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/