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Sonic Before the Sequel is a fan made game that aims to fill the story gap between Sonic the Hedgehog and its sequel. It tells the story of how Sonic and Tails came to meet and how they ended up at Emerald Hill Zone together.
In the beginning you play as Sonic who has just been warped to a distant land by his recently acquired Chaos Emeralds. This first level is called Hilltop Heights Zone and is heavily reminiscent of Sky Sanctuary Zone from Sonic & Knuckles. Right from the beginning it is clear that this game has been developed with a great love for the series.
The gameplay is just as simple as in any other 2D Sonic game and the traits you associate with the originals, such as springs and ring boxes, are all present and correct. Collecting a life plays the same familiar tune but with a mesmerizing orchestral twist. Invincibility boxes also return and strangely seem to last a lot longer than in any other Sonic game.
Graphically the game is just as beautiful as the original and the music for the first three Zones are excellent remixes of the theme for Green Hill Zone. Some impressive weather effects have also been thrown in, with a well animated shower of rain just a few minutes into the game.
The most interesting level starring Sonic is Titanic Tower Zone. It has an upbeat disco soundtrack and features a night time cityscape. Throughout the level you find switches that turn off most of the lights, meaning you can only see Sonic and a few remaining lights on the platforms. During this time you have to navigate your way around the environment using only these small hints of light until you can find a switch to turn all the lights on again.
Fortress Flow Zone is another noteworthy level for Sonic. Here Sonic is constantly stuck in a bubble and blown around all over the place by large fans. Mechanically it almost feels like Labyrinth Zone from the original Sonic the Hedgehog, but instead of being restricted by underwater currents you are pulled around by movement in the air. This is most noticeable during sections that see you trying to bypass spikes as you float inexorably in one direction.
Some levels allow you to play as Tails who can fly and swim just the same as ever. Indeed, it“s only when you start to play as Tails, and utilise his flying ability, that you realise just how open ended the game is. There are many alternate routes to take and depending on where you go you will find completely different obstacles and Badniks. Some of the traps are really clever, with my favourite one being in Star Shores Zone. Here you will often come across little floating cotton balls with eyes, and if you touch one the screen will start to ripple and change colour as though Tails had just smoked something that he shouldn“t have.
Lost Levels Zone, in which you play as Tails, is perhaps my favourite level, not least because it contains small turtle Badniks that squeal ”Hadoken“ as they fire blue flames at you. This level also features a wonderful soundtrack and contains a wide variety of scenery between it“s three Acts. The first Act is based on Mystic Cave Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog 2, the second Act is set in a jungle and the third Act seems to switch sporadically between icy and volcanic rock.
The game also has some excellent boss battles. Sonic always fights Robotnik, whereas Tails fights a robotic minion instead. Sonic“s best boss battle has to be his final tussle with Robotnik which has two phases and takes much inspiration from his struggles towards the end of Sonic & Knuckles. The highlight for Tails takes place in a small loop where you have to avoid projectiles, kind of like the battle with Robotnik at the end of Casino Nights Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
At the end of every third Act you are given access to a Special Stage. During these stages the screen chases you while you try to collect as many rings as possible in order to gain extra lives.
The only complaints I have about the game are that the movement can be a little sluggish at times and there are some obvious glitches. These issues are far from major however, and never really impact on the game“s overall playability.
There are an astonishing twelve Zones in total, most of which contain three Acts; this amounts to at least five hours of gameplay. If you are a fan of Sonic the Hedgehog you should definitely give this a try.
Download it here: http://sites.google.com/site/sonicbts/
After a recent experience playing free MMORPG Grand Fantasia I was inspired to start this blog in which I will write reviews of free games that many may not have heard of and prove that you don“t have to spend a fortune to appreciate gaming in all its glory. I hope you enjoy my first entry.
It was 5pm when I started playing Grand Fantasia. It was the first time I had ever played an MMORPG and I wasn“t entirely sure what to expect. I wandered around clueless for a while as I tried to get used to the game's various systems and locations. As I was hunting down some giant caterpillars for a quest granted to me by an NPC, I was suddenly approached by another player. A speech bubble appeared above her head with a friendly greeting, I said hello and she asked me if I wanted to join her so we could tackle some quests together. I followed her to an island where we came upon a large pile of shells next to a sign which warned that there was a dangerous monster near by. I asked my new acquaintance if she knew where it was and she said that I needed to lure it out with some fish. I looked around and asked if she knew where to find them, after which she guided me to an NPC who had the necessary items. With the fish in tow we were now able to lure out the giant crab monster and take it down in a short battle which almost got us both killed.
After leaving the island she revealed to me that she had a second character account. Before I knew it she had changed into a character at around twice my level. In this form she took me for a tour around the world, determined to help me level up. I tagged along knowing nothing of what I was about experience.
One of the first enemies that struck me was a large bird resembling a chocobo, of Final Fantasy fame. I told her my thoughts on the bird and she then proceeded to show me some of the creatures that she could ride. Firstly appeared one of the chocobo-like birds, secondly some sort rhinoceros and lastly a different kind of bird. Until then I didn“t even know that you could ride animals.
One of the best memories I have of that day was our journey to Sprites' Forest. I told her I thought it looked beautiful and she wholeheartedly agreed. The enemies however were very powerful, she warned me to be careful when I fought them and protected me every step of the way. At one point I was killed and when I was able to relocate her I apologised profusely; she said it was her fault and told me it was ok. Later on I got into a scrape with a giant tree alone and was almost dead when I defeated it. The girl said sorry for not aiding me in the battle, I told her it was fine and she smiled. Soon after she took me to a lizard infested land where she told me not to fight and to stay close to her. She took me to a secluded spot where the lizards couldn“t harm us. At this point we took a rest and started discussing anime TV series”.
Throughout our journey she had to take occasional intervals and she would always seek me out every time she came back. During my time with her I gained many levels and she showed me where I could get new equipment and upgrade my character class. By the time I finished playing it was 4am the next day.
That night got me thinking; could I have had this same adventure offline? The simple answer is no. If I was playing any of the console RPGs that I am so accustom to, Final Fantasy for example, then I never would have had such a personal experience. Offline RPGs are full of NPCs; if I didn“t know how to get somewhere in a Final Fantasy game no one would be there to guide me; the characters would just spout the same old drivel over and over again. If my allies in Star Ocean failed to protect me when I was dying they wouldn“t apologise, they“d just stare at me blankly as I yelled at the screen. If I commented on the beauty of a scene in Dragon Quest, the characters wouldn“t even bat an eyelid. I“d also be very shocked if someone in Fable starting talking to me about anime. Don“t get me wrong I love all of these game series”, my point is simply that they lack a certain human element. I didn“t stay up until 4am because I was addicted to the game, I did it because I had developed such a strong bond with a kind stranger. Such relationships could never be formed with an NPC because they simply do what they“ve been programmed to do; they aren“t capable of altruism or free thought. I will always prefer offline gaming but as a newcomer to online gaming I was taken aback by what I experienced and can safely say that Grand Fantasia won“t be the last MMORPG I will play.
Download Grand Fantasia here.