Format reviewed: Game Gear
Submitted by: John Delaney
This game is dreadful.
If you haven't played this game, I'm just getting that out of the way immediately. That's about as fast as it became obvious to those of us that have played it.
Coming very late in the Game Gear's life, it's admittedly something of a technical achievement. Featuring rendered graphics similar to those of Donkey Kong Country, but on an 8-bit handheld, is something the game can be proud of. Obviously they're nowhere near the standard of the SNES game's, and there are barely any animation frames, but it does look good enough standing still.
That's the end of the good stuff. Actually pressing Start brings on the bad stuff. The level design is linear and dull, but you won't be seeing any of it. That's because the camera is zoomed right in – in technical terms, the screen is about four Sonics tall by eight wide – making it almost impossible to see where you're going. So, in that sense, the plain level layout's really something of a blessing. The levels are very short too. Presumably due to limitations imposed by the rendering, most of the game sprites aside from Sonic & Knuckles themselves are tiny, which can make them hard to see. The baddies are microscopic. The controls are a bit slidey and movement can be imprecise, which doesn't help. Hit detection on bosses can also be iffy, and many of them – especially the last one – are difficult enough as it is without having to worry about that. Playing as either Sonic or Knuckles, there aren't any major differences; Knuckles can glide, obviously, while Sonic has suddenly learned a double-jump, but the levels are so linear that neither makes any difference.
Overall, the game isn't rendered unplayable by these faults, but it is unbelievably boring. It was one of the last releases for the Game Gear, and it’s certainly a good example of what the system could have been capable of; it’s just a massive shame they couldn’t stick a good game in there too. That would have left a far greater legacy.