Yesterday, Sega officially revealed ‘Project Needlemouse’ to be Sonic the Hedgehog 4. Coming to PSN, Xbox Live and WiiWare this summer, Sonic 4 will be the first home console Sonic to be in glorious 2D for years, as well as being a follow-up to the Mega Drive games that solidified Sonic’s reputation for platforming excellence in the first place.
The game is planned to be released in episodic form – with a complete digital and box release almost certain to follow later this year. The latest video released by Sega shows they’re really going for that nineties nostalgia – just like Capcom have been, with their retro revivals of Bionic Commando Rearmed and Mega Man 9. They even got the old choral “Sega” chant when the logo appears.
But let’s not start celebrating yet. Sonic was one of the first game’s I ever played. It was also one of the first titles that made me realise games could be enjoyed by more than just the person holding the controller. Sega have peaked my interest enough to warrant a day-one purchase, however, this is their last chance. One of the unsung heroes of the original Sonic Team is Hirokazu Yasuhara. He was responsible for much of the gameplay and level design in the classic Sonic games. It’s clear to see that since he departed things just haven’t been the same. Do not let us down, Sega.
In the past five years the market for digital game downloads has exploded. Xbox Live got the ball rolling with a number of popular arcade re-releases and PlayStation Network has brought a collection of innovate new titles to gamers worldwide. While not as activate as the other two, the Wii has also played its part in getting people to jump into the online marketplace with Virtual Console and WiiWare.
The big difference with downloadable titles, versus their physical counterparts, is that because they are ready to play at the touch of a button, the impulse to play them whenever you have a spare moment is even greater. Here are some of my PSN favourites that do just that.
1. Calling All Cars! (PS3)
This was the last game David Jaffe, the outspoken, controversial game designer, made while still on the payroll at SCEA. It’s criminal that a game as addictive and charming as Calling All Cars! has been left to dwindle on the digital store shelf like dirty washing in a jail cell. All puns aside, this is a great arcade multiplayer game. It’s easy to get into, balanced to near perfection and it keeps you coming back.
PixelJunk Monsters is tower defence for the working man (or woman). Ballistics, cannon balls, tesla towers and tribal dancing. Strategy and memory are essential here. Cutesy art design and some absolutely hummable tunes (courtesy of Otograph) make this a joy to play whenever your busy schedule gives you a free moment. A deluxe version was recently released for PSP featuring a whole new island to save.
The second abstract work from the visionary gamemakers at thatgamecompany. Flower is an experience unlike anything you’ve interacted with before on a home console. You simply tilt the controller, gliding gently on the breeze as petals flow through the scenic environments. A beautiful escape.
3D Asteroids. That’s what Super Stardust HD is all about. But this isn’t a rip-off of the 1979 classic with a shinier coat. It’s an arcade classic reborn with new ways to deform space debris. Believe me, once you’ve discovered the lifesaving usefulness of the gold melter there’s no going back. You’ll be hooked from dusk till dawn. Still haven’t got that ‘Late Bomber’ trophy though.
Eye-blisteringly fast anti-gravity craft, neon circuits filled with more futuristic detail than an Audi concept car and visual effects so bright they paint a kaleidoscope of HD colours across your screen, transfixing you with each arrangement. WipEout HD is special in so many ways – it’s a technical marvel, it plays like a dream and it has the longevity to last as long as any retail release. With its sonic speeds and trace-inducing rhythms this is my number one PSN fix. It’s the epitome of a downloadable deal. So much so, that I’ve even bought the game again on disc.