With the release of Dreams on PlayStation 4, Sonic fans are proving yet again that they understand the hedgehog better than its creators.
The Sonic the Hedgehog movie isn’t terrible. At least, not compared to other video game movies. Unfortunately, you can’t say the same about the character’s latest video games.
Developer Sonic Team’s inability to build a solid game around the blue blur is a running joke among fans. Many have argued that they could do a better job. Fan and popular modder, Christian Whitehead, proved that to be true with Sonic Mania.
Created by Whitehead, Sonic Mania was a love letter to the classic speed-based gameplay we know and love. It wasn’t full of awkward gimmicks and strange lore that plague the modern titles.
With the release of Dreams on PlayStation 4, fans are proving yet again that they understand the hedgehog better than its creators.
Creators in Dreams can build everything from video game assets to music to mechanics and more. They can then share these creations with the rest of the world.
So far, players have recreated Bob’s Burgers, Red Dead Redemption 2, and more of their favorite properties. Thanks to the investigative work over at GameXplain, we’ve learned of some decent modern Sonic levels as well.
In the first showcase, Crystal Lake, fans should note some critical design decisions. First off, the camera pulls back far enough to see what you’re doing. Sonic Forces, Sonic the Hedgehog 4, and other titles often have the camera way too close for comfort.
Also, as the narrator Jon notes later in the video, this level emphasizes Sonic’s momentum instead of just providing ways to ‘go fast.’ The areas are vast, there’s room to move left and right, there are alternate paths to explore. The open design philosophy is much more attractive than the more linear approach in recent Sonic Team titles.
Crystal Lake has some gimmicks that make sense with Sonic’s speed as well, rather than random implementations, like say, a water slide? Here, players can use the spin dash to leap over spikes or cross over water.
But the second level, Sonic Dreams Adventure Zero, is even more exciting.
This stage is gorgeous. Taking place in the treetops of a vast jungle, everything from the trunks to the grass has so much detail that the framerate is hardly playable. Sonic’s animations are fluid. You can pull off tricks while in mid-air, and, depending on what he’s doing, our favorite hedgehog trails dirt or sparks that showcase his speed. Generous motion blur ensures the game stays feeling fast-paced as well.
Sonic’s homing attack is in full form, with Adventure-like gaps to clear and ring dashes to help carry him along. There’s also a strange pole mechanic that allows the hedgehog to turn corners quickly – something I don’t recall in previous titles.
The developer even shifts, mid-level, to 2D play and makes sure to zoom out far enough to make this viable. It’s a small segment, but if this is a hint at what’s to come, color me intrigued.
There’s an unprecedented level of attention here – one that Sonic Team often fails to match. It’s frustrating to see a random fan build a better game using a limited tool set. Sonic Team has years of experience and a custom engine to develop its games within. Why can’t it create something of this quality?
Sonic Forces was a boring release that failed to represent any of the exciting mechanics from the hedgehog’s past. The levels are full of tired quick-time actions, strange gimmicks that break momentum, and unrefined set pieces that slog the game along.
We keep hoping that Sonic Team gets its act together and provides something that gets us excited. Unfortunately, they continuously fail to deliver. In the meantime, we’ll have to rely on Dreams developers for a solid Sonic fix.