Sonic 3D: Flickies’ Island

Sonic 3D: Flickies’ Island
Game Name: Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island
Media: 1 CD-ROM
Publisher(s): SEGA
Developer(s): Traveller's Tales / Sonic Team (Sega AM8)
Genre(s): Platform (Isometric)
Release Date: February 1997
Serial Number: MK81062-50
Region: PAL

Give the consumer what they want. That’s how business goes. And in the mid 90’s gamers wanted to see the revolutionary 3D games in arcades on their home television screens.

Nintendo understood this when their mascot turned 3 dimensional for the launch of the N64, with even Sony bringing in a zany Bandicoot to face the Italian plumber head-to-head, and show their system’s potential.

So where was the next generation Sonic?

Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island ScreenshotSonic 3D: Flickies’ Island’ was Sega’s only answer to their rival companies’ milestone creations; an isometric 3D platformer that played in part like the previous traditional 2D games, but also gave gamers a taste of how the blue hedgehog would cope plunging into the sea of 3D.
Sadly, it was to be more of Sonic tiptoeing in the shallow end of a paddling pool.

The trouble starts in that 3rd party developer Traveller’s Tales were expected to release a Sonic for both the Megadrive and Saturn hence, whilst an isometric platformer seemed fairly ambitious for a 16 bit, 2D gaming system, it feels near pointless to be on console going up against 3D powerhouses.

However, a game’s appeal isn’t limited to the hardware its on, but the new, exciting ideas it brings to the table, and this is where Sonic 3D truly fails in that, whilst Sonic jumping around pseudo 3D environments sounds novel enough, the game lacks the variety or depth to keep gamers gripped to see it to the very end.

Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island ScreenshotThe basic premise is that Sonic must destroy but 5 enemies in an enclosed area and collect a flapping ‘flicky’ (a pint sized bird) released from each one before he can pursue to the next area. When doing so, you must ensure Sonic collects as many rings while avoiding typical death traps such as lava pits, spikes, exploding objects, and et cetera, and this is where the premise ends.

The above is about as imaginative as Flickies’ Island ever gets. In previous games Dr Robotnic devised the most ingenious devices to crush Sonic, but it appears he took the week sick when prepping to face the blue, spiny mammal this time round.
None of his elaborate creations are present; leaving only natural scenery and the most clichéd of objects to create any significant threat to Sonic, most of which can be easily bested by simply jumping frantically about.
The real challenge on Flickies’ Island comes more from navigating Sonic through the confusing and isolated isometric planes than anything the enemies throw at you.

Enemies will often just sit there waiting to be killed, some dishing out the odd lame attack, others literally not having any attacks at all.

Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island ScreenshotBeing isometric has also meant even the platform element has been downplayed. Whenever required to jump on a moving obstacle, because of the view, it’s hard to pin point precisely where Sonic will land. And whilst his shadow helps you direct him, Sonic often lands too quickly to react fast enough to any dangers.

Bosses are more unimaginative than ever, taking about 20 seconds to work out their patterns before giving Robotnic the thrashing of his life. Again, the only real obstacle comes in landing Sonic safely after a hit.
The number of frustrating deaths in this scenario is reflected in the game’s sick enjoyment in throwing you extra lives at a near excessive level. Nearly all extra lives can be obtained by simply jumping on a spring with enough flickies to reach it, requiring no challenge at all.

The real highlight of the game from a technical and fun perspective is in the special stages, designed separately by Sonic Team, reminiscent of that of Sonic 2’s special stages. These both look and play great, but unfortunately only the last one or two levels will have you pulling a sweat.

The game also suffers from not having a save feature which, whilst this doesn’t sound too bad when it only takes 2-3 hours to complete, levels get despairingly repetitive to the point where once you’ve admired the act’s luscious scenery you’ll want to move right on to the next one.
In fact by the time you’ve finished the second zone you’ve seen 90% of all the game has to offer, with every other location feeling like they’ve merely selected a different wallpaper. The game is just devoid of any fresh concepts or ideas and by this point Sonic 3D becomes more a test of endurance as you jump through the same hoops to reach the same goal time and time again.
This is unlike the similar ‘Cool Spot Goes to Hollywood’, which gets away with far more by adding variable levels, collectables, and some fairly entertaining minigames to space out the main gameplay.

Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island Screen Shot

This is not to say the game is without its merits. Sonic 3D celebrates some terrific production values. The music and visuals are, simply put, outstanding. Thanks to the pre-rendered graphics, even when played on a modern, giant, flat screens, the levels are elegant and detailed. The designers went to town on the backgrounds to make them feel as alive with constant animated objects all around, as meaningless as many of them are!
Saturn game composer regular Richard Jacques returns with one of the best soundtracks of his career. Every act has a distinctive, matching soundtrack to go with it.

Regardless, none of this will let you forget just how frustratingly limited and painstakingly average this game is. It’s still fun enough to play, but ultimately what we have here is a concept that, whether Sonic fan or not, isn’t worth going out of your way to play.
And as it stars Sega’s flagship mascot, effectively being the game that should’ve shifted more Saturn consoles, this relatively good game ought to have been a great one.

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