Saturday 31 March 2018

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 - Sega Mega Drive - 1992

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is the inevitable sequel to the first Sonic the Hedgehog game.  Once again it was well received by critics and went on to become 2nd best selling Mega Drive game of all time, beaten only by its predecessor.

The plot is pretty much the same as before.  Dr Ivo Robotnik is again trying his luck at taking over the world by creating an army of robots powered by innocent creatures.  He is using these robots to build a doomsday machine called the Death Egg.  All Robotnik needs to complete his plan are 7 Chaos Emeralds.  It is up to the blue hedgehog to find them first and foil his plans.

The core mechanics of the game are also pretty much unchanged from Sonic 1.  There are ten themed Zones to get through each divided into 'Acts'.

In Sonic 2 you can be accompanied by an anthropomorphic fox named Miles Prower aka 'Tails'.  By default Tails follows Sonic through each zone and is useful for mopping up missed rings.  He also flies by spinning his tail.  Another player can take control of Tails, in which case he just has the same moves as Sonic and cannot fly.  There is also the option to play as either Sonic or Tails alone.  Additionally, the game also features a 2-player split screen competitive mode.  I don't know what it is like on a real Mega Drive, but on the emulator the display looks rather squashed.

You start each game with three lives.  As you go through the levels you need to destroy enemy robots and pick up rings.  You destroy an enemy by spinning into them, which releases the trapped animal within.  If you are hit by an enemy you drop all the rings you are carrying.  If you are hit by an enemy and have no rings you lose a life.  Lives are lost instantly if you are crushed, fall off the screen, drown or exceed the generous time limit.  Extra lives can be picked up during the game or by collecting 100 rings.   Other items that can be picked up include Power Sneakers, Super Rings, temporary invincibility and a one-hit shield.

If you pass one of the Star Post check points while carrying at least 50 rings, you have the option of entering a special stage.  Here the view changes to an 'into the screen' mode where the goal is to collect a certain number of rings whilst avoiding bombs.  Collect the  the required number of rings (this increases with Tails in tow) and you are awarded a Chaos Emerald.

There are seven Chaos Emeralds to collect.  Once you have these you have the ability turn into Super Sonic by gathering a further 50 rings.  This mode turns Sonic yellow and he is invincible with greater acceleration, top speed and jumping abilities.  While in this mode you lose a ring per second and the mode ends once all rings are gone. 

At the end of each zone, Dr Robotnik turns up in a different machine, which you must spin into a number of times to destroy (he always manages to get away).

The music is by the same composer as the original game and is of much same quality.  Graphics, however have been greatly improved - they are of better quality and much faster.  To this end, more of the stages have been designed to take advantage of the extra speed.  A welcome addition is the Super Dash Attack which allows Sonic can reach full speed from a standing start.  I found Sonic the Hedgehog 2 to be harder that the original.  Maybe I need more practice but inertia made it difficult to land on small moving platforms.  It was all too easy for me to fall off the rafts in the Chemical Plant Zone.
****ing moving platforms.  These wouldn't be such a problem Mario game.

It was also too fast for it's own good in places, as you can find yourself bouncing around barely in control.  The Casino Night Zone is appropriate - it's set up like a pinball machine which is sometimes how Sonic 2 feels.  Overall, though, it's a great game and hasn't really dated much at all.

Friday 9 March 2018

Pinball Fantasies - Commodore Amiga - 1992

You wait ages for a good pinball game to come along then two turn up at once.  Pinball Fantasies is the follow up to Pinball Dreams and was released later in the same year.

The game contains four new tables each based around a different theme.  The tables are the same width as the previous game but are a longer and slightly more complex.

Partyland has the theme of a fun fair.
Speed Devils is based on motor sport.
Billion Dollar Gameshow speaks for itself.
Stones 'n Bones is set in a haunted house,

Apart from the new tables and a redesigned scoreboard there is not a lot of difference between the two games.  Everything I've said about Pinball Dreams applies here. 

Saturday 3 March 2018

Pinball Dreams - Commodore Amiga - 1992

Pinball games have been few and far between on my shortlist.  There have been a few 8-bit games which were fairly primitive in both looks and physics.  More recently I've played four games in the 'crush' series.  While good they were designed from the outset as video pinball games and could never be physically recreated.

So, Pinball Dreams is the first such game to be included on my blog.  It was developed by Digital Illusions and originally released in early 1992 for the Commodore Amiga.  It has been ported quite a few times up to and including an HD version for OS X in 2011.

On loading the game the credits appear and it is reassuring to see an entry for 'Realtime Ball Calculations'.

There are four themed tables included in the game - 

  • Ignition is the easiest table and is based around a rocket launch and space exploration.
  • Steel Wheel is based around the railroad and the wild west.
  • Beat Box is themed around the music industry.
  • Nightmare is apparently the hardest table and is based around a haunted graveyard.

Each table is a tad over two screens high and scroll vertically.  They also have their own theme tune playing throughout.  Although decent I found the music overpowered the sound effects, but thankfully they can be switched off.

The controls are responsive with several keys to choose from for the flippers (I chose left and right shift).  The plunger can be controlled by the down arrow or pulling back on the mouse.  The space bar acts as the 'tilt' key although I have never understood why this is always included in video pinball games.

Apart from loading times, the only real criticism I can lay against Pinball Dreams is that the tables look slightly bland and flat.  This is especially so compared against the fantasy 'crush' series, and even against the Space Cadet table that came free with Windows XP.  I suppose the 32 colours the Amiga can display at once doesn't help there.  It is, however, the physics that can make or break a pinball game and in Pinball Dreams they are spot on.