I’m going to open with a possibly controversial statement here: Sonic The Hedgehog is crap. In fact, my overriding experience during this whole project has been that, for the most part, old computer games are crap.
Yet at the time, Sonic blew me away. The gimmick of the game was how “fast” it was, how you could blast through the levels as a whirling ball, looping the loop and bouncing off springs, making Mario look tired and pedestrian. Kids, encouraged by tribal games magazines, fell into console-loyal camps, and god help the parents that spent significant yet ill-informed amounts of money on the “wrong” console as a Christmas present.
Today it just seems like the speed was all-important, at the cost of actual gameplay. You can’t pretend that it’s possible to actually control Sonic properly if you’re whizzing through the level, you just keep holding right and hope for the best. And if you try to run through and tackle each enemy and jump “properly”, it is slow, unforgiving and frankly dull.
I didn’t play it for long. What a disappointment. I clearly remember getting a Japanese import of Sonic 2, either because it was cheaper or available earlier, and we had to cut the cartridge up with a hacksaw because the slot on the UK mega drive was different to the Japanese one.
Another game I played a lot was Road Rash II. In this game you’re a motorbike racer but, as a fun twist, you get to kick, punch, cosh and chain-whip the other racers, escape the police and get knocked off your bike by smashing into cars, at which point you don’t die, but get up and run back to your bike to resume racing.
The game stands up remarkably well! It’s still a lot of fun, the music is amazing (I’d forgotten it, but it all came flooding back, especially Hawaii) and there are a lot of fun touches like the race-end animations. It was a genuine pleasure to play, and something of a relief to not find every single memory falling short.
Another game we poured hours into was Micro Machines. This also remains fun, particularly the multiplayer aspect, but I had forgotten how pixel-perfect you needed to be to make it round some of the courses. My kids enjoyed the bath time level, where it’s pretty hard to go wrong except when you’re at the plug hole, and it briefly became known as the “bubble bath game”. They hated all the other levels, and if I’m honest I got a bit fed up of falling off that bloody ruler.
I remember a few other games but I didn’t play them this time round as I had a strong feeling that they would be terrible. My stepbrother and I were very much into WWF and we had a wrestling game, but it was really just a lot of button pounding. Desert Strike I played very briefly and wow, that was just a lot of flying around an empty desert running out of fuel.