Friday 13 May 2011

Sonic Labyrinth

And this time lets hope Blogger doesn't break down!

Stupid ideas regarding the Sonic series is nothing new. Before the gun crime, bestiality and god-awful dialogue plagued Sega's top dog there was Sonic Labyrinth for the Sega Game Gear. Take Sonic's speed away from him and put him in a maze. Of course it will sell!

The problem is Sonic the Hedgehog is that it's a franchise that sells. And so rather than come up with a true successor to Sonic & Knuckles we're treated with a mountain of dross that drags the series down, of which I then spend my days ranting about. The frightening thing is that 1995's Sonic Labyrinth wasn't the first bad Sonic game to make it to retail - 1994 saw Sonic Drift, the shoddy attempt at a racing game park itself on Japanese Game Gears, and I suppose you could pinpoint the first dodgy Sonic game on 1991's Sonic Eraser - the second Sonic the Hedgehog game ever. Why we have high expectations for a series that's delivered twenty years of duds is beyond me.

Sonic Labyrinth prides itself on the fact that the hedgehog can no longer run, and even though this is an absurd direction to go in, it's still not in my top ten of stupid Sonic-related decisions. Labyrinth is an isometric game, in which Sonic has to collect keys to move on in life, wiping out badniks with his spin dash move and avoiding deadly traps within a set time limit. Basically it's Sonic 3D: Flickies Island delivered as a less tolerable package.

I suppose you can't complain about a franchise trying to be innovative, even if it's not necessary to do so (hi Wii fans). There's no doubt it's a fairly solid Game Gear game in the sense that it's not poorly built, it's just a case of an experiment which despite the fact it hasn't really worked, ended up in public Game Gears for entertainment on the go.

A lack of running means you're heavily reliant on the spin dash move, and coupled with little precision and limited viewing scope means you're always in danger of being launched at high speeds in the wrong direction. I felt better after renaming the game "Sonic Crazy Golf", though even the most watered down versions of golf give the player more control than this.

You typically have to collect a handful of keys, some of which are dotted around the level, others housed in badniks, which then open doors for you to progress. There are more pinball-like obstacles scattered around the levels than actual traps, and all these seek to do is let the computer take control of your life, knocking you off course and generally getting in the way. It's almost forcing you not to use the spin dash move at all.

But not using the spin dash will mean Sonic will walk at a snail's pace around levels, so there's every incentive to roll around like an idiot just to keep things interesting. It's a game that demands patience, which is ironic seeing as it contains a character who's famous for being the opposite. Can't have that sort of attitude on the Game Gear!

It's not a game I can really criticise from a graphical perspective, and even though it doesn't have any memorable melodies it's no worse than the majority of the Game Gear (and Master System's) sound library. It's just a very average and dated game, with a stupid premise and the sole aim to con unsuspecting customers riding on that mid-1990s Sonic wave. But again, there's no denying there are worse Sonic games out there, so it's really a mixed bag.

Overall Sonic Labyrinth possibly isn't as bad as it's made out to be. If you take into account its age and think of it more as a golf simulator, you might have better times, though you might have even better times if you're not a fan of Sonic at all. It won't be worth the price it'll inevitably retail at under the Nintendo 3DS regime, but at least it's prettier than what the Game Boy was offering.

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