30 Games Of April – Day 15

Sonic The Hedgehog
Factfile
Developed by:Sonic Team
Published by:Sega
Released:1991
Format played:Megadrive



Sonic The Hedgehog is rubbish. There, I said it.

It’s not that it doesn’t have it’s good points. It certainly looks great. Sonic himself is as recognisable as they come, the Green Hill Zone has passed into gaming lore whilst levels are packed with features and incidental details.

It sounds great too. From the opening “Sega” to the catchy title music, the beat that sets Sonic on his way and the jingle whenever he loses coins. They all hit just the right note.

So what’s the problem? Well frankly it plays like a dog. I’m not breaking any new ground here but Sonic is based around speed. The little fella positively zips around the levels, often getting caught up in a loop or tunnel section that sends him whizzing along even faster. Indeed I remember watching bemused when Sonic 2 came out and there were news reports of players competing to finish the thing in the shortest time. You completed this game you spent the best part of £40 on in an hour? Bully for you.

But I just don’t get it. The first time you go through one of the loop the loops it is genuinely thrilling but the effect soon wears off. You run along a bit, jump over a pointless boulder, cross a rope bridge, fall off some disintegrating platform and smash into some spikes and die. Next time you run along a bit, jump over a pointless boulder, cross a rope bridge, fall off some disintegrating boulders, manage to avoid the spikes, get sucked into a tunnel, jump into the air and…oh, that’s the end of the level. On to the next one then and it’s more of the same, only this time you get your timing wrong crossing the bridge, bump into a fish and lose your coins. Or fall off a disintegrating ledge, can’t see where you are going, fall onto some spikes and die. Or leap off a giant spring, miss out half the level, can’t see where you are landing, fall onto some spikes and die. Or maybe even run along, get sucked through a tunnel getting whipped along at breakneck speed only to crash into a buffer that sends you shooting back along the bit of level you just came from where you promptly smash into a crab, lose your coins and die. Leaps of faith, spikes that appear out of nowhere, collapsing ledges that look like normal ledges until you step on them that drop you into lava or onto spikes. What is this, Rick Dangerous?

Perhaps I’m playing it wrong. Perhaps I should slow down a bit, take in what the level has to offer, seek out some of the secrets and explore. But the actual platforming bit is ropy at best. Sonic is designed for speed, he lacks the polished movement of Mario, making jumps harder and more annoying that they should be. Plus when you slow down, levels aren’t all that interesting. This is clearly a game designed to be played at speed, rewarding those players who memorise its routines and layouts, allowing you to almost combo your way through from jump to loop to tunnel. But then you just miss half the game. What’s the point in that?

I might be stomping on people’s childhood memories here but so be it. I grew up on a diet of diverse, in depth gaming experiences via the Amiga. By contrast coming to this as an adult, it feels shallow and annoying.

Still, my kids love it.

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