Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Sonic & Knuckles (Mega Drive / Genesis review)

Developer: Sonic Team
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1994

Sonic & Knuckles is a platform game and the sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (1994, Mega Drive).

Your job is to protect Floating Island and stop Dr. Robotnik from stealing the Master Emerald. Sonic can Spin Attack in the air, while Knuckles can glide and climb walls, and power-ups are available in the form of a Water Shield (lets you breathe underwater), Lightning Shield (automatically attracts rings) and a Flame Shield (protects you against fire). What's most pleasing is how this game harkens back to the original in terms of mixing pure speed with methodical platforming; sure, there are Zones such as Mushroom Hill that feature plenty of fast-paced action, but Sky Sanctuary, Death Egg and Sandopolis force you to take a more deliberate approach, especially the latter where you push blocks to create moving platforms. The exquisite level design features sprawling locales with multiple routes, and some of the additions really help to spice up the gameplay, such as Death Egg Zone Act 2 where gravity is reversed! To keep things fresh, the Zones don't always feature similar themes throughout both acts, as Sandopolis Act 1 takes place in the desert, while Act 2 takes place inside a pyramid. As fun as the levels are, it does feel that the most unique and varied ones were used for Sonic 3, and the rest were leftovers for this game. However, if you play as Knuckles, the level design changes slightly which warrants another play-through. Plus, you can lock the cartridge onto Sonic 2, allowing you to play as Knuckles... a genius idea! The bosses pose little challenge, but they're really imaginative and it's a trip to see the original Green Hill Zone boss appear with Metal Sonic in command!
Sonic & Knuckles is a terrific platformer and while the level design isn't quite as interesting as Sonic the Hedgehog 3 it's still an absolute blast to play. Its perfect balance of speed and slow-paced action makes for some varied gameplay that never gets old, and the ability to lock-on to previous titles is an inspired addition.
Random trivia: The cartridge can also be locked-on to Sonic the Hedgehog 3 so you can experience the entire game in its original, intended form.

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