All Sonic: My Attempt To Play Almost Every Sonic Game

21. Tails and the Music Maker

  • Original platform: Sega Pico
  • Where to get: Second hand.

The first thing to talk about with this is the console it appears on: the Sega Pico. This is an “edutainment” device released in 1993. The internals were the same as a Mega Drive, but it featured a drawing pad and a pen, and the cartridges were books. The console can recognise which page you are on, and you can even press parts of the book to activate things in the game. Due to the cost of the device, this one I played via emulation of PicoDrive.

Tails and the Music Maker isn’t so much a game you play from start to finish, but a collection of minigames and activities. The first page features a simple platformer game, across three short levels of a Green Hill Zone that turns more blue for each level. At the top of the screen are instructions for Tails to stop, tip-toe, jump or run. Tails will have to go slow to dodge coconuts and jump to make it over gaps (although if you fall, a spring will launch you back out. Also on this page is a simple game of musical chairs, played against frogs on lily pads.

Page 2 features a pinball game, where hitting instrument icons will cause the sound. Hitting the bell at the top seems to end the game. There’s also a minigame where you have to draw circles around notes. Page 3 features an extremely slow Arkanoid clone where you bounce tails around to break blocks of music.

Page 4 features a matching game. Click on an instrument and it will play the sound of another, click on the right one and they’ll vanish. This one doesn’t work well at all as the sounds don’t sound anything like each instrument, so instead you have to learn the tune played by each instrument. You can also play along (a few notes at a time) to a few nursery rhymes.

The final page features a simple drawing studio. You can click on colours on the book and draw whatever you choose, and add Sonic and Tails from the book as well. You can also visit a music studio and listen to the sounds of each instrument (the same as the ones from the previous game that don’t sound like the instrument) or to the nursery rhymes.

As an “edutainment” title, Tails and the Music Maker seems to be completely lacking on the “educational” side of things. The Pico seems like it’s aimed at slightly older children, whereas the functions of this game – at least the music-related ones – seem similar to most light up electronic keyboard toys that you can get for kids around the age of 1-2, and provide a more tactile feedback. And those ones usually have additional functions to teach colours, numbers and shapes.

22. Sonic Rush

  • Original Platform: DS
  • Where to get: Second hand

The birth of the “boost” gameplay in Sonic games. The big addition to Sonic Rush was the boost and trick system. You gain boost power by destroying enemies and performing tricks after jumping from springs. This makes Sonic Rush an incredibly fast, which feels amazing when it goes smoothly, but unfortunately has its own share of problems.

As this is a DS game, it uses both screens, with Sonic moving between them as though it’s one giant screen. This allows for more vertical movement, which does look great, but also has the side effect on how short the screen is from left to right, which is a major problem when combined with the boost as you have no idea what is coming up until it is too late. And Sonic Rush loves to abuse this flaw with traps, enemies, obstacles and pits. There’s one moment in particular where there’s a long, fast section followed by a “crusher” and a wall. Unless you already know it’s there, you will be crushed and will die.

Get a game over in Sonic Rush and you’ll have to start the act from the beginning, so these unfair traps will lead to a lot of repeating levels, unless you choose to repeat the first few levels to grind lives – it’s an added unnecessary frustration. Thankfully, this doesn’t apply to the boss battles, so you can restart there if you run out of lives.

The bosses in Rush are some of the worst in the franchise. There’s a lot of waiting around for the boss to do something, where they will conduct attacks – some of which takes ages to happen. Some attacks will leave the boss vulnerable for one hit, others will not. And you need 8 hits (although this is reduced to 6 if you select easy mode, which I highly recommend as this is the only change that happens when you select easy). The boss fights take ages due to this, and some attacks can be instant deaths, so you have to start from the beginning. Sonic Rush also introduces a slight change to the rings system of Sonic which becomes very clear with the bosses: the more you get hit, the further your rings will fly, making it harder to collect them.The Casino Night boss is the only fun boss, as it has a spring on it where you can do a carefully timed jump to hit the boss as an optional extra way to cause damage.

While this write-up has been fairly negative, Sonic Rush is still incredibly good fun, combining tricks and boosting works well when it goes smoothly, and I really like the little second jump Sonic can do to reach better routes. The music is also wonderful. I can’t tell what is being sang in some of them, but it’s all incredibly catchy and it will be stuck in your head for days after playing it.

Sonic Rush is more flawed than I originally remember, but there’s still a fun Sonic experience here. I think a modern port would do wonders for it, expanding the screen sideways (but keeping the vertical view as high) would make obstacles far less annoying, and possibly some improvements to the bosses.

23. Sonic Lost World (3DS)

  • Original Platform: 3DS
  • Where to get: 3DS eShop

With lovely graphics, full video cutscenes and voice acting, Sonic Lost World is definitely a visual treat for a 3DS game. I originally reviewed this when it originally came out so I was curious how my feelings for the game had changed.

Playing it again, and I think the controls are an issue as they don’t feel intuitive at all. Running up walls, especially design sideways, feels clunky, and I found myself jumping instead of boosting a few times. The somersault energy attack move also feels like a pointless addition, even if it’s required for some enemies it just doesn’t add to the game, it’s just an additional thing to remember. I do enjoy games with lots of controls to remember (such as Banjo-Kazooie), but they need to be intuitive.

Another change is the homing attack, with a change that sounds nice on paper: you can now target three enemies at once and bounce between them. Unfortunately, you can end up targeting an enemy you don’t want – such as one you passed – and Sonic will fly backwards to hit it. Tapping jump between each enemy worked fine as it was.

The levels in Sonic Lost World 3DS are a mixed bag. A lot aren’t memorable, partly because they all look like floating islands, all in the style of Green Hill Zone. The most memorable levels either have interesting mechanics or are just a nightmare to play. These levels also seem to go on forever. There’s one level set inside a giant juicer and you have to wheel apples into it, which I really enjoyed, but then there’s one where you have to push snowballs which is possibly one of the worst Sonic level’s I’ve played. Some annoying jumps, ice physics and a giant snowman head which chases you the entire level, destroying the snowballs you push around if it touches them.

Wisps return from Sonic Colours (although the story doesn’t acknowledge them at all) and while I loved them in that game, they just don’t work in Lost World 3DS and feel more like a chore to use, the asteroid is slow, floaty and often has bad camera angles while the Quake would work, but uses motion controls that can’t be turned off.

Motion controls also hamper the special stages and a boss fight, as they use 1:1 motion controls, so you have to turn around fully to play them. If you happen to be playing on public transport, you’ll just have to stop playing. The controls actually work well, but they needed to be optional for a handheld system.

Sonic Lost World 3DS isn’t an awful game, it’s just somewhat forgettable. It tries to do some new things and I think with some refinements it could have done well.

24. Sonic Rush Adventure

  • Original Platform: DS
  • Where to get: Second hand

It seems that Dimps listened to all the criticism of Sonic Rush and addressed it for Sonic Rush Adventure. The stages in this are extremely enjoyable and feel like they have the right balance of fun and difficulty. They all seem to take into account the viewport of the screen, with methods to slow Sonic down naturally when needed without it being forced.

They all look fantastic, too, with some great themes (Haunted Ship and Pirate’s Hideout are my favourites) and set pieces, with some amazing music to nod your head to as you play. The levels also use rings or arrows for some parts to direct you, instead of you instantly dying due to not expecting something, and traps that give you time to react. I think the levels in Sonic Rush Adventure may be some of the most fun in the franchise, although there are still a few unexpected pits and parts where you are moving forward without much to do for a couple of moments.

Bosses are also much improved, giving you a lot more opportunities to hit them. They have a health bar and need to be hit far more than in Sonic Rush, but don’t drag on for anywhere near as long. There’s also a good variety as each boss feels quite different to each other.

If that was all there was to say about Sonic Rush Adventure, it would be an outstanding game. Unfortunately, there was one Sonic Rush complaint which should have been ignored: its short length. In order to make Sonic Rush Adventure longer, there’s a lot of padding – I’m sure you spend more time doing the padding than playing the actual game.

A lot of this is navigating between islands using various kinds of boats. You have to draw your route on a map (like The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass) and then play a minigame until you get to your destination. Sometimes you’ll need to do this a couple of times before you get to the next stage. To access the Pirate’s Hideout stage, you have to find three hidden islands (thankfully these have short but sweet Sonic stages on them) to find clues. You can stumble across these early, but Sonic will just ignore the clue and you’ll have to replay it later.

To build each type of ship, you’ll also need materials. These are earned by replaying stages until you have enough, meaning you’ll redo the first few levels multiple times before you progress.

A Sonic Rush Collection that combines Sonic Rush and the actual levels from Sonic Rush Adventure would be wonderful to have.

25. Sonic the Hedgehog Part 1 (Java)

  • Original Platform: Java mobile phones
  • Where to get: Not available, unless you happen to buy an old phone with it installed.

A port of Sonic the Hedgehog to old mobile phones sounds scary, especially when you consider how bad the Game Boy Advance version of Sonic the Hedgehog was. This port has a lot of issues, but completely different ones to the GBA port.

For starters, the game actually runs smoothly, there’s no slowdown at all. The physics also feel correct, and jumps will happen exactly how you would expect. It’s quite impressive to see how well it runs for a game made for pre-smart phones. Some things do seem to be running too quickly. I’m not sure if this is due to a decrease in frames of animation (for things like rings), but it also seems that Sonic’s period of invulnerability after getting hit is also far shorter.

The music sounds a lot more authentic to the Mega Drive version, just of a much lower sound quality. It is also made of smaller segments, so at the end of the unfinished “loop” there will be a slight pause in the music as it starts up again. There are also no sound effects at all, so it’s just the jarring music for you to hear.

The HUD has been altered, looking closer in style to Sonic Advance. As the phones it was designed for have a portrait view, you have the full aspect ratio and the hud elements are above and below the game “screen”. The keypad controls are the biggest issue, as a keypad layout isn’t suited for games, and the jump button is effectively the “up arrow”, situated between the left and right buttons.

One random change to this version is not allowing you to hit Robotnik early in the first boss. Instead of not allowing you to damage him like some versions, it will just count as Sonic being hit and you’ll lose all your rings for trying. The mobile port also only included the first three levels (the remainder were released seperately) and there are no special stages, you are instead awarded Chaos Emeralds for having 50 rings at the end of a stage.

I wouldn’t recommend playing this version at all, but for a java version of Sonic, it’s a little bit better than expected.

26. Sonic X-Treme

  • Original Platform: Saturn/PC (Unreleased)
  • Versions Played: Two prototype builds, fan-made demo level
  • Where to get: N/A

A cancelled Sonic game originally made to be Sonic’s big leap into 3D for the Sega Saturn. Two different versions of these were being designed by different teams, with both of them working themselves to the point of illness to try and get it done. Ultimately, the game was cancelled.

Since then, some prototypes have been found, and a fan has made a level in Unreal Engine, which gives us a taste of what Sonic X-Treme could have been. The simplest build is the “boss engine” one, it’s a simple 3D landscape with 50 rings to collect, and Sonic can jump and spindash. Movement is quite smooth although, due to the camera, you’re always running at a diagonal. The geometry is just some simple hills. It’s a fairly simple “Sonic in 3D”.

The other build is much more interesting as it looked like an extremely unique game, as Sonic can shift gravity by rolling up walls. The prototype features some demo levels, and it’s actually quite good fun to mess around with. It does seem extremely difficult to create levels around it, especially ones that can be followed by a player, as being able to go up walls and change the orientation of the level creates a lot of options.

The demo also features some short “tube” levels, something that did happen in later Sonic games, here shifting the gravity works a lot better as you can see where you need to go clearly. There are also different ground types which make Sonic slow down or go extremely fast and bouncy.

The fan-made demo gives us a look at a potential “level” for this build of Sonic X-Treme could have been like, with the fish eye lens seen in early footage. Navigating this is actually quite easy. It limits rotating the level to just slopes (not hard corners), which means specific paths can be seen. It shows that this gameplay could have worked.

Sonic X-Treme is an interesting part of Sonic’s history, and the development shows that they were trying some unique things with it. It’s hard to say if it could have worked, but perhaps a mixture of tube-like levels and stages where you have to find objects could have worked, even if it’s a bit of departure from the regular “A to B” style of Sonic.

27. Sonic X

  • Original Platform: LeapFrog Leapster
  • Where to get: Second hand

A Sonic game for an educational console called the Leapster, from LeapFrog. This is a simple platforming game with maths puzzles. It takes place across three zones, each with three acts: Station Square, Angel Island and Eggman’s Base. 

Controls are simple: just run and jump. The platforming is very basic and there’s no deaths, and any complicated sections with loops or lots of springs are done automatically. The Math Robot will block your paths and you will have to solve a maths problem to get past him. The game will ask you to find a number, solve a sum, count up or down or complete a sequence (which will be multiples of 2, 5 or 10). Jumping on the wrong number will “hurt” Sonic (no rings will be lost) and the correct number will be highlighted. I accidentally ran into some wrong numbers trying to jump over them.

Every now and then you’ll be whisked into a few minigames, such as Eggman’s Super Sucky Machine, which will ask you to drag a number (or sequence of numbers) into his machine. Other ones have addition and subtraction by tapping on robots to increase or remove them. 

For an educational game aimed at young kids, Sonic X seems like a good game. The maths problems increase as it goes on, and some of the platforming becomes a little bit more involved. The graphics are pretty nice, and the animation is surprisingly smooth.

28. Sonic Generations

  • Original platform: 360/PS3/PC
  • Version played: PC
  • Where to get: Xbox store, PS3 store, Steam

This is still immensely fun to play, an incredible celebration of the main gameplay from classic and modern Sonic games, even if the game pushes all the characters (except Tails and Dr Robotnik) off to the side.

Classic Sonic feels great in this, with absolutely stunning looking levels that utilise the 3D with some great twists and turns to make the levels look more natural and dynamic. Everything feels right in this game. Modern Sonic is also the best iteration of the boost gameplay in Generations.

The levels are all based on previous games which would usually be a complaint, but as this game is a celebration, it makes perfect sense. Stages are a good mix of different themes (although I would have picked a different stage for Sonic Adventure, perhaps Twinkle Park, to avoid three city ones).

The music is absolutely phenomenal, too, with two amazing remixes for each stage (and a really great Casino Night Zone music for a bonus pinball level). There are also lots of challenges to complete (you must complete at least one from each area to progress), and some rival battles, which are really fun bosses.

Sonic Generations is a great celebration with Sonic. It’s a big shame that Sega didn’t take what made it so good – the gameplay and level design – and create a new Sonic game with unique levels out of it.

29. Sonic Blast

  • Original platform: Game Gear
  • Where to get: 3DS eShop, Sonic Adventure DX, Sonic Mega Collection Plus

Honestly, this game feels like a bootleg, every part of it is just horrendous. First of all, there are the graphics, which goes for a “Donkey Kong Country” style of making sprites from a 3D model. But this is running on a Game Gear, which is not made for detailed sprites. The animation is also very limited, so Sonic just looks completely wrong on slopes. The backgrounds are just an ungly mess as well, with little consistency to the style.

The levels are also either boring or frustrating. Due to the graphics, Sonic can’t move fast, so Sonic Blast instead focuses on more maze-like levels, making you guess at where you need to go next. This goes beyond frustrating in the Blue Marine level, which features currents and pipes to go through. You just get thrown about a lot, just hoping that the next pipe will let you progress. The length of time Sonic can hold his breath also changes depending on what part of the level you are on.

The final level features lots of teleports, so it’s trial and error to find your way through it. It’s not fun in the slightest. You don’t even have any nice music to make it bearable, the music in Sonic Blast can be described as “background noise” if you want to be polite. Sonic Blast is just an awful game in every aspect.

30. Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing

  • Original Platform: 360 (with Banjo-Kazooie), PS3, PC
  • Version played: PC
  • Where to get: Steam, Xbox Store, PS3 Store

Going through Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing again brought back some fun memories. I didn’t enjoy Mario Kart Wii, so for me this was the kart racing game that picked up the slack. It’s since been improved upon by Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing Transformed, I still found the original a lot of fun to play.

Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing (which I will just call Sonic Racing from now) is quite clearly a Mario Kart clone, with items and powerslides. It does feel different, with more focus on long, sweeping drifts. It’s hard to explain why exactly, but it does feel more like you’re using cars as opposed to karts.

The items in Sonic Racing aren’t as exciting as in Mario Kart, but at the same time are a lot less frustrating. When you get hit, you slow down a little bit, but not to a standstill. You also have a brief invulnerability period, which means you won’t have moments where you are constantly pelted with weapons. Weapons do feel less tactical, as it’s a lot harder to use them defensively. If you’re lagging behind, you might get an All-Star, an extremely powerful move that lets you rain down destruction on your opponents, working differently for each character.

There are 24 tracks in the game, which come in sets of three of the same theme (three Super Monkey Ball tracks, for example). Sonic gets three sets of tracks: Seaside Hill, Casino Park and Final Fortress. It seems strange to me that all nine Sonic tracks are from Sonic Heroes. On top of that, the Casino Park tracks just feels like a casino level, focusing more on the casino part than on Sonic gimmicks.

If you’re playing on your own, there is also a mission mode, with 64 challenges. These can be driving through gates, winning races, collecting rings, bananas or chaos emeralds or even a couple of boss battles. They’re all good fun, and a few are tricky – although strangely the most difficult ones are the Big the Cat levels.

Sonic Racing is a very fun kart racing game. I’m not sure there’s much reason to play it instead of the sequel, but there is still enjoyment to get out of this.

Continued on Page 4

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