Mad Gear Zone - your obligatory mechanical lair along the lines of Metropolis Zone. Pretty much the four perfect level types to scream "Hey! look at me! I'm Sonic!" then, but you don't need to delve into any of these very far before you realise that they're actually not just plain old clones at all. Certainly, they borrow many features, obstacles and structural patterns from their respective zones of inspiration, but also blend a few ideas from other similar zones too, and more importantly and surprisingly, add many completely new, fairly bold ideas as well. It's a unique mix of the very familiar and the completely new that makes Sonic 4 a very special game indeed.

Casino Street has all of Casino Night's various circular and triangular bumpers, flippers, slot machines, you name it. However it also nabs Carnival Night's cannons, and even models its standard moving blocks on the infamous drums of said level (although they don't rotate or trap you in small rooms for most of your childhood), plus in a couple of cases it even arranges them in Spring Yard's classic rows-of-three puzzle, in which you must pass from block to block without getting crushed between them. In addition to that, Act 2 (on the consoles only) introduces a whole new set of playing card objects, including tricky rotating platforms and a matching pairs system throughout the level that delivers buckets of lives that will see you healthy for the remainder of the game.

I was most impressed by Lost Labyrinth however. It manages to take much of Labyrinth Zone's most iconic features and combine them with a sort of Indiana Jones style explorer theme that leaves it feeling like an entirely separate level in its own right. Massive boulders that tumble from ceilings or chase you down slopes reminded me of Sonic Adventure's Lost World, yet this time you can also hop on top of them and use the thumb stick to adjust your footing and prevent Sonic from falling off as they roll to their destinations. Act 2 meanwhile, (on the consoles) has a unique feature in which Sonic is constantly holding a torch, lighting up only a small circle around him when inside dark corridors. It's a mechanic that's well utilised with puzzles that require you to light up wall-mounted torches to see where you're going, and even light fuses of massive blocks of dynamite. One particular puzzle that had me stumped for a good few minutes required lighting torches in a particular order and at particular times to open and close a series of platforms. It's tempting to think such puzzles slow down the Sonic gameplay, but I think it's an incredibly welcome return to a more carefully considered take on Sonic level design that uses clever objects and layouts, and in which Lost Labyrinth is an absolute master class. The perfect level for a Zone: 0 guide!

The truth is, there's enough new features here to match those of many other recent, full-sized Sonic game, in addition to the existing throwback features, making it feel like an incredibly packed game. It's a refreshing change from the usual array of common objects (usually coloured a generic red) that litter modern Sonic levels in place of a much preferred unique set of custom designed ones to suit the theme of the stage. What I really like is that while the first act of each zone is a more general introduction, the following two acts each have a special gimmick that helps personalise them from each other. This could be as simple as a recurring object such as Splash Hill Act 2's swinging vines, or more of a significant structural change, for example Lost Lab keeps all of its tricky underwater sections until the third act, where it mimics Labyrinth heavily. Or how about the impressive Mad Gear Zone's third act in which you are constantly chased by a huge moving wall (yay!), threatening to drill you into the opposite walls and forcing you to quickly negotiate nasty crushers and even an all new type of see-saw object. There's an intense amount of personalisation, not just between zones but between acts as well, reminiscent of that seen in Sonic 3 & Knuckles that really adds variety and a sense of journey across the whole game. I felt like a kid again as I tackled strange new objects with excitement and wonder, but also loved the nostalgic familiarity of others. Brilliant stuff!

Dimps-isms

Level structure too sheds many (though unfortunately not quite all) of the common "Dimps-isms" that have formed the modern method of designing Sonic levels. Don't get me wrong, the fast and furious nature of Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Rush are an absolute joy to play, but it often feels a very different experience from the structure employed by the Mega Drive titles, and one of the biggest question marks, along with the matter of level-specific objects, was whether or not the level designers could understand this fundamental difference, and whether they could actually get it right for this type of game. Modern Sonic design cares about the thrill of continuous motion and successfully negotiating traps with the quickest of reactions, running along continuous slopes and through loops, using dash panels or a boost button to maintain constant, almost euphoric pace. This comes at the expense of more interesting, varied level design that, like the objects, are personalised for each zone. In the end, they all just end up looking rather sparse, plain and homogenous.

Classic Sonic level design isn't afraid to slow down the pace regularly to indulge in a small puzzle or platform-hopping exercise. It allows the opening "hill zone" level a certain free-flowing nature in which the player can chop and change between multiple routes easily, across many different platforms. It gives an entirely different structure to other levels that are based inside corridors in which traps must carefully be negotiated. It allows the middle "pinball" level to have massively open spaces in which to bounce around and it only occasionally really lets loose with the speed when it launches Sonic through an array of loops in levels such as high speed cities. It's this individuality and variety that modern Sonic level design often seems to forget all about, but thankfully it isn't all forgotten in Sonic 4. Splash Hill really does feel like a proper traditional hill zone in its structure, with its numerous branching routes and mix of looped slopes and straight roads. Casino Street borrows many of its predecessor's large open pinball rooms, corridors with slow moving crusher blocks and even long drops with curved bottoms. Lost Labyrinth naturally has all of Labyrtinth Zone's tight corridors and segmented, stepped pathways, while Mad Gear has numerous vertical and horizontal platforming sections. They all have their fair share of speedy paths, but you could easily tell their maps apart just by their structure alone. "One size fits all" level design is gone!

However, there's also the little matter of the much feared and loathed bottomless pit. Well, old habits do die hard and death drops are still here, but lets not be hasty and condemn them straight away. Sonic 3 and CD may have had almost none, but Sonic 1 had loads - it's not their existence that's the problem, it's the over-reliance on them as the only real means of difficulty that's the common problem in modern Sonic. For the most part, that's not the case here though, they appear often, but they are used just sparingly enough to create notable "tricky bits" in your mind when you return to them for another play later, which is exactly how the classics utilised them. Crushers and other devices are used to beef up the difficulty where they otherwise might not be in other games, and there are few moments where you're sent careening into the abyss just by going faster than you should have been, or not holding right for long enough, although I won't say such moments are completely absent. Generally though you rarely feel like it's really anyone else's fault but yours that you happened to fall in a pit, and personally I found it easy enough to take it all in my stride. That said, there are quite a lot of extra lives dotted around the place, which probably remove the stress of the situation quite a bit.

Before we leave the matter of level design, there is one aspect that I have to say I've been a little disappointed in and unfortunately it's quite an important one - multiple routes; the holy grail of Sonic level design. Just take a glance through any of the classic level maps on this site and in the vast majority of them you'll find arrays of different routes interweaving, separating and joining with each other like a work of art, some stretching the entire length of the act, meaning there's always so much to explore. I was really hoping that Sonic 4 would run with this idea and in fairness it has clearly made attempts to do so, it's just that having played all the acts a few times now, my overriding impression is that they still haven't quite got the idea. Either that or they're just not willing to invest the time and resources into creating them with any real commitment, instead preferring to extend the length of the level on a longer, mostly linear route. Now granted, massive shortcuts and and whole other long hidden routes might be there and I just haven't found them yet, in which case I retract this entire paragraph. But it seems more like there are numerous little alternate paths, by way of platforms that you have to jump on quickly or a line of Bubbles, but as soon as you get on one, you realise it doesn't go very far before you're back on the standard route again. Pretty much like most modern attempts at multiple routes, unfortunately. Splash Hill is the exception, I have no beef with any of its acts on this front, but elsewhere I've only found one significant shortcut in Lost Labyrinth Act 2 (which actually allows you to bypass that tricky torch bit I mentioned earlier). I suspect there aren't many others though, which disappoints me. When they do appear, it also would have been nice to have more of definite choice, i.e. go left or go right, rather than having to know beforehand exactly when a chain of badniks appear that you must homing attack in order to get the shortcut.

Sonic's colours

These great levels would be nothing without a great lick of paint - the main reason I forced myself to wait for the big screen, HD release. While I've always been impressed with Splash Hill's looks, the following levels are even more impressive to behold. Casino Street has an amazing 3D cityscape in the background that moves gradually in perfect parallax to your own movement across the level, while Lost Labyrinth's stunning open underground cave environment almost has a kind of painted quality to it. Mad Gear is practically overflowing with vast technical gizmo's so much so that it can sometimes be difficult to know what's a platform and what's meant to be a piece of the landscape at times. The Sonic Rush games had an unfortunate tendency to just stick a single image in the background and let that be that, but real care has been put into making sure these visuals burst with life in every corner, starting out with the fundamentals established by the original zones of inspiration and really going to great lengths to enhance them in ways you'd never have imagined. It's a shame that the visuals don't vary between the acts quite as much as the objects and structures do, and as they did in S3&K, but with the amount of hard work put into them, it's kind of understandable why.

There's one other vitally important thing that brings levels to life - music! Sonic 4's soundtrack has found itself in the capable hands of Mr Jun Senoue, a man responsible for many all time great Sonic tracks and someone who should know Sonic music like the back of his hand. I'm pained to say that I was a bit disappointed this time around however. In terms of compositions, the latter half of the game isn't bad at all. When I get round to adding it to my iTunes library, there will be some solid 4 stars handed out amongst Lost Labyrinth and Mad Gear. With the exception of Splash Hill Act 1 (which by now is burned into my brain, it being the only piece I allowed myself to listen to before playing the game) the rest leave quite a bit to be desired though. A lot of the best Sonic tracks have a clearly defined climax to them, normally at the end of the loop that the rest of the tune builds up to. That sort of structure is really missing in pretty much all of these tunes, and Jun seems to have challenged himself (or been challenged) to compose a mostly completely different tune for each individual act, but has only been allowed to make each one last for about 30-40 seconds. The results are some tracks, particularly in Casino Street, that never really get anywhere and just end up sounding rather repetitive, begging for a melodic climax to be attached to the end. The later acts of Splash Hill remind me of myself when I try to invent a random Sonic tune in my head but fail miserably with something that just sounds.. wrong. These tunes are catchy, it's just that some of them are, as odd as it sounds, the wrong sort of catchy. The kind of catchy that you don't want swimming around in your head, as opposed to many many other Sonic tunes throughout history that I'm more than happy to have in my head all day. I suspect this might even be the same kind of catchy that annoying TV commercials use to get inside your head.

Also of note is the fact that all of the tracks are composed retro style, using many of the exact same synths from Sonics 1 and 2. I'm in two minds about this - while playing, they really do add a classic flavour to the game, and really link this title to its long lost siblings, separated by all those years. On the other hand, there's just something not quite right about the way they sound. Someone who knows music would be able to define it more clearly, but it just seems to me they could have used a little bit more polish to make them a little easier on the ears. Perhaps they're just "growers", and I am finding myself more and more at peace with them, but the fact remains they'll never be quite as good as they should have been for a game of this significance, and I think this, along with the issue of multiple routes, is one of the only really serious problems that need looking at for episode 2.

All said and done

So all in all, Sonic 4 episode 1 ain't a bad little game at all. Four zones may not sound like a lot, but bear in mind that the acts within are pretty chunky. It wasn't uncommon for me to spend the business end of my ten minute time limit on some of the later ones, so from the start to the final boss, you're looking at a good 2 hours of gameplay, and though this may not seem like much, it's packed with Sonic action that's as pure and intense as you're likely to find anywhere else - you'll definitely want to play these levels over and over again to improve your abilities. The game's life span is through the sheer size of the levels, and also its difficulty, as it's no pushover. As I've mentioned earlier, you'll get a fair amount of lives to play with so Game Overs are unlikely, but you'll lose plenty of them too, and the balance feels just right - at no point was I ever really seriously frustrated with anything, yet still found plenty of challenges. Interestingly, all acts are open to you after completing Splash Hill Act 1, and though you can progress naturally through the game act by act by pressing the Y button after completing each, you can also access any one of them at any point through the impressive 3D map menu. Speaking of which, checking out the background of that 3D map might just offer some hints as to what to expect from the levels of future episodes.. hmm..

By completing each act of a zone, you unlock that zone's boss, each of which begins as a familiar throwback to the classic boss of the appropriate level of inspiration. Get halfway through the boss and Eggman and his accompanying music change to a more serious tone as all new challenges start to emerge. Lost Labyrinth's utilises long crushing pillars inside an enclosed room, while Mad Gear's Metropolis-inspired boss suddenly goes on the run, throwing the now harmful fake Eggman balloons at you as you give chase. These smaller, simpler bosses are a welcome return from the larger scale 3D ones, although that said, there's nothing small or simple about the very familiar final boss, which requires a gargantuan amount of hits to finally see off!

And then there are the special stages, borrowing the concept of the rotating maze from Sonic 1, but with the added twist that this time, you control the rotation of the maze with the control stick. But don't think that's going to make the Chaos Emeralds a cakewalk to get hold of - I'm still yet to grab the final one myself, and for the most part your biggest concern is no longer falling straight into those dead end pits, it's getting to the emerald within the time limit. You can pick up added bonus time, but you also need to grab enough rings to open a series of barriers that dissolve after certain amounts collected. Great control is key to grabbing rings quickly enough and not getting held up by bumpers and other features designed to waste your time. It's a pretty entertaining Special Stage all in all, with a very hectic quality and it has its fair share of frustrations. Like in Sonic 1, they're accessed through giant rings that appear at the end of each act if you pass the signpost with at least 50 rings (and be careful not to go too fast, because as soon as you go off the screen, you can't come back like you used to be able to!). There's no requirement to grab all emeralds within a single play of the whole game, but once you've completed a Special Stage, that emerald will be tied to that particular act, meaning the big ring will cease to appear should you complete that act again with 50 rings - you have to try another one. Super Sonic playable in the levels (for the first time since Sonic & Knuckles!) is the prize for grabbing all seven, which I'm yet to experience myself but I'll keep trying!

So in summary.. I love it! The stakes were really high for this game. If it didn't work out, it may have lost fans forever, but if my own opinion is anything to go by, it looks like Sonic 4 got there in the end! The developers have clearly studied the classic games, what makes them tick, what we like so much about them and how they differ from more recent titles. Sure, there's room for improvement, but that's one of the great things about this actually being part of a larger, episodic game, and maybe episode 2 will be just that little bit closer to perfection! My feedback would be to work a little more on the quality of the music and really get some interesting alternate routes in those maps. In all other areas though, Sonic 4 is an incredibly enjoyable, well polished Sonic game, offering a brilliant mix of the familiar and the new and exciting. There are concepts in here that haven't been seen for years, and as someone who's been crying out for them every single one of those years, it's remarkable to see them finally back. Make no mistake, this is not just a collection of rehashed ideas, this is a unique experience in its own right that takes great pride in its heritage. Levels are unique from each other and well constructed, physics feel right - everything that needed to be here pretty much is, so I absolutely can't wait for episode 2!

Now, back to that last emerald...
Comments   12 Comments have been posted.
#1. Comment posted by Josh on Saturday, 16th October 2010, 7:14pm
Thanks for the review. It's nice to have an opinion from someone who doesn't constantly have something to complain about.
#2. Comment posted by Josh on Saturday, 16th October 2010, 10:37pm
And to add to what I said above, I did the same as you and did whatever I could to stop myself from being spoiled.

Should we expect to see level maps and detailed analysis of the acts in the far future?
#3. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Saturday, 16th October 2010, 11:06pm
Thanks Josh. Dunno about level maps, unless Sega officially release them I don't think it likely we'll see them. Guides on the other hand.. well, we'll see. ;)
#4. Comment posted by Ekajra on Saturday, 16th October 2010, 11:25pm
I'd have to say your opinions agree with mine on most points regarding the Sonic 4. And it's good to know I'm not the only one who was trying to avoid getting the game spoiled for him.
#5. Comment posted by Anonymous on Sunday, 17th October 2010, 2:00pm
The synths aren't the exact same as Sonic 1 and 2. Senoue said in an interview that he didn't have the equipment to emulate Genesis sounds, so the music was run of the mill synths. This may or may not have been improved a bit in the Wii version but I can tell most of those themes aren't Genesis music. People even do "Genesis mixes" of them on YouTube.

If you're wondering about the physics, go to Splash Hill and roll down a hill. Get a good run going, roll down and let go of the D pad before an upward slope. In GHZ and Hill Top this would be used to pick up speed and fly through the air, bouncing from one enemy to the other, but see what happens in Sonic 4.
Next, go to the U shaped areas in Casino Street. Try to roll on them left and right to gain momentum.

I followed every last detail of Sonic 4 from its announcement, and got to see what they fixed and what they didn't fix.
Most of the internet war and scrutiny on the forums was because of bad coordination between SoA and SEGA of Japan. It was like a Dilbert cartoon come to life and I'm lucky to have not missed that.
#6. Comment posted by Anonymous on Sunday, 17th October 2010, 10:38pm
At first I was also a little turned off by the physics too, but as the levels progressed I adapted to it. By the end of Splash Hill Zone 3, I didn't even notice it anymore. I just learned to hold down right as I played. Going through Splash Hill I liked the game. It felt different and a little easy, but by the end of Mad Gear Zone 3, I loved the game. Mad Gear had my heart racing. That Zone(with its moving-wall) is amazing and intense, taking 15 of my 25 lives, and I did throw the controller a couple times on the Egg Station Boss. In the end, I have to say I love this game, I really do, and I really hope they "Re-imagine" Chemical Plant, Flying Battery Zone and maybe even Stardust Speedway for episode II. I wanna see that Mega Mack again so bad...
#7. Comment posted by Tricky E on Tuesday, 19th October 2010, 10:53am
Hmmm...obviously everyone is entitled to their opinions. I'm a little more negative I'm afraid. I distanced myself from the whole project and the forum backlash during development, waiting to play it and judge for myself. I don't think the game is bad, but to me, it simply is not satisfying. I can tell you exactly why, but there's no room for it here.
And think about the special stages. What were they for? To get the chaos emeralds, sure, but also to supply the player with something they've never seen before and push the hardware to the limits. Whose jaw didn't hit the floor the first time they saw the super smooth psuedo 3d sphere levels in Sonic 3? With the advancements in technology, I can't help but think that a re imagining of the Sonic 1 bonus levels are a little disappointing.
The art direction is very odd too. Why have a low frame rate Sonic on the logo screen when he's a 3d model and can be silky smooth? I understand that they were trying to make it look like sonic 1, but why? Sonic 2 never held back to be more like Sonic 1. It should be a true sequel, improvements where ever possible (like the previous sequels), and stop trying to tap into people's nostalgia.
A lack of story is also very disappointing. S3&K had a great story. Not deep, but it wasn't explained in anything other than backgrounds, with you getting closer and closer to the crashed death egg on the crater, then the subtle prophecy of super sonic on the wall where you fight Knuckles.
To go back to an A to B level progression with no hint of story is a bit of a waste to me. Do I play Sonic games for the story? No. But S3&K was better for it.

Dammit...maybe if I spent less time bitching about Sonic 4, I could actually finish the next level artwork for Zone Zero!
#8. Comment posted by luke858585 on Tuesday, 19th October 2010, 11:16am
The only thing that annoys me a little when I play this is the sound effects when Sonic does his spin dash from an idle position. I swear to god it is not just me but I'm pretty sure that the sound effects for those are reversed around the opposite way
#9. Comment posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, 19th October 2010, 10:35pm
Its not reversed on mine, but it is a bit crap. The revving sound used to go rev..Rev..REV! getting high pitch each time.
now it goes...rev...rev...rev
#10. Comment posted by NovusUmbra on Friday, 5th November 2010, 9:08am
You've provided a persuasive argument for Sonic 4, something that not many people have been able to do; good job.
#11. Comment posted by Oobo on Thursday, 21st April 2011, 11:19pm
There is a major shortcut in lost labyrinth act 3, during a coridor going down in steps, homing attack a fish badnik and homing attack into the wall.
#12. Comment posted by Hyper_Sonic on Sunday, 24th July 2011, 10:02am
I'd have to say, that firstly 4 ZONES IS NOT ENOUGH!!! Secondly, The acts should be a lot more chunky, I didn't really find it all that challenging at all.

And lastly, ACT SELECT come on, you've got to be joking. Who needs cheats if you've got act select. (Pun from the old saying "with friends like these who needs enemies")
Feather in your Cap
Tuesday, 21st September 2010, 5:08pm (BST), 9 Comments
Update: Icecap Zone added to the Sonic 3 section
I know I said Icecap Zone would probably come along with less of a delay between the last zone, but you know what it's like. New job, lots of work, occasional late nights, new social life, things do get pushed back a bit, and that's the kind of schedule that will probably remain unfortuately. So Zone: 0 will more than likely plod on at this kind of pace for a while yet, as we complete Sonic 3 and then move into Sonic & Knuckles, the last of my pre-written guides. Rest assured these will be complete, there's no point in me not publishing them, but they'll still take a while I think. After that though, who knows?

Anyway, Icecap is here, one of my favourite levels. It was actually the last of the original Mega Drive levels that I got to play - I asked my friend to make a save file at that level for me on his copy and lend it to me so that I could finally play the mythical icy zone of legend, the only glimpse I'd seen of which was the little black and white screenshot tease in the manual. I loved the music but promptly got stuck tumbling down that never ending sloping drop in Act 1 for the full ten minutes, not being quite observant enough to notice that fairly obvious platform on the side. Or maybe I just found it hard to believe that a level was technically capable of creating an actual never ending drop - it didn't make sense! There must be an end soon, I'll just keep on falling.

One of the more simple ones to map actually, at least in this game. That hasn't stopped Act 2 from being a whopping 9 meg though. Sorry about that, I'll crunch it down if I can, but you kids all have fast connections these days anyway right? You can chomp down 9 meg like nobody's business, you'll be fine! Note, currently there aren't any other downloads like badnik and concept art and music. This is because these are stored on my Mac back in London and I'm with the folks this week, so I'll add these to the site when I get back this weekend or soon after. Just wanted to get the level up and running while I've got the week off. The other small thing to note is that due to the end of Act 1 actually being located on Act 2's map, in the process of merging these separated parts of Act 1 into a unified image, I was forced to lop off a bit of the short shaft that Knuckles falls down to get to his Act 1 boss. Just because the heights of the two maps didn't match and it loops vertically so often that stretching it out further wouldn't have made sense. I know some of the more pedantic and obsessive among you (and you know who you are) would have probably noticed and commented at some point, so yes, I am aware of that and it was a necessary sacrifice.

So I've been playing Sonic Adventure on XBox Live Arcade. Sure, Sega go crazy with the constant recycling of old games, but this is a welcome one as far as I'm concerned. DX on the Gamecube is not the smoothest ride in the world, and breaking out the old Dreamcast is a task and a half, so why not get a version of the game for which you don't even have to get off your arse to put a disc into your console? Perfect for today's lazy Sonic fan. Now Sonic Adventure, the grandad of modern Sonic, has not aged well. It certainly looks like a grandad, sitting alongside modern flashy XBox games, even with its 2003 character model update intact, but it's not a game you can show off to anyone, and it probably won't ever be until it gets a complete remake/restoration from the ground up. First on the list would be those cutscenes. They were even quite painful back in 1999, when it was reasonably ok to have wooden character models and even more wooden acting, but in 2010 it's more cringe-worthy than a box set of The Office. You don't have to wait several seconds between pieces of dialogue anymore, which you'd have to do while the Dreamcast noisily loaded them in, but I still long for a more subtle approach to them. Sonic Adventure's story is actually one of the best in the series, so I'd love to see a more toned down approach, with no VO's, a better script, and just simple character art and text, and a few nicely illustrated drawings to depict anything more dynamic. Pretty much how modern handheld Sonic games tackle stories. Unless you want to spend stupid money creating whole new CGI for every scene in the game, that's all you'd need. Sega probably wouldn't ever bother, but maybe one day some clever Sonic fan will include these in a kind of "Sonic Adventure: Tolerable Edition".

Still, that said, I do like the game anyway, it's something most Sonic fans look back fondly on, myself included, it was just unfortunate enough to have been born near the beginning of its era of games, as opposed to its better-aged Mega Drive forerunners, who were born toward the end of theirs. I daresay this is even the version of choice for consoles too, as it has most of DX's looks (apparently there may be some differences, to do with water or something, but doesn't really matter that much does it?), but without any (at least as far as I've noticed so far) of the 2003 version's painful and very very persistent framerate dips. Widescreen would have been nice, but it runs as smooth as a baby's bum and unless you're a purist for the original version, if you want Sonic Adventure without having to dig out an old console every time, or go to all the effort of taking a box from the shelf, opening it, putting a disc in a machine then putting the box back as well as finding the box for the disc you just replaced (guh, feeling exhausted just thinking about it!) then this is the 800 microsoft points for you. Sonic Adventure 2 as well please Sega.
Comments   9 Comments have been posted.
#1. Comment posted by Zeupar on Friday, 24th September 2010, 11:16am
Icecap for the way! Great guide. Those maps are awesome. You have an interesting story with this stage. xD

About SAXBLA; the people that ported the game were so shamelessly lazy that they didn't even make it widescreen, so they aren't getting my money.

By the way, this site lacks something that every decent site has. Don't worry, I am currently working to change that. :P
#2. Comment posted by Doreen on Monday, 27th September 2010, 5:34pm
Wow, I wish I'd found this website sooner! Could have saved me hours of trying to figure out some of the levels of the first three Sonic games. FYI: I just recently purchased the Sega Genesis Collection Series Xbox 360 game that has about 6 Sonic games on it. Just one question though: Are you going to upload screenshots and tips for Sonic and Knuckles at some point? Just wondering.
#3. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Monday, 27th September 2010, 11:37pm
Hi Doreen, thanks glad you're enjoying the site :) Yes, Sonic & knuckles guides have already been written and work will begin on publishing them, level by level, after Sonic 3 is complete, however this may take some months so please bear with me. Thanks!
#4. Comment posted by Doreen on Tuesday, 28th September 2010, 7:43am
@LiQuidShade: Sure, take your time! I'll check back every so often. Life happens and all you can do is work around it. Keep up the good work on the site!
#5. Comment posted by MoDaD on Friday, 1st October 2010, 4:48pm
Another great update! Just out of curiosity, have you been archiving those neat level-related update graphics in the top left corner somewhere? It'd be cool if those were still used in the site somehow.
#6. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Friday, 1st October 2010, 7:29pm
Yep, they're all still amongst my files. Glad you like them, maybe I will use them again :)
#7. Comment posted by Paul on Tuesday, 26th October 2010, 1:18am
I bet it will be a longer delay for launch base zone! The knuckles version is so cheap!
#8. Comment posted by Universum on Tuesday, 26th October 2010, 9:23am
Many thanks for putting out all this nostalgic content. It's fantastic seeing these maps, which I only played recently on the DS port of S3&K, and still finding new locations of Special Stages. Those things are hidden all over the shop, I only found half the ones in Ice Cap Zone.
Then again, I'd never have thought to actually dive into the bottomless water pit. Sneaky indeed.
Thanks again, I love coming to this site.
#9. Comment posted by Andrew on Tuesday, 21st December 2010, 7:47am
Icecap Zone, eh? Know what? I went on to Icecap as soon as I saw this on the home page.
It is my most best loved level in Sonic 3 you know.
My Day at Summer of Sonic 2010!
Sunday, 8th August 2010, 6:15pm (BST), 6 Comments
Yesterday, as I'm sure you were probably aware (especially if you happen to follow me on Twitter and endured my never ending stream of correspondence) was Summer of Sonic! The British Sonic convention that offered just about everything a Sonic fan could dream to see and do! I had an absolutely fantastic time, everyone involved in putting it together should be incredibly proud of their work! It was brilliant! There wasn't a lot more that it could have offered really, we got to play Sonic 4, both versions of Sonic Colours, and even got to see Crush 40 playing live! Unbelievable day.

Turning up at what I thought was an early time, the sight of a massive, disorganised crowd of eccentric people wearing Sonic clothes, Sonic bags, holding Sonic plushies and dressed in Sonic costumes or with Sonic hairstyles was a sight to behold. I've never really met many people who are as passionate about the blue one as I am, so it was particularly thrilling to me, not to mention eye opening to see how people with a little more self confidence than I possess visibly express their love of the series! I prefer the more subtle "spend years quietly building a massive shrine of a website" approach, so it was remarkable to me! An impromptu crowd sing-a-long of the City Escape theme was a particularly nice touch. Before long, we were asked to form a more orderly queue, in which we would remain for about another 45 minutes-1 hour, as the opening was slightly delayed. Slight rain, constant barrage of really tiny wasps attracted to bright colours, and passing "normo's" with very confused expressions on their faces at the sight of a massive queue of fans for something that probably hasn't even particularly entered their heads in years were all reasons for which I was eager to get in, not least of all though because Sonic 4 was waiting for me inside! Given the size of the queue, I was relatively close to the front of it, so I thought my chances of getting near the start of the Sonic 4 queue inside were reasonably good. They can't ALL be joining it right away, right..?



Upon entry, we were each given a lovely goodie bag of stuff, including an Archie comic, but more importantly, a frankly awesome brand new Metal Sonic mini figurine. Mine now sits atop my computer monitor, glaring directly at me as I type. Undoubtedly one of the coolest things EVER.

Walking in to the quite large room, there were tables with stands around me, and steps leading down to the XBox 360 games pods on the left. Down further still was the stage area. There was a circle of machines devoted to the ongoing Sonic and Sega All-stars Racing tournament (which I practiced for, but sadly didn't get a chance to enter - which is no great loss really, there's no way I would have come close to winning!), plus a few classic titles, Sonic Heroes, Sonic Unleashed, but far more important on this particular day were the two pods on the far left dedicated to the in-development Sonic the Hedgehog 4! My first mission was to join this queue immediately upon entry, which is exactly what I did.

Sonic 4 Playtest

The queue wasn't too bad when I joined - there were maybe 20-30 people in front of me, and I was there for about an hour all in all, which was more than worth it to me for Sonic 4. The people behind me however, went back for MILES! It wasn't moving particularly quickly either, because almost everyone wanted their share of all three acts of Splash Hill Zone, plus the boss. By the time it got to just a few people in front of me, the powers that be decided everyone was taking too long, so intervened to impose a limit of two acts each upon us. That was fair enough I guess. It left me with a small dilemma though - what acts to play? Even now that you can officially see all three acts being played on numerous gaming site videos, I've still only allowed myself to see Act 1 in full play. But since I know it pretty well, do I go for Acts 2 and 3? I decided no, it was only right to start my experience with Act 1, so it would be 1 and 2. For a reason that would become clear soon enough, I would regret this decision.

Finally the time came, and with somewhat shaking hands and a quickening heart beat, I held the much-fondled controller and selected Act 1, under the watchful gaze of a show assistant who appeared to have come straight from the set of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Not to worry Will Smith, I would gracefully accept my chosen two acts and play no more than that, you'll get no trouble from me. All I really wanted was an understanding of how the physics felt anyway. As it would turn out, not too shabby really! It's different, I'll give you that. It doesn't feel exactly like Mega Drive Sonic, but I'm not one of those people who necessarily thinks that's automatically a bad thing. If it's versatile enough to comfortably handle both slow platforming and high speed looping, how wrong can it be? The acceleration was the first thing that struck me. Sonic's comparatively slow to start moving, feeling a little heavy, but you don't have to hold the stick long for him to dramatically pick up pace. I daresay there's still some refinement to do here, in striking that balance and perhaps the transition between the two states, but I think it'll work, even though it takes some getting used to, though this is much the same for all the different types of 2D Sonic.



The homing attack felt responsive and useful, and I think it'll be a worthwhile addition. You seemed to even be able to use it in states that you perhaps wouldn't have thought, like having come up through the air after a curved wall, and not in spinning mode, so it doesn't seem to have to follow a jump, necessarily. The spin dash and rolling spin seem powerful enough, and the jump didn't particularly feel wrong either, although like the general physics, it'll probably take some getting used to when playing, just because they're not necessarily exactly like the classics. Things that I thought might be annoying turned out not to be so when playing. That unnecessary dust trail barely even registered to me, and though before I thought Sonic's new spinning leg animation seemed a bit OTT in some ways, when it actually hits while you're running through loops (and it doesn't appear particularly early in Sonic's range of speed), it actually elicits a certain small, nostalgic fuzzy feeling - it just sort of feels right, and I'm glad it's been included. Everything else I could say about level design and flow, you can see for yourself in all the various videos and you've probably already formed your opinion, but personally, if Act 1 is anything to go by anyway, I think Splash Hill is a very carefully considered demonstration of the real "Hill Zone" type level design, in the way that it flows rather fluidly from platform to platform leading right, and with the perfect high, middle, low formula of multiple routes, all with gaps in between them in which you can chop and change as you go.

Following a successful introduction, I fired up Act 2 manually, as they didn't flow one after the other automatically in this demo. It was at this point that Will Smith interjected. Suddenly I was allowed only one act. What..? You said two! I tried bargaining him down to half an act, but he was having none of it. Not one to cause a fuss, I reluctantly agreed to relinquish the controller, the very first person in the whole day to have this limit imposed upon me, which presumably ran for the rest of the show (or at least I would hope it did). I didn't particularly mind having only one act to play, it was enough to get the taster of the game I'd wanted, as the acts are reasonably long, but had I been told beforehand, I would have chosen Act 2, and would have been able to get the full experience of not knowing what was coming. I wasn't fuming about it, but it was a bit annoying, as it meant I didn't get quite as accurate an impression of the game as I was hoping to, and to reveal to you in this preview too. Still, on the plus side, it means the virginity of Acts 2 and 3 remain intact to me, ready to be.. ahem.. deflowered upon release of the actual game, and that makes them all the more special I guess. They'll be more enjoyable with full audio and in the comfort of my own home.

Things to see and do

With tired legs, I retreated to the convenient sit-down area, to tweet a bit, and then decide what I wanted to do next. Sonic Colours was being held on the lowest level, by the stage. It had a shorter queue than Sonic 4, but still quite a long one, and I didn't have the energy to join it at that point, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to poke around a bit first and see what else the convention had to offer.



Here on the other side of the hall, along with an impressive cabinet of various Sonic merchandise, old and new, was the website wall, somewhat tucked away down a side corridor, though one in which queues were held for things like Sonic 4 and later, Crush 40 autograph signings. So I like to think Zone: 0's own appearance on this wall of A3 sized posters, each depicting and describing a different website was in a good spot to be seen. I personally didn't queue near it at any point though, so I was unable to listen out for anyone saying "hey, that's a cool site!".. hope they did though :)



The stage area would become a pretty entertaining place, hosting things like the "Wrecks Factor" which was actually painful, and quiz show "Nevermind the Buzz Bombers", in which contestants answered Sonic trvia, which was great fun. Dreadknux and AAUK lead most of the on-stage segments, and very entertaining they were too. I managed to introduce myself to both of them during the day, and briefly say hi, which was pretty cool. During the quiz show I started to realise I was standing around anyway, so I might as well make a start on that Sonic Colours queue, which was nearby, about 30-40 people strong. As it would turn out, this decision would occupy a very large chunk of the day. It soon became apparent that unlike Sonic 4, no one was imposing any kind of limit on how many acts each player was allowed, so everyone was taking about five minutes to play through both acts of either Tropical Resort or Sweet Mountain Zones, plus the Tropical Resort boss. The DS version was nearby, but there was only one Wii console, and of course most people wanted to play both, so this would be a long, long wait.



Fortunately, in addition to chats with fellow "queue victims", entertainment was on hand on the stage, in the form of the cosplay contest, which was won by Dr. Eggman, despite threatening the entire audience, I believe. This highlighted some of the more.. "zany" fans that attended the show. Some fans, cosplaying or not, I'd give the term "zany" to, and a few I might even suggest "ever so slightly unbalanced" be more appropriate. Still, it was all in good fun!.. as long as you kept your distance from them.



Luckily, Jun Senoue was also around. Before his big Crush 40 gig at the end of the show, he treated us to some instrumentals of a range of Sonic music that he had created, including Splash Hill, Station Square, Seaside Hill, Emerald Coast, and was even joined by singers to belt out another rendition of Escape from the City (slightly more professional than the one I'd heard earlier)! This was all brilliant to hear, and such a rarity. Everyone goes crazy for the vocal songs, but I love to hear these tunes done live. Absolutely brilliant!

Sonic Colours DS Playtest

After what seemed like years, I was finally nearing the front of the Sonic Colours queue, which sort of formed into a tightly knit gathering of fans huddled closely around the console, after having seen both levels played out in full dozens of times already. Slightly hidden behind them were two DS's, oddly only one of which contained Sonic Colours, but the queuing system for this was rather less organised and there seemed to be an agreement that anyone in the "Wii huddle" could just take time out from queuing to have a quick spin on the DS. So this is what I did.

Like most people, I think I'm a lot less excited about the DS version than I would be, say, Sonic Rush 3, purely because the Wii completely eclipses it. But at the same time it's different enough to feel like a whole other game, following a similar trend to the two versions of Sonic Unleashed. In this demo you could play one act from either of the two levels and a boss. I gave Tropical Resort a go, and was confronted by a slightly long winded list of instructions that I attempted to apply to my existing knowledge of how Sonic Rush games work, but quickly gave up and just went on in to attempt to figure it out as I went. This was an easy enough task.

The game looks and feels exactly like the Sonic Rush games, there's no detectable change to the way the physics or level design principals work. The most significant changes are in the moves department. Gone is the trick system, despite my habitual presses of the shoulder button, and homing attack has been moved to one of the main buttons. You can boost, which I think is a different button to the more general wisp button, and the main wisp on offer was the fire wisp, which transforms the whole of Sonic's body into a flame version of himself. During this time, you can press the wisp button (which is either X or Y, I forget which) and press on the D-pad to burst in a particular direction after jumping. It seemed a bit fiddly though, as you can't tap continuously, there's a short period of time in which you have to wait after performing the move before you can do it again. It's not ages, but it's long enough to make you realise it exists. Like in the Rushes, there's a nice enough 3D segment at the end of the level that sees Sonic clinging to a hang glider, dodging spikeballs. I only saw Sweet Mountain in action and didn't play it, but it seemed like quite a long level, with several unique objects like wobbling jellies for springs and jelly bean rockets. The length of these levels and the fact that there was only one act each of them makes me wonder if, unlike the Rushes and just about any 2D Sonic I can think of, do these DS levels come in only singular chunks? Could be. I also caught just a bit of the music, and it sounded like the same basic tune to the Wii's Tropical Resort.

Sonic Colours Wii Playtest

Finally, the time had come! By this point I'd been involved in this queue for probably close to three hours! As I mentioned above, it's not as if there was nothing to see and do in the meantime, so as far as three hour queue's go, it was one of the best. But still, my legs were absolutely aching, and I was very tired. Despite the fact that, visually, I prefer the idea of Tropical Resort Zone over Sweet Mountain, I've seen less of the latter, so I went for this slightly controversial food-based level. It would also be slightly more challenging, so would allow me to get a feel of how the engine works with these challenges.



What's worth mentioning at this point is that due to syncing problems, a Wii remote was not available for use with the console, so instead we relied on a trusty (and very sweaty and slippery by the time it found its way into my mitts) Gamecube controller. Unfortunately this build of the game hasn't yet been tailored to provide on-screen button hints that relate to this controller, only the Wii remote, so players were somewhat on their own when it came to figuring out what does what. For the most part, it's fairly straightforward though. A is jump, B is boost (when you have the appropriate wisp), and Y is slide/duck. The slightly hidden Z button on the shoulder is used to perform the relevant wisp action, which in these levels was limited to the drilling wisp and the slightly odd laser wisp. How to pull off the drift move around corners is something that no one could really quite suss out on the GC controller. I'm pretty sure the homing attack was relocated back to the A button, having done a lot of flirting with X or B buttons in recent games.

It feels very very similar to Sonic Unleashed Daytime on the 360, which in my book is not even remotely a bad thing. With Sonic 4 providing classic level designs, this game should have no fear in going fully "new-school" on us. A mix of 2D and 3D segments, only there seems to be a bit more of a slant towards the 2D, and these sections tend to last longer too. Challenges are reasonably satisfying, and there are always new twists and turns along the way, as you'll know if you've seen the videos. I was probably most eager to try out the new Wisp moves however. The drill is about as fun as it looks and has Sonic burrowing through the ground at speed, with mechanical moles in hot pursuit. You can burst out of the ground on any side, but there's a certain knack to hitting tube entrances leading out of the sides, and not bouncing off of the edges, which change your direction and force you to loop back through and try again, ever mindful of your meter running out, although this seemed to be quite generous. It's in these kinds of features that the multiple routes and secret areas are apparent. I'm not entirely convinced that the routes available in the game will be too far removed from those of Sonic Unleashed (i.e. quite short and sweet diversions or shortcuts rather than whole other ways through the level), but I think there might just be more of them. At one point, an incorrect route brought me back to an earlier point, similar to the kind of thing seen in Savannah Citadel.

The laser move was a bit more complicated, but rather interesting all the same. A press of the Z button seems to freeze time and has Sonic spinning stationary in the air, during which time you can use the stick to select a direction to point towards, which seemed like a little bit of a slow process to control actually. I thought it would be more intuitive to hold the Z button while you do this but you actually have to press to initiate the move, and then press again to fire Sonic in that direction, as a laser. I guess that's because it's normally triggered by shaking the Wii remote. You can use this to aim at diamond objects that send the laser beam along a particular course, or just point pretty much anywhere, and it'll bounce off of any wall of object until, I presume, the meter runs out. Clever idea that seemed to work quite well and many players used it to get through barrages of enemies as well as reach high points they can't get to by jumping, although I wonder how easy it might be to fall to your death using it over precarious platforms.

There were some slight glitches present in this build. On more than one occasion when players were hopping across grind rails in Tropical Resort, they would accidentally leap from the center rail, over the side one they were aiming for, and straight off to their deaths. Also I noticed in one person's game a hidden spring off to the side of the start of Sweet Mountain that I tried homing in on myself, but a glitch made me fall for some reason, and I should have been able to get to it. The odd slip up now and then is to be expected, but it'd be massively unfortunate if this sort of thing plagued an otherwise very well built, well designed, and creative game. Hopefully this version isn't quite final.

I wish I could say I really enjoyed Sonic Colours more, and I don't think it's the game's fault that I didn't, I think it's more of a mix of having to wait such a long time for it, tiredness, and the fact that these one level playtests don't really give you a full idea of how you really feel about the game. It's only a taster, and as a taster, it turns out the game feels pretty much like I expected it to anyway. I might have enjoyed Tropical Resort more, but something crucial was missing on all of the games I played today - sound. Music and sound effects are so vital to the full Sonic experience. They help colour the level and bring it to life. I know the place was noisy anyway, but just having the volume up a little more would have made quite a difference I think. Still, don't get me wrong, it's a good game and I look forward to it greatly, as should you! Nothing I played today was bad, I just wanted to play more of it!!

Crush 40 Live!

Feeling like I was about to fall over when I started a full walking pace away from the Wii, I sought a place to rest before the day began to wrap up with a live performance by Crush 40! I must say, they were very entertaining, particularly Johnny Gioeli, who was really up for a laugh with the audience, cracking jokes whenever he was on stage throughout the day. He'll take any excuse to spontaneously burst into song. They played most of what you'd expect them to - Open Your Heart, What I'm Made Of, Sonic Heroes and of course Live and Learn, as well as some of their non-Sonic stuff, and the crowd was loving it. Everyone was singing (or, really, shouting) along with every word, with their hands in the air, and it was a pretty special experience for any Sonic fan I think. I took videos but the sound wasn't recorded particularly well, so hopefully good quality vids will emerge on Youtube soon, if they're not there already.



And by about seven, the show was over. I wanted to see if I could sneak another go on Sonic 4, but alas the consoles were turned off before the Crush 40 gig, so no such luck there. I wanted to introduce myself to Kevin Eva/AAUK before I left so he could finally put a face to the name. Understandably he was about as exhausted a man as I'd ever seen in my life, but still very nice, and with that I was pretty much on my way!



I've never really been around other Sonic fans before, not proper ones anyway, so it was wonderful to be around so many others who share a passion that I've struggled to find in other people for so long now. People all around me were discussing the kind of very specific Sonic things I've only seen in text form on forums, just like "normal" people talking about their favourite movies or something, and to me, that was quite a novelty! A truly remarkable day, executed wonderfully by the whole SoS team. Very entertaining indeed. Not flawless - the games would have benefited from more queue control, and I think everyone agreed we needed some air conditioning in there! Still, with only three years in and the most tempting convention activities so far, they can be forgiven for not getting everything just right - that comes with experience. They also confirmed a date for next year's Summer of Sonic - the Saturday after his 20th anniversary! That is going to be huge, and I will no doubt see you there. EVERYONE should come, this time, no matter where you are! ;)
Comments   6 Comments have been posted.
#1. Comment posted by sonictails1189 on Monday, 9th August 2010, 1:28am
Well the whole thing sounds like it was a lot of fun. I'm glad to hear about your experiences with Sonic Colors. Being someone who truly enjoyed Sonic Unleashed, I'm really looking forward to this game. It's too bad about Sonic 4, though. Not really fair to impose the limit on those already playing, but what can you do?

I'm seriously going to consider flying out and attending next year. Hopefully there'll be as much entertainment as was at this one.

A great report, overall. Perhaps you'll find some new visitors to the site now, hopefully making the forums more active (something I haven't exactly been helping to do either, admittedly).

P.S. I'm quite jealous of that Metal Sonic figurine. ;-)
#2. Comment posted by Rubenix on Monday, 9th August 2010, 3:05pm
I too was there and it was really an amazing experience, considering I'm the only one in my circle of friends which likes Sonic the way everyone in this convention did. I enjoyed it a lot! Playing Sonic 4 was amazing! Didn't get a change to play Colours for the Wii (although i did for DS). The only downside about this (and I'm not blaming them) was the merchandise, I was hoping to see a bit more things other than the comics and few figures.

Crush 40 were also awesome to hear. It's always great to hear bands like these live, you're guaranteed a laugh with these people.

All in all, a great experience to have and any Sonic fan should attend this, regardless of how much they like Sonic.
#3. Comment posted by SpeedingHedgehog on Monday, 9th August 2010, 3:31pm
Wish I could've come! And sorry Will Smith cut your playing time short! Colors looks quite fun! As for 4, I'm glad to hear it handles somewhat close to the originals. I'd appreciate the sentiment, though, if SEGA continued to tweak it. Glad to hear the level design is solid, however!
#4. Comment posted by atunderdogk on Wednesday, 11th August 2010, 9:45pm
I enjoyed reading about your first time going to SoS. Although I've always loved Sonic, I've had a real "re-awakening" of my love for the Blue Blur just recently and after going to a few anime conventions here in the U.S. and really enjoying them, I wondered what it would be like to go to Summer of Sonic. I, too, have not really met other fans who have shared my love for Sonic so I can imagine it must have been extremely gratifying to share the experience with so many others. I would really like to go next year but my friends and I are already traveling cross country to one convention next year, about a week after SoS. haha But maybe sooner than later. Make sure you do this again next year. It's a fun read :)
#5. Comment posted by Tristan Seifert on Friday, 3rd September 2010, 5:43am
Wow, that sounds as if it must have been loads of fun! Unfortunately for me, I was unable to get to the UK from this here US, so I was stuck seeing pictures and reading posts like this one. Sonic 4 and Colors seemed like quite some fun, and I kinda decided to change my idea about it. Anyways, do you know of these that happen in the US that I could possibly attend?
#6. Comment posted by BlitzChris on Tuesday, 23rd November 2010, 4:06pm
Wish I could have met you at SoS dude, you have an awesome website! Keep it coming, and maybe I might be able to catchya next year!
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Sonic's latest Wii U outing turns away from the popular and well established speed dashes of recent games, in favour of a more traditional platformer approach. But does it work? Get ready for one of the most different Sonic games in every respect!
We've finally done it! The Zone: 0 guides have reached their last big update. Owner LiQuidShade has new projects on the horizon, but this site will always remain in his heart.