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Okay, I’m done here. Review round up over. Everyone go home!
Nah, just kidding. I mean, I could say that, and it’d be pretty much entirely accurate. Sonic Mania is an amazing game that’s gotten near perfect reviews across the board. So, in that sense, you really could sum it up by simply saying how incredible it is.
But I won’t. Instead, I’ll do my job properly and tell you exactly what the critics think of the game overall. So, strap yourself in, get comfy and get ready to look at all the critic reviews for Sonic Mania!
Starting with the entirely positive ones. Namely, Gaming Age and The Sixth Axis’ perfect reviews for the game. These two give the game 100%, saying it surpasses the Mega Drive games and calling it a fantastic entry in the series overall.
And while some other critics aren’t quite that generous, they’re not alone in the high review score camp. Jim Sterling (always a controversial internet critic) has given the game a very positive 95% score, saying it acts as a true sequel to the Genesis games in every way. That’s pretty good for him, especially when compared to his somewhat more critical reviews of titles like Zelda Breath of the Wild.
Another site in the extremely positive camp (which isn’t really a surprise given its origin as a Sonic exclusive site) is TSSZ News. These guys don’t just say Sonic Mania is a great game, they outright state it’s the best Sonic game of all time. That’s… impressive. Especially given that the Sonic fanbase would presumably be some of the hardest to please where a full successor comes in.
Moving down a bit (to the 90% range), you’ve got Metro GameCentral, Attack of the Fanboy, Dual Shockers and Gamespot. All of these sites are deeply positive towards the title, though perhaps not enough to say it’s a perfect game. This is probably where most big site scores will fall to be honest, especially given how they’re usually a tad more cynical about nostalgia than lesser known ones.
Meanwhile, IGN gives it a reasonable 87% score, saying it’s the classic throwback fans have been waiting for. Their only negatives are that boss fights can drag a bit, and that they wanted more checkpoints in certain levels. Eh, seems acceptable now. Though perhaps a little indicative of how modern critics are a bit rusty with the old game playing skills.
US Gamer goes down to an 80% score, shared with God is a Geek, Push Square and Destructoid. Why the lower score? Well in the case in the former, they simply think it’s a bit heavy on nostalgia, and think the game should have gotten more original levels. Again, fair enough. Sonic Mania does reuse some old level themes for whatever reason, and that may not be to everyone’s taste.
And then that brings us to the few mediocre reviews. Oh boy, these are the most controversial by far.
Why? Because sometimes it feels like these critics didn’t quite understand the appeal of the series. For example, Polygon goes as far as to say Sonic is terrible with precision platforming and complains about lives and checkpoints.
However, here’s the issue:
Those aren’t really problems with the game. They’re problems with the reviewer not really being all that good at it.
Yes, you have to go back to a checkpoint if you die. And if you get a game over, you have to go back to the start of the level.
But that’s just how every platformer works. Mario works like this (even in New Super Mario Bros and 3D World). Donkey Kong works like this. Wario Land works like this (heck, Wario games before Shake It don’t even have checkpoints!). Heck, I’m pretty sure everyone from Mega Man to DuckTales to Rayman likely does it.
Sonic using this setup is just continuing how the original games worked. Which, guess what? Worked perfectly for millions of fans in the 90s.
It just feels like they got someone who never really enjoyed a Sonic game and who wasn’t all that good at it to review the newest one.
Which contrasts rather amusingly with Slant Magazine’s negative review. Whereas the Polygon reviewer said it was too hard, the Slant Magazine reviewer says it’s too EASY. It makes you want to imagine the two reviewers in a debate. Seriously, can you imagine it? You’d have the Polygon one saying “God I hate these bosses, they keep killing me” and the Slant Magazine one saying “God I hate these bosses, they’re too easy” while the two of them look at the other like they’re from Mars. It’d be absolutely glorious!
As far non-scored reviews go… well those seem to be pretty positive for the most part. At least, Kotaku’s is, saying the game is pure joy and a ‘spinning ball of fun blazing towards the next adventure’. Interesting choice of wording, though a sentiment most would agree with none the less.
Onto video reviews now, which seem pretty positive towards it. You’ve got GameXplain’s mini review here:
Which despite being short (for embargo reasons) is entirely positive about the game and how it plays. And that’s also true of Dunkey’s review, again entirely positive about the game and its design:
So overall, it seems the game is doing pretty damn well for itself. Has it all pleased all critics? Nah, there’s always a few who don’t understand 90s game design or classic Sonic gameplay. But for the most part, they’re extremely positive about it overall.
And for a series like Sonic, that’s amazing to see. Kudos Sega, Headcannon and PagodaWest Games, you’ve made the dream Sonic game fans have waited years for!
Let’s hope Sonic Forces continues the trend!
Over the last few years or so, we’ve seen a rise in questionable practices in the gaming industry. There’s the increase in microtransactions and real money spending, which often introduces a gambling element to the games it included in. There’s the situation on Steam and the app stores where quality has mostly fallen off a cliff and asset flips reign supreme.
Add people involved in making games either attacking their audience, suing critics or trying to take down videos about games featuring their music andyou’ve got a situation where consumer advocates are needed more than ever.
Which is where SidAlpha comes in. A YouTuber with a large following of 50,000 subscribers and growing, his channel basically exists to discuss both the admirable and sleazy tactics of game developers and industry folk alike, covering such topics as the recent Alex Mauer takedowns and the Shadow of War controversy with aplomb.
And we’ve gotten to speak to him for an exclusive interview! So, if you’re interested in his channel, video games on Steam or his opinion on games as a whole, keep reading!
Let’s start with the usual personal story first. Who are you as a person, outside of the world of video games?
Who I am is really no one special when it comes to “meatspace”. I’m a father of a 13-year-old girl, I work as a Project Lead for an IT Consulting Firm, and I live out in the boonies in the northwest. To be honest, I would probably be one of the more uninteresting people you might meet due to the work schedule I deal with. I typically work 12-14 hours per day plus being a single father on top of it. That doesn’t leave much time for excitement.
And how did you get started with them anyway? What was your first console generation?
My first console generation that I ever played on was actually the Atari 2600. Although even way back then I was still a PC Gamer at heart and I enjoyed playing games on our Commodore 64 much more. With games like Archon and Archon 2 being my favorites when my lifespan was still in the single-digits.
Were there any games then you thought were really amazing?
Well, I was between 4 and 9 years old, but probably the games I thought were the most “amazing” were Moon Patrol and Defender. I was also quite good at a game that was called “Asteroids”. Once, I ended up going on a tear and seemed like I just could not fail. My dad and his brothers were so excited watching me burn through the game that they kept me up so late so I could keep playing that I literally passed out mid-game. I used to find it hilarious to see 4 grown men shouting and cheering while watching a little kid destroy a video game and now I look on eSports and think there really wasn’t much difference.
How about terrible ones that probably could have gotten a video about them had they been released on Steam?
All of them. You have to remember that games back then were actually exceptionally basic and were fairly terrible. Many people are nostalgic over them, but the vast majority of them would not hold water or even compare to today’s standards.
Either way, you’re most known for your YouTube channel and videos on Steam developers/games. How did you get started with that?
I’ve always been a person with strong opinions and I had actually planned on starting up a YouTube channel for a few years. After watching people like Angry Joe, Totalbiscuit, Nostalgia Critic, and a few others, I really resonated with the idea of consumer awareness and consumer protection. What with all of the excesses that we’ve seen within the Triple-A Games Industry, I really had a lot to say but usually I would just rant to my friends. They were the ones who told me that I should start a YouTube channel, but that could very well have been just so I would quit pestering them all the time about it all as I’m really the only core Gamer in my circle of friends.
How I got started was more on a whim. I had used my Christmas bonus to build myself an actual Gaming rig that January and I decided that, now that I was earning enough money from my day job, I could afford the equipment necessary. So, on a whim I ended up spending far more than I needed to on recording equipment to be able to get started. The decision to start my own channel to first video recorded took all of a week to complete once I started moving on it.
What about the name? Why SidAlpha?
The name SidAlpha was actually a combination of corniness and probably way too much Irish whiskey. Even though my legal first name is Sidney, I’ve been called Richie for longer than I can remember. The Sid part in SidAlpha actually isn’t a reference to me, but my father. His name is Sid as well, and with most children I’ve seen my dad as one of the strongest people I’ve ever known. I’ve also been a fan of history and from that I borrowed the idea of the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. And I’ve also ascribed to the idea of “Knowledge is power” and there is never a more effective consumer than one that is well informed. So, the SidAlpha name is essentially “Beginning of strength” within the context of consumer information and awareness.
I know, it is extremely corny, but like I said… Irish whiskey was involved.
Similarly, what about the music? Why did you choose that song for your video intros?
The intro was actually developed by a designer in Greenland that I purchased on Fiverr. The music came with it. I used it as I wanted my channel to have a bit more of a professional feel but every time I’d attempted to change it was met with resistance, so now it’s just become a part of my channel’s identity.
What about the general content? What made you want to create videos about dodgy Steam developers and ripoffs in gaming?
That was a slow evolution and it mostly came from the fact that I can’t stand the idea of someone enriching themselves unjustly at the expense of others. I think part of that also spawns from my being so terrifically poor for most of my life, that I have an overinflated importance on how valuable money is.
Also, I’ve seen how hard some of these Indie Developers work and it frustrates me to no end to see an Indie game that I KNOW in my heart of hearts is a good game get lost in the shuffle in the midst of asset flips and shady devs posting garbage games that take attention away from those games that legitimately deserve to be seen and merely promoting those good games are not enough. Those others need to be drug out into the light to be shown for what they are so people don’t waste their money on them and instead are better able to go find a game worthy of their hard-earned money.
I knew it was a gamble to go that route. Many people said “Stick with the triple A’s. No one cares about the Indie games. They’re a dime a dozen.” But to my mind, a lot more good could be accomplished within the Indie scene and I didn’t care about how famous or not famous I got. It was about my passion for games and my desire to help inform those that would wish it. Even if I influenced 1 person, that would be enough for me.
Were there any influences there? People like Jim Sterling have made videos on similar topics before…
There are a LOT of influences there. Angry Joe, Totalbiscuit, Jim Sterling, and Nostalgia Critic would be the biggest ones. And while I know that there have been others to cover these topics before… and probably better… I still feel I have something to contribute to the conversation. While those others have been heavy influences on my own content and style, I have still maintained my own voice and method of relating things. From Angry Joe, I remember to not always take things too seriously, which is something I do tend to fall prey to. From TB, I learned that more often than not, the loudest voice in the room tends to be the calmest and most well-reasoned. If you have something important to say, you don’t need to shout. Because if you do, the ones you are shouting at most likely still won’t listen regardless. From Jim, I learned that it’s ok to have an ego from time to time. Just remember what you are doing and why you are doing it. And then from both Nostalgia critic and TB I learned what it was to break something down and analyze it effectively.
I try to learn something from other successful YouTubers in order to make myself and my content better, but at the end of the day it’s still about the message and the information. People cannot make informed decisions with an absence of information and we have learned we cannot trust the vast majority of traditional Games Journalists. I intend to set my own example in that regard.
Out of all the games and developers you covered, which ones were the worst/most sleazy and why?
Oh wow, there are so many. I would think Dokey and Dalas of Fur Fun to be the worst outside of Digital Homicide. They issued large numbers of spurious DMCA strikes, issued review code only to later revoke those keys when the reviewer said something they didn’t like, mass forum bans and thread deletions… not to mention that Dalas is himself a YouTuber who weaponized his audience in a variety of ways… To post positive reviews of a crap game in exchange for game keys, to downvote negative reviews, and to flood his game forums in order to further drown out fair critique.
How about the least? Which of your ‘Diamond Devs’ subjects were the best?
The one that stuck out in my mind was Stardrop. That one actually started because the developer himself emailed me to ask my advice and my opinion as he was mortally terrified that people would label his game an asset flip because he did make use of pre-bought assets. I found the game itself to be charming and the voice acting quite well done. I was excited to be able to present the game before it even went into Early Access and I look forward to the finished product. The fact of the matter is, he cared so much about his game that he sought out a random YouTuber because of the content they had discussed and he wanted to be certain people wouldn’t judge his game sight-unseen. That is the level of heart that I see in so many Indie Developers and it is those exact types of people, those that are invested in their project and talented enough to see it through, that brings me the greatest amount of pride in being able to raise awareness of.
Why do so many developers and companies respond so poorly to criticism anyway? Almost every few months we get another developer torpedoing their own reputation over a DMCA threat or review take down…
It really speaks to the type of personality of those that engage in those behaviors. It is ultimately born of a self-centered and selfish desire for profit above all else. You have to remember, the vast majority of those people never had a reputation to begin with and they rail against anything that will cost them money. They have no passion for gaming, they have no talent for it nor any desire to produce anything worthwhile. This isn’t about the game for them, it’s just a means towards easy money.
As you may know, WatchMojo is one of the most popular channels on YouTube. Covering everything from TV and films to video games, their videos are usually your standard top ten lists about various subjects. Like the top ten worst selling consoles or the top ten most expensive sci-fi movies.
You know, the typical stuff you find on Buzzfeed like clickbait factories. Poorly researched, minimal effort attention grabbers that often retread the same ground as legions of others beforehand.
But in itself, that’s not a bad thing. After all, top ten lists aren’t a crime against humanity. And hey, everyone does need to just switch off and watch something a bit more mindless every now and again, right?
Well, I guess so. Except there’s just one problem.
Namely, the info in the videos is stolen from other YouTube creators.
Yep, I’m not kidding. All the facts are straight from other people’s work with no credit given.
How do we know this?
Because Guru Larry has seen his whole video ripped off and reused as a WatchMojo list. Yep, they took one of his Fact Hunt videos, noted down the entries there and remade the entire thing as a video on their channel.
Normally, that wouldn’t be too noticeable. Unfortunately for WatchMojo though, Guru Larry was prepared.
That’s because Guru Larry (like many map makers and dictionary writers of old) is known to sneak ‘copyright traps’ into his work. These traps are very minor ‘mistakes’ that can then be used to prove someone stole your data and reused it in their own work. They’re quite common on maps, with ‘trap streets’ often used to prove a mapmaker copied one of their rivals.
And since WatchMojo clearly didn’t do any other research on the topic, they copied the fake information without checking. Good job guys! How lovely of you to tell us where you get your information from now!
Here’s Larry’s tweet about the subject going into a bit more:
Great thing to wake up to, @WatchMojo has literally stolen all the research from my Worst Selling Consoles episode!
— Larry Bundy Jr (@LarryBundyJr) August 10, 2017
As well as Top Hat Gaming Man’s great video about the controversy:
So either way, the cat was out of the bag and Twitter was talking about it. So what did WatchMojo do?
Did they apologise for their actions like mature people would? Take down the video to stop people being fooled by fake information?
Well, not quite. They took down the video sure, but actually admitting they stole someone’s research never factored into it. Instead they sent Guru Larry the following, rather hilarious letter:
WatchMojo's email response to me about them stealing my research: pic.twitter.com/2gvnxhoyC4
— Larry Bundy Jr (@LarryBundyJr) August 10, 2017
As you can see, it’s filled with examples of questionable journalism ethics. For example, why don’t the organisation credit people for their findings?
Because they don’t know said people are the original finders. Yes really. They outright say they won’t credit anyone because they don’t know said people are the ones they should be crediting.
That’s just… wow. Can you imagine if someone did that in school or college?
Like, if they handed in an essay with no citations because they ‘didn’t know’ the researcher was the original discoverer? Or told the lecturer they didn’t credit anyone because they didn’t know whether their sources were the original ones?
They’d probably get thrown off the course. That’s an obvious example of plagiarism, no matter how you cut it.
Yet that’s not all the letter implies.Oh no, it also implies they’re rather terrible at research.
Well, isn’t the job of a journalist about verifying the information they’re posting about? Aren’t journalists supposed to hunt down the source of a piece of information before writing about it?
Yeah, I think they are. But thanks to the fact WatchMojo clearly isn’t finding the original source, it implies the channel’s ‘researchers’ don’t actually do much research at all. That they find whatever a few other YouTubers or writers have said about a topic, copy down the information and merely assume it’s accurate. Verifying stuff? Who has the time for that, right?
Additionally, they also seem to imply they don’t really check their videos for originality all that well either. That’s because their letter goes and says ‘their tool didn’t pick up the similarities to your video’, implying the only thing they do is put the information through an automated plagiarism checker and hope nothing comes up as a match.
That’s again pretty bad for a channel like this. It’s basically admitting that people can send in anything and they’ll post it so long as it doesn’t ‘look’ enough like the source it’s paraphrasing. It feels like one of those cases where someone assumes Copyscape or Turnitin is good enough on its own.
And when you add this to the clear mistakes the channel makes in their videos (Top Hat Gaming Man references the terrible ‘Jaguar sales data’ in his response), you’ve got a lazy, uninspired YouTube channel trying to cash in on other people’s work for their own gain. Which is a trend that’s all too common now. Giant clickbait channels spamming low effort videos based on other people’s work for quick views.
So don’t support these guys. They clearly don’t put a lot of work into their videos, they steal from other people and their journalistic integrity is virtually nil. Treat them like you would Brash Games or other thieves. Organisations you refuse to support for their complete lack of morals and sheer laziness.
Because WatchMojo doesn’t deserve your patronage. And nor do any other such channels who refuse to credit people for their work.
Yesterday, Sonic Mania was leaked online. That’s because various shops broke the game’s street date and sold it early, leaving lucky buyers a way to post everything about the game online.
Fortunately, Sega found a way to move attention away from that leak. Why? Because to ‘compete’ with it, they just posted the game’s opening video online! Here it is if you haven’t seen it already:
As you can tell, it looks fantastic. You’ve got bright and colourful character designs for the entire cast. There’s fluid animation throughout.
And well, in general the hand drawn cartoon opening looks a million times more interesting than the CGI deals found in most games. Indeed, some might say it looks good enough to have a TV series styled after it. One that’s a bit more… official art like than the actual Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons out there at the moment.
So good job guys. You’ve made a fantastic intro for Sonic Mania, and one that brings back the personality so many games are missing nowadays.
Let’s hope other titles do something like this in the future!