Tag Archives: Platformer

Review – Sonic Mania

There is no sound more terrifying, more nightmarish, than the countdown that signifies the final five seconds before Sonic the Hedgehog drowns. It has haunted gamers since 1991, when they first found themselves in the depths of the Labyrinth Zone; an underwater maze cleaved into the decaying ruins of an ancient civilisation, where glittering crystal stalactites hung from the ceiling and spears leapt from the stairs. Players loathed this level, still do to this day, which makes one wonder why Sega included such a level in every subsequent 2D Sonic game. The one in Sonic Mania is Hydrocity Zone, from Sonic 3, a better level set in a stone reservoir with an underground waterpark beneath it. But “better” is a relative term. That countdown hasn’t changed.

Since Sonic has become such a laughing stock, it can be difficult to believe that the blue hedgehog once rivalled Mario as the definitive video game mascot. This was in a gentler time, when video games were basically all 2D side-scrolling platformers, and the home console war was between Nintendo and Sega, and both companies only made games. But it was a time I grew up in. It was a time I adored. My childhood was 16-bit; Sonic’s games, as far as I was concerned, were masterpieces. Sonic Mania, then, is a game aimed directly at me, and at people like me, for whom the word “SEGA”, bellowed at a game’s start screen, had roughly the same impact as the words “I finished” might have to a twenty-something. Satisfaction. Pride. Bliss.

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Completed #5 – Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a game about family, about love, about trust, teamwork and companionship. It’s also a game – if you go out of your way to unlock all the achievements – about being a fucking psychopath. This is one of the many things I love about Brothers, which is the kind of perfectly-pitched experience that is novel, creative, and far too expensive for most people to bother playing it.

Luckily, though, Brothers was one of the titles used to pad out Microsoft’s new subscription service, Xbox Games Pass, and at only a couple of hours long it’s the perfect fit. Now you can play a wonderful game for nothing, and not have to waste your time bitching on forums about the price.

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Completed #4 – Giana Sisters: Dream Runners

Ugh.

This isn’t very good. It isn’t a very good game, and it isn’t a very good experience for an achievement hunter, despite being quick and relatively easy, depending on how the game’s randomness is feeling at the time. It took me under an hour, which is the quickest I’ve ever done it, and it still frustrated me a great deal. These are the sacrifices I make so you don’t have to, I guess.

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Completed #1 – 6180 the Moon

Oh, hey, you’ve heard about the Ready, Steady, Cut! Gamerscore Challenge, haven’t you?

I hope so, because if not this isn’t going to make much sense to you.

Either way, welcome to the first instalment of “Completed”, the creatively-titled series where I write a bit of bullshit about each of the games I beat to 100% throughout this challenge. These aren’t reviews, by the way; think of them more as little diary entries, each one chronicling what it was like to play this particular game for this particular reason. It sounds like a load of rubbish, and it probably is, but the whole point of this challenge was to find ways of looking at games in interesting ways – particularly ones which ordinarily wouldn’t be that interesting to talk about.

Which brings me neatly to 6180 the Moon.

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Review – Stacking

I’m a gleeful inhabitant of Stacking’s imaginative, alluring world. I have a childlike exuberance for charming design, and Tim Schafer’s industrial-era marriage of matryoshka dolls and modernized adventure gameplay is nothing if not full-to-the-brim with the exact kind of charm I love. It’s a wondrous experience which offers a few, focused hours of great ideas rather than a sprawling opus tarred by the brush of repetition.

At its most fundamental level, Stacking provides a more accessible, less esoteric rejuvenation of the old-school point-and-click adventuring formula. In a broader sense, it succeeds so completely because it can take serious social issues such as the Great Depression and child labour, and present them as a whimsical, off-beat narrative premise while giving the player free-reign to explore the various humorous scenarios it creates.

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Review – Never Alone

Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write: Never Alone is a video game based on indigenous Alaskan folklore, developed in conjunction with the Cook Inlet Tribal Council – a non-profit organization comprised of genuine natives who seek to share, celebrate and extend their culture through folkloric intergenerational stories.

That, in and of itself, is worthy of admiration and praise. Very few games are created with the express purpose of opening people’s eyes to another, often unexplored culture, and still fewer which allow those who exist in that culture to speak to you directly with a generations-old voice. So for all Never Alone’s faults as an actual game, the philosophy behind it and the care and respect with which it handles its subject matter elevates its artistic merit and cultural value significantly.

It’s still not a very good game though.

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