Friday 26 February 2016

Sonic 3D Blast (Mega Drive / Genesis review)

Developer: Traveller's Tales, Sonic Team
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1996

Sonic 3D Blast is an action-platformer that was released in Europe as Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island. 

Your job is to free birds called Flickies and stop Dr. Robotnik from using them to locate the Chaos Emeralds. The game adopts a 2.5D isometric viewpoint and the objective in each level is to destroy bad guys, collect the birds they drop and then transport them to the Dimension Ring. Your attacks are a jump and a Spin Dash but you can also collect a Gold Shield to home in on enemies. The gameplay is more slower-paced than a regular Sonic game as you're encouraged to explore every part of the environment. This involves bouncing on springs, running through loop-de-loops and using fun location-specific abilities, such as in Rusty Ruin Zone where Sonic spins like a ballerina to break down barriers! I also like that certain items can only be collected if you have enough birds to reach a specific height when bouncing on a spring. The maps are the perfect size and give players just enough to see without overwhelming them. After a while though the repetitive gameplay does start to wear thin and later zones task you with making precise jumps which show the limitations of the isometric viewpoint in terms of judging spatial distances. A few of the locations are weak too, such as Spring Stadium Zone which has tons of objects that bounce you around uncontrollably. The bosses are decent but are a breeze once you know their pattern. In the third-person Bonus Stages your job is collect a certain number of rings while jumping over spikes; the pseudo 3D look could easily be mistaken for an early PS1 title and the action is impressively smooth. Musically and graphically the game is great but I did notice some clipping.

Sonic 3D Blast might not be everyone's cup of tea but it's an interesting spin-off that plays much better than people give it credit for. Sure, the level design could have been more adventurous but it's still a solid title and there's plenty of fun to be had with its unique brand of exploratory gameplay.
Random trivia: The game was also released on the Sega Saturn (1996) and Microsoft Windows (1997).

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