Last night I downloaded the two free Doritos sponsored games on Xbox Live Arcade. Unlike last year, where they just released the winner of the game design contest, this year they've put out two very different finalists; a racing game called Harm's Way, and a paltformer called Crash Course. For free games I think they're great, in fact I'd even pay five to ten bucks for them if they had just a tad bit more polish and length.
Anyways, as much as I like the concept of Harm's Way, I had more fun with Crash Course. Not only because it's a riff on one of my favorite laugh-at-people shows, Wipe Out, but also because of its potential. The game tasks you with speeding through a ridiculous obstacle course full of spring boards, conveyor belts, and foam mallets. It's a simple game to play, with some tight controls.
The game puts you in control of your Xbox Avatar, which are beautifully animated with exaggerated cartoonish actions. The speed and crazy level design made me think of Sonic for some reason. Well, it made me sad for Sonic, really. I stopped caring about Sonic the Hedgehog long ago. I loved the games as a kid, but when Sonic went 3D, the quality of the games went down the toilet. I understand that just like Star Wars with their Clone Wars stuff, Sonic has a new audience that loves him for what he is now (blech). I also understand that the Sonic developers have tried to recapture the magic of those original games several times, most recently with the release of Sonic 4.
It might sound weird, but I think if they have to keep making Sonic games, and they want to have the feel of the old stuff while offering something new, they should check out Crash Course and make something like that. I think it's what Sonic should have evolved into. A fast game that requires sharp platforming and measured use of your speed. I played the demo of Sonic 4, it was pretty much "hold right, hope you don't hit something bad, the end." Crash Course is like that, but it's more nuanced, and it still has that hurried pace.
Give a try, it's free. While you play, imagine your avatar is Sonic and the first stage is Green Hill Zone. Not bad huh? Crash Course is a bit rough around the edges--I think it could use some more variety and an extra move or two (like grabbing on to edges)--but for a free game, it's a lot of fun, and a great deal better than any Sonic game I've played in recent years.
Here's a video of Crash Course in action: