In 1996 the Game Gear was on its last legs. Support for it would end the following year, releases were beginning to dry up entirely, and the capabilities of it as a system had seemingly been fully explored.
Sonic Blast was released that year, and though it makes a few visual compromises it's an otherwise impressive title that platformer fans would do well to investigate.The big picture
Stepping into the shoes of either Sonic The Hedgehog or his echidna pal Knuckles, it's up to you to collect Chaos Emeralds, defeat robotised enemies, and beat Eggman over the course of a handful of worlds, each with three stages to conquer.
The first thing you'll notice when loading up the title is how much screen real estate your chosen protagonist takes up. The game's camera is so close to the action that charging through at speed isn't an option on your first few plays, encouraging a methodical approach to play and allowing you to explore pathways and find hidden goodies.
Extra lives and additional rings can be found on these little excursions, as can giant rings that lead to faux-3D bonus stages, which are a cross between Sonic 2's tunnel sections and Sonic 3's Blue Sphere stages.
The gameplay in Sonic Blast is otherwise very traditional, albeit with a few twists. Sonic has a double-jump on hand, which is somewhat novel, and when you take a hit you only lose a proportion of your rings as opposed to all of them.
But anyone who's played a 2D entry in the series will be comfortably familar with its brand of running and jumping from the outset.I, DK
In fact, you can get a little too comfortable, as for the most part it's a very easy game. A few maze-like underwater sections prove tricky, as you monitor the amount of time you have before running out of breath while navigating a series of confusing pipes that weave throughout the length of each stage, but by and large Sonic Blast won't give you too much trouble.
The art will likely be the most divisive element of the game for fans of the franchise. In contrast with the series' usual pixelly look, Sonic Blast is reminiscent of Donkey Kong Country and its pre-rendered 3D graphics. It doesn't animate well, and the tone is a mite darker than the classic Sonic entries, but its visuals are at least distinctive.
Blending traditional gameplay with a few new moves and a controversial look, Sonic Blast is a likeable - if over-easy - game. It's by no means experimental, and the camera's close proximity to your chosen character can be a pain, but otherwise this is a strong choice for anyone who's enjoyed any other 2D romp with the nippy blue mammal.