Review by discoinferno84

"It's the Circle of Life..."

It finally happened. After six years of providing years of entertainment for handheld gamers around the world, Sega's Game Gear finally collapsed while its competitors surged past it. The gaming machine has led a good life, allowing its parent company to take on Nintendo's Game Boy, the almighty handheld that reigned supreme around the world. It had a backlit screen, featured wonderfully bright colors and images, and had quite a few games worth playing. On that same token, however, the bulky shape and utterly horrid battery life didn't do the handheld any favors. With 1996 drawing to a close, the Game Gear was on the verge of death. In one last hurrah for their ill-fated system, Sega brought in Sonic the Hedgehog, the character they trusted most to give the handheld a proper sendoff…

Only to fail miserably.

At first glance, Sonic Blast looks exactly what you'd expect from a Sonic game. Sega's furry blue mascot is standing there in all his glory, equipped with a brand-new double jump feature, and ready to take on whatever new challenges that Dr. Robotnik (aka the long-time villain of the series) has laid out for him. The levels all look the same, completely with looping tracks, platforms to reach, pits to jump over, and mechanized enemies to smash. Even the golden rings, which can save Sonic from being killed if they are collected, are all present and accounted for. Indeed, it looks like a typical Sonic game, nothing that you haven't seen before. However, the differences between Sonic Blast and its predecessors will become all too clear once you start playing. Should you try to dash across the open plains of the Green Hill Zone, you'll find that Sonic can no longer move as fast as before; all he can do is move at a mild pace that could have been outmatched in the original Sonic the Hedgehog. Maybe Sonic has finally too far past his prime to maintain his usual speed. Or perhaps his insatiable craving for chilidogs has finally caught up with him. Whatever the reason, our hero is operating far below his normal heroic capacity.

The game tries to save itself by featuring Knuckles as a second playable character. You know, that semi-villainous foe from Triple Trouble and Sonic 3? He's more than willing to step in should you get sick of Sonic's sluggish moves. Like his companion, Knuckles can perform a spin dash attack, which allows him to spin in a single spot and unleash himself as a rolling projectile. He can also use his fists to scale walls and reach areas that are out of Sonic reach. The big draw with Knuckles has always been his ability to float. In Sonic Blast, however, his signature move has been severely cut down; instead of coasting smoothly through the air, he'll plummet like rock after a few seconds. It's not like it really matters, though; most of the levels in this game are too cramped with small rooms, tiny passageways, and pathetic level designs to make any use of Knuckles' abilities. Perhaps Sega thought Tails was too lame or overused of a character to save this half-assed title, but not even the sheer awesomeness of the red echidna can do the game any justice.

Such utterly pathetic gameplay can be attributed to the amount of attention placed on the graphical presentation of the game. In a time where 16-Bit games were highly acclaimed, Sega decided to give Sonic and Knuckles a visual upgrade akin to the characters of Donkey Kong Country. Both heroes appear with highly detailed and shiny coats, giving them a more realistic look than their predecessors. You can see every detail of their incredibly limited movement animations, from Knuckles' spiky hair rustling through the wind, or the blur of red from Sonic's stylish running shoes. Unfortunately, the rest of the game didn't get the same kind of star treatment; the majority of the game looks muddied at best, featuring lava that looks like overcook lasagna, blandly colored flowers, and an poorly rendered terrain. Many of the enemies and hazards look like giant blobs of color instead of fearsome obstacles; even Robotnik looks even stupider than usual.

The Game Gear has come full circle. Its life started with a humble Sonic title, and it finished with one as well. Unlike that first installment, however, Sonic Blast has almost no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Sonic and Knuckles may be available to play, but they are mere husks of the former selves. Sonic is nowhere near as agile or able as he used to be, and Knuckles is aggravatingly useless at best. The level designs are incredibly short, easy, and uninspired, making it a walk in the park for anyone who is foolish enough to give the game a try. The only saving grace comes with the graphics, even if they are terribly flawed. In their zeal to cast their heroes in 16-Bit glory, Sega sacrificed everything else in the process. Thus the Game Gear suffers a terribly painful demise.


Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 01/16/07


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