Is Sonic more than just speed?

I've been pretty busy with Uni lately, and my first proper assignment was to write a review of a game. Naturally, I went for Sonic the Hedgehog 2006, partly because I had a lot to say about it as a gamer and a Sonic fan, but whilst reviewing the game I put a lot of thought into analysing Sonic's 2D and 3D gameplay, and how Sonic has changed over the years.

The older 2D Sonic games were like a race, as you ran through levels as quickly as you could, searching for the best route that offered the most lucrative rewards. However, like most traditional racing games, speed is only half of the gameplay equation. If you compare the MegaDrive Sonic games with newer 2D Sonic games like Sonic Rush and Sonic Rush Adventure, it is quite obvious that a newer generation Sonic has a focus on speed, whereas the older generation Sonic included a lot of slower platform elements. The sense of speed felt more realistic, in terms of real world physics, in that Sonic would have to build up his speed and never ran so fast he would go skidding off the side of the camera, although that was known to happen occasionally.

My point is that Sonic is more than just speed, but it is his speed that gives him the appearance of being cool and thus proves popular with gamers and obviously younger gamers. The original Sonic Adventure was fairly close at recreating Sonic's gameplay in a 3D world; expansive areas to be explored combined with speed segments, but as time has gone by, Sonic has become more and more about speed, and those other traditional elements such as combat and platforming have been relegated to other characters introduced to the Sonic universe, and in the case of Sonic Unleashed, a slowed down alter-ego. Now, most gamers see Sonic as being speed himself, and a Sonic game without that speed is not a Sonic game. But is a Sonic game without combat and platforming elements, as introduced by the Warehog in Sonic Unleashed, a Sonic game either?

Many reviews I have read about Sonic Unleashed have complained that the daytime stages are fantastic, but the Warehog levels bring it down. Would a Sonic game with just daytime stages really be a good Sonic game? How could both of those elements be combined without slowing Sonic down? I don't think they could be, and that the only solution would be to divide the gameplay and make the platforming sections more varied and entertaining, or to slow down Sonic enough so that he could take part in precision platforming and combat. I really do think that, whilst a lot of critics have complained that the Warehog stages bring down the pace of the daytime levels, if the game was purely just daytime stages, then Sonic Unleashed would be quite boring and incredibly short.

I have yet to play Sonic Unleashed (It is released tomorrow in the UK, so I imagine I will have something to finally say about it within the coming weeks) but I'm really interested to see how the sense of speed plays out, if the Warehog stages are really as boring as people have been saying, or if they are reminiscent of the older MegaDrive classics. More than that, I want to ask myself the question: could the daytime stages hold up on their own?

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Uni Life: I has it!

I said I was going to use this blog to record my life at university on a games design degree, posting about my experiences and thoughts on game design as well.

The fact I haven't yet is testament to how much university has affected my life, how busy I have been, and how much fun I have been having.

I'm now on week 5 or 6, it's gone by so quickly I'm not even 100% sure. I've taken part in a variety of activities, some curricular, some extra-curricular, made some fantastic friends already, and our little group, as I like to call it, have been making many plans involving websites and possibly gaming societies. Besides doing the studying thing, I had the opportunity this week to take part in a university sponsored event where high school kids were introduced to game design and programming workshops and then a presentation by three local game industry professionals, all three representing different branches of the games industry; art, programming and design. Their talks were really interesting, but the volunteers and staff had a chance to mingle and talk to them afterwards. I say talk, I didn't really ask them anything, as it was far more fascinating to hear their opinions on the industry, what games they like, what they think are the current trends and what is important, etc.

I think it was that event in particular that made me think "Oooh, I'm not just studying games for fun, I'm doing this to enter the games industry, and actually, it's very interesting industry at that!" and it fired my enthusiasm as never before.

This weekend I will also be taking part in a small event working as a tester for another local game company, which I'm really looking forward to as it will be a invaluable experience, no matter how short it is. There is someone on our course who managed to arrange this opportunity for a few of us that works there as a tester full time, whilst also juggling assignments. I don't think I could do that myself, but his dedication will definitely provide him with a bucket load of experience.

Me, I feel like I've been whisked away to a fantasy land where the clouds are made of candy floss and gold falls from the sky! The only downside to loving university as much as I do right now is that I'm finding it hard to find time to play all these games that I've spent my student money on! ;)

But the best experience of all this has been the friends I have made. Without them, it would not be as much fun.

I'm kinda glad I didn't sign on at the gym though, because I would have totally given up on it by now. I may need it next year though, I've already eaten enough pizza to last the semester.

I will try and post more about games design, later, when I've played more Fable 2.

Need moar Fable!!

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