Amazing open world action with Big the Cat.
I love how many different zones and areas and callbacks there are. I love the little details like linking up the end of Speed Highway with the City Hall building in Station Square (which of course are meant to be the same building), or making sure the railway line from Mystic Ruins eventually reaches Station Square. I love its *ahem* bigness and amount of effort.
Overall, a lot of fun, very exploration focused, but so many great little moments as you pick up on one detail after another.
It isn't without its faults, but I have never felt closer in a game to what a 3d Sonic experience should have been until playing this demo. The physics feel great, the speed actually feels well earned and controllable rather than being assigned to a particular gamepad button, even the badniks actually present genuine threats that you have to think tactically to manage
Actually the most striking moment for me in this game was so simple, I was running down a hill into a valley, feeling the way the momentum was carrying me up the other end, then realising I was being chased by a motobug nipping at my heels and only just managing to outrun it, it was a sublime few seconds where everything about the game just felt perfect... thanks for that, really :)
I have never managed to play a 3d Sonic game since completely giving up on them figuring it out after being bitterly disappointed Sonic Adventure 2, in fact the rest of this review is going to be mainly directed at SEGA and how they did everything wrong and led everyone astray for 20 years.
There has never been any sense of freedom in 3d Sonic. You are going to run down this corridor, then jump on this spring, then bounce of these two badniks onto a rail that leads to another spring, and if you miss any of that, the game is going to kill you with a pit of death because the designer does not want you to go that way. This fan game goes a long way towards mitigating that feeling, the basic mechanics of level traversal are all pretty much the same, but there is enough variety in the routes that you can even end up wondering if you are going in the right direction - which is a breath of fresh air for a series that has never managed to break free from its linear two dimensional origins.
Actually Sonic's pits of death really are a crime against gamers and have become so abused over the years that the only right thing to do now is to banish them from existence forever. In the 16-bit Sonic games, they always existed but were used very sparingly and tactfully, in secret or alternative challenge routes, or in later levels in order to amp up the tension or challenge, and they often existed for a logical reason, eg you are actually on a flying fortress at 20,000 ft. Even Hill top zone only has a couple token ones as if to make a point that it's a long way down if you fall off the gondolas. In 3d Sonic, they exist because the designers hate you and need to keep you in a box. If you accidentally fall off into the sea at the beach, you instantly die a horrible death. It starts unapologetically at the first level Emerald Coast, and only gets worse from there.
This game still has a few moments like that because all Sonic games do, but despite that it shows signs that the author took a deep look introspectively and though to them self "does this mechanic actually do anything for the game?" if you miss a jump on the first level, you might fall down a waterfall to a lower area, or an updraft will save you from a precarious edge, and with no lives to speak of the worst consequence is you go back to a checkpoint if you really fall way off the edge. There were several moments in the first level where I thought "Oh No", then shortly after realised I was actually safe. It was a nice feeling not having to be yanked back to the last checkpoint for making a mistake.
In an ideal world, the perfect Sonic game would be like Zelda, where if you fall off a cliff and die, it is more than likely because you were pushing your luck too far. Zelda doesn't actively try and kill you for getting it wrong. You even have a parachute so you can potentially survive any fall. When you die, it's really on you, and because of that, the game never once feels unfair. Even if you argue you need some way to limit the play area and water is the only way, well Zelda boxes you in with water, but you really have to wilfully swim out to sea before you actually risk drowning yourself. Sonic still won't even sodding learn how to swim, grrr
The controls in 3d Sonic have also always been wildly unpredictable and suicide inducing. The homing attack is on the same button as the jump attack, so you always eventually end up homing in on something when you didn't want to and falling haplessly into the abyss. In 16-bit Sonic, you feel safe when you press the jump button because it does exactly what you expect it to do and you are always in complete fine control , in 3d Sonic, you never have any idea what the hell is going to happen because you are at the mercy of what the physics engine is guessing you want to do. The homing attack itself is pretty much a necessary evil because it is much harder to aim in a 3d perspective, but 3d Sonic has always suffered from combining both actions on a single button. Meanwhile the Y button is always wasted on the silly "lightspeed dash", which can only home in on rings, and only then when you are directly facing them from 2 inches away.
It's good that there are a variety of moves, but the way they are executed by the player has never had any kind of hard, brutal revision. No one at SEGA has ever stepped back and taken an executive decision to straighten it out into something that feels intuitive. Just the simple refinement of separating those actions into clear unambiguous "jump" "dash" and "attack" commands would be completely game changing. You have to get the simple things right SEGA before you start adding stuff on top! (oh who am I talking to I'm pretty sure they aren't listening)
Those are really the only faults I can find in this game. They are all features copied directly from the 3d Sonic design precedent example set by SEGA, so there is really no way I can fault the developer, but because this game just feels so damn good to play when things are going right, as a direct result of the fact that it does certain very important and crucial things its own way, then it is all the more frustrating that it has to be weighed down by the very same imperfect gameplay mechanics that have dogged the 3d Sonic games since the Dreamcast days.
But it is so, so close to getting it right, that I really genuinely have some hope again. I hope no one reads this review and finds it too negative - there are so many things about this fan-game that I love and have dreamed about, I am just really going for the jugular on the facets of the game that I think SEGA themselves have never gotten right.
The graphics are not great, being inconsistent (example: Underground Zone's spikes compared to Sonic, and Sonic's sprites in general.) and just too blurry looking. Games like Earthworm Jim or Aladdin at least polished up the sprites a bit to look better and not have white dots everywhere like here. The scaling of assets can be inconsistent too. The music remixes doesn't really fit the levels as they're too energetic or so for them, however the game plays very well. The fact it runs at 30 FPS often is odd as a 3D game like TF2 would also run at around 30 FPS on this laptop. Ultimately, it's a good fangame with poor hand-drawn graphics and odd choices of music. Mega-Drive style renditions of the S2 8-Bit music would have worked far better here.
Amazing proof of concept of a new and modernized version of Sonic Riders, which promises stage builders for the fans entertainment and more content ports from both zero gravity and the OG game.
Plays smoothly and responsively, very similar to the first game (maybe somewhat faster?) bringing analog based tricks back and the air meter with some tweaks and qof changes, like boost holding. As its only a demo is hard to describe what should be worked on and what should not, as its easy to step over irrelevant or known information, but these are the only main issues i had with this game: - Side Jumping Ramps (Like the ones in metal city and Sand Ruins) can lead to weird undesirable angles rather than fixed jumps. specially notable when aiming to grind spots and flight rings. - Frustum and Collision Culling in this game works very sloppily. The game thinks it should unload things that are still on camera view, creating flashing models coming in and out of existence, including some characteristics of the main characters and the scenario behind the camera, and worse when the camera is inside a non collision based object.
and that's pretty much it. everything looks and feels gorgeous. the basics look solid, lets see how far it reaches in content!
Man this sure did bring me back ... Good job, guys! Please take all the time you need on this project, health comes first, No matter what randos can say out in the internet!! Wish you the best in further development. Cya!
I have been playing the first part for 10 years and I am very happy that it finally has a sequel.
Not long ago I finished it and it seems very well done, however sometimes I notice a bug that does not want to jump and unexpected closings.
Anyway, a great sequel.