Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sonic XL

(image / link stolen from Auntie Pixelante)
Sonic XL is an amazing Sonic ROM hack where collecting (onion) rings actually makes Sonic fatter, until you're so slow and fat that you can't even run fast enough through a loop. Rings become something dangerous and scary, but still vitally important to ensure your survival. It sure makes Sonic a helluva lot more methodical.

[To play Sonic XL, (1) download the Sega emulator Kega, then (2) load the .bin file over here.]

In many ways, Sonic was a really good choice for this hack. What if the same was applied to Mario, a much slower platformer about collection? It's not the same -- the loss in speed, a portly plumber merely getting fatter -- the effect would've been lost, I think.

Anna Anthropy thinks this is a cool deconstruction of how games glorify consumption / accumulation / collection. I agree. As a mechanic, I think it works even better than previous attempts in other genres because there's some granularity / feedback to it all. You actually see Sonic get fatter / his speed suffer.

Meanwhile, you get games like The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion that suddenly say "you're encumbered" and so you just stand there like an idiot, or Diablo 2 asks you to play a kind of Tetris inventory puzzle. There, those limits on consumption are ways to force you to eventually return to town, as a form of imposed pacing. (... I don't know where I'm going with this. Just pondering to myself.)

The cleverest part? Anna points out how this hack turns Tails into a feeder, essentially, dooming your attempts to stay thin.

... As if you needed another reason to hate Tails.