In the late 80’s, Nintendo was firmly holding their position as kings of the gaming industry. There were numerous attempts by other companies to compete, but it was pointless… other consoles had little to offer that Nintendo didn’t already do better. With countless iconic titles and established characters and franchises, the NES was untouchable. The Sega Master System and Atari 7800 languished on store shelves, while it seemed every kid on the block had an NES.
But Sega wasn’t ready to give up yet. They knew that in order to beat the NES, you needed something undeniably more impressive. Something more powerful, with better graphics and sound. Something cool. Something edgy.
The Sega Genesis (or Sega Mega Drive) burst onto the scene in 1989, and immediately stood out from the competition. Unlike its predecessor, the superior capabilities of the console were undebatable. It was like having arcade-quality games right in your home… or at least, that’s how it seemed at the time. Though Nintendo still had a strong hold on the market at the time, the Genesis still managed to hold its own, even after the release of the SNES in 1991.
Still, Nintendo had something that Sega did not… Mario. A marketable, recognizable icon backed by some of the most popular games ever made. Sega needed a face, and so in 1991, we were introduced to…
Oh man. To this day, there’s nothing quite like playing a classic Sonic game. The graphics, gameplay, and music are almost as iconic as the character himself, and Sonic remains one of the most beloved game series of all time. Finally there was something, some game that was unlike anything Nintendo had to offer. Gamers finally took notice, and the Genesis did damn well for a time.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. By 1995, the Super Nintendo had hit its stride, and the Genesis was struggling to compete. The Nintendo 64 and Sony Playstation were on their way, and Sega had to rush out their next console, the Saturn. Meanwhile, desperate to keep the Genesis going in the meantime, Sega released the 32X and Sega CD Peripherals, both of which failed to impress and sold poorly. It was a dark time for Sega. The once-lucrative Sonic the Hedgehog property started to decline as well; while certainly not doing badly, the fantastic Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles failed to sell as well as their predecessors. And then, things started to get weird.
Ugh. I reeeeaaally didn’t want to have to play this again, but I guess I kind of have to… I did set it up in the previous article, after all.
There have been lots of terrible Sonic games. Sonic Shuffle, Sonic R, Sonic the Fighters… unlike many of the Mario spinoff games, which tend to be at least adequate, Sonic’s name was sullied by countless low-quality titles. And this one… hoo boy. This one really stands out.
Sonic Labyrinth was released for the Sega Game Gear in 1995, which is pretty depressing as the previous year had given us the fantastic Sonic Triple Trouble. But hey, that’s something for another time… let’s dive right in.
So what exactly is Sonic Labyrinth? Well, it’s sort of like Sonic 3D Blast and Kirby’s Dream Course had a baby. And that baby was born with harlequin fetus syndrome and too many chromosomes.
The game features an isometric perspective, and the goal of each stage is to make your way to the exit. Sounds simple enough, right? What’s so bad about that?
Yes. This is a game in a series reknowned for its intense speed, where you move slower than molasses dripping down Rush Limbaugh’s stubby dick. The plot is that Robotnik replaced Sonic’s shoes or something and I DON’T FUCKING CARE. Sonic is supposed to move fast, dammit… especially when you’ve got a time limit.
Walking is pretty much pointless, so to get around within any reasonable amount of time you need to use the spin dash. But good luck with that, because the spin dash makes you bounce off the walls like Nick Nolte in a room full of cocaine. You might as well play the damn game blindfolded.
So, I found a key inside an enemy, and headed to the goal. Except it didn’t do anything, because a guess I need 3 keys. Wonderful. I’m glad.
There. Three keys. Getting a key gives you a little time back, thankfully. You need every second you can get with this slow son of a bitch.
“Score”. Y’know, in case you want to keep track. Because this is a good game.
The next stage introduces items. These have various effects, from giving you extra time to letting you walk faster. But I have no idea what the fucking question mark does. Wonderful. The true mark of a great game is not knowing what the items do.
A few stages later, you find yourself rolling down a slope, trying to collect rings and dodge obstacles. Except you go too fast to react, so y’know. Good fucking luck.
At the bottom, you go down a tube and encounter a boss. And let me tell you, this gameplay style is NOT suitable for boss fights. Then again, the gameplay here isn’t really suitable for anything.
If you die, you go right back to the slippery slope. Yeah, I think this game’s on a slippery slope too, HUR HUR HUR HUR HUR
After defeating the boss, you’re rewarded with a Chaos Emerald. I take this to mean there’s 7 worlds with 7 boss fights, not that I’m ever going to bother playing that far.
Things get more complicated as you go along, with actual mazes and labyrinths that lead you to dead ends. Which is just fantastic in a game where you move slow as hell and have a strict time limit.
Ugh. This is the gaming equivalent of crib death.
The second boss was easy enough. Some sort of crab-robot. So I found myself moving along to the next area.
Is that… a Captain America shield?
OH NO IT MOVED
Well, I’m done. That’s all I can take of this damn game. It’s hard to explain just what’s wrong with Sonic Labyrinth… the graphics are appealing, and the music is fine too. But the game feel is awful. Not only do you move ridiculously slow, but it feels like you have no control with your spin dash; you just bounce around all over the place, hoping that you’ll find your way to where you’re trying to go. Combine that with repetitive goals, monotonous gameplay, and a general lack of polish, and you’ve got a real piece of shit on your hands. This game should not have been made, and I feel bad for any kid who bought this expecting something cool like Sonic Triple Trouble.
I would say this is the worst Sonic game I’ve ever played, but I can still think of one worse…
No, I’m not going to play it again. Go to hell.