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Hands-On: Sonic Jam (Game.Com)

Genre: Compilation Developer: Tiger Publisher: Tiger Players: 1 Released: 1998

How many of you remember that ill-fated console that Tiger Electronics released back in 1997? Well, it’s called the Game.Com, and it’s hailed by most as the worst handheld released to date. It’s an 8-bit console actually capable of some 3D graphics, but the screen blurs, and the processor just drags with the most minimal scrolling. Well guess what? Remember back when a Sonic game was always good and when we all dreamed of the day when Sega’s prized mascot would see an outing outside of a Sega-made console? Believe it or not, Sonic The Hedgehog did set foot on other console’s shores long before Sega became strictly a third party-only developer. Well this is a hands-on article covering the Game.Com port of Sonic Jam, which is much better known on the Saturn. I have to say it now and early on in this article; anyone of you who thinks that Sonic’s new releases have been bastardized or stripped down and play like crap haven’t played Sonic Jam on the Game.Com. You’ve really got it coming because this set is, simply put, the worst Sonic The Hedgehog game ever released to date period!

How Tiger ever got the rights to Sonic is beyond me, but surely it knew the limitations of its own console and knew that Sonic’s breakneck speeds would never work here because this game moves at about half the pace of any of the Sega Master System ports. This outing offers three games, Sonic 2, Sonic 3, and Sonic & Knuckles; each of course being very stripped down compared to their Genesis counterparts. All three games feature five stages each and also only have two Robotnick battles per game. The programmers only mapped one button out of four on the console to jump or spin, which is awkward and lazy. On top of that, Sonic has his barrier, and Tails can fly, but Knuckles has been stripped of his glide which is also shameless of the programmers.

All of that could be forgiven if the console could actually handle the game properly. Like I said earlier, the scrolling is a mess. Remember all those times you were trying to watch a scratched or dirty DVD that plays but it seemed to skip every other frame and just jumped around and is really scrambled? Well that’s just how this game feels and plays, and visually it’s almost impossible to see what’s going on a majority of the time. Screen shots won’t do this game justice because the Game.Com is capable of some decent visuals as long as they aren’t scrolling. What’s worse is that the controls also barely work. You can barely move when you jump, which causes you to die any time there are spikes on the ground, as you have to be going at full speed and time your jumps just right to make it over free and clear. The spin dash also barely works. It’s quite similar to Sonic CD, where you only have to press the button once to spin and go, but you have to hold right or left for the entire duration of the spin. Even then, you can just barely make it up hills or slopes. I was amazed just how much time I ran up on the clock just trying to get the dash to work right most of the times. It’s really bad, and I quite honestly don’t know if Game.Com is all to blame. I think a lot falls on the programmers’ incompetence.

  

OK, if you thought you’d heard it all so far then nothing will prepare you for the audio problems that plague this game. Sonic Jam is victim to one awful sounding track that plagues every stage of each of the three games here. It’s literally just blips and bleeps. The best way to describe it is to imagine some of those old DOS-based games that are running in the wrong settings, where all the sound is clipped and half of the music is just missing. This will literally grate on your ears and give you a headache, and I had to turn the game off after about fifteen minutes. It’s really atrocious. What’s worse is that most of the sound effects are missing as well as the music that plays when you complete an act. What’s there is extremely scratchy and tinny, the sound of the rings is some of the worst I’ve ever heard as well.

Sonic Jam is an extremely lazy game no matter what way you look at it, despite the hardware. The games barely resemble their Genesis counterparts at all, even the zones don’t have names. They’re labeled zone 1 through zone five – more laziness. I’ve never been able to complete any single one of these games on this compilation no matter how hard I try, as the whole thing is that unbearable. This game should never have even been made, as it would never have worked no matter who programmed it, because the hardware is just that bad. Heck, when it comes down to it, the Game.Com should’ve never have been released in the fist place, since color handhelds had been on the market for eight years prior to its release. I guess the only way to sum this game up and put it into perspective is to watch this video of the game in action. Whatever you do, don’t even buy a Game.Com, let alone this game!

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Screen shots courtesy of SonicSpot.

 

Rating (out of 5): 

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