The fastest thing alive meets the drunkest man alive

Sonic 3D Blast (1996)

It’s happening, you know. I’m finally getting to the part of my life that everyone told me was going to happen. Through the arrogant veil of youth, which I wore as a protective cape, I always believed I could stay ahead of this, but my number’s up: my hangovers are getting pretty bad. I’ve not quite arrived at the dreaded two-day hangover stage just yet, though even I’m not that hotheaded enough to think I’ll be entirely immune to it, though maybe there’ll be a tradeoff from the fact that I could never do two nights of drinking in a row, even in my student days (i.e. pre Nat King Cole days when I wouldn’t have had the finances anyway).

I doubt it very much though, and I must sadly predict that in less than five years’ time, my drinking career will be over and I’ll be tearfully telling everyone about it at some house party (now called a dinner party) while clutching my second and last wine glass of the evening, all of us secretly wishing we could just get home and go to bed.

Don’t want to go all oi oi banter on you, but the demise of my drinking ability was laid bare in a pretty gruesome way after a game of Kings a couple of years ago. I wasn’t playing against my fellow dinosaurs and smoothie drinkers, but rather found myself sat alongside a load of 18-year-old Conor McGregor clones, like some minimum wage mackerel blagging his way to the biggest stakes poker table, beside some actual high-rollers. In short, Kings is a drinking game with all sorts of inventive ways to get drink down your gullet, like you’d need to be told twice.

Draw a King card though, and you have to pawn a healthy whack of your own drink into what might as well be a communal chamberpot. Pick up the last King and that awful concoction goes down the hatch, under great duress. You’ll note I said “last” King and not “fourth” King because guess what, we were playing with two decks. And have another guess, who do you think picked up the eighth King?

Actually, and I really was pleading for my life here, I felt certain that mine was only the seventh king, although my vision was so badly blurred by then that I didn’t make for a credible witness. I also reckon I was on course for a battering, had I not complied. So, finding myself on the other side of that awful chant of “chug, chug, chug” that I myself had subjected so many other pigeons to., I took a deep breath and gulped my way down this rotten potion as quickly as I could. Bloody bright orange it was.

I don’t remember the next bit so hot. I didn’t get a slap anyway, which was good. And I made my way back home, I know that. But I could have run naked into the police station, traffic cone on my head, lad in my hand, such was the extent of my blackout. I never get blackouts. It was a rude awakening the next day when I was told I’d spewed all over the bathroom. I never spew, either. It was a worse awakening for my girlfriend mind you, waking up to a wet feeling by her leg – yes, we’d vomited in one room each. Two chunder lovers in arms, partners in slime. Hard luck for her, because at least I’d almost made it to the porcelain telephone.

That’s when we knew we were finished at the highest level of drinking. It’s a strange paradox actually, you’d think top level drinking would be marked by glamour and expense, but no; quaffing champagne at swanky black-tie events is amateur drinking, one-night-out-a-year-when-the-wife-lets-me type of thing. World class drinking is lashing a dozen cans of the worst Polish beer into you before going to a friend’s crappy flat and moving on to a literal box of wine, or finding the most menacing bar that’ll serve pints for a pound to 14 year olds, and if you don’t have a scar on your face you’re a sissy. It’s squalor and decadence that produces the best drinkers, and the best nights. But you have to chase a bit of class eventually.

The headache after that night though, oh my giddy aunt. Even after getting out of bed at 4 o’clock, I was in bad trouble. It’s why I had to shift my going-out nights to Friday nights instead, so that I’d have three sleeps to get over it all. I couldn’t keep on my feet for more than two minutes, it’s like suddenly the gravitational force becomes 2G, then 3G, then 4G and then I’d start to black out.

Here’s the thing though, a hangover like that was understandable because I’d put all kinds of toxins in there after that very ill-fated game of Kings. I can’t have been too far away from alcohol poisoning, for God’s sake. But I got a similar cranial rebuke just last week, after what was a fairly routine night out. I know we’ve all been trying to gain back a bit of match fitness after lockdown, but come on.

The familiar signs were there, I always liken it to a sheet of paper or maybe laminate or metal, caught in your head and poking uncomfortably all four of its corners into your head. You’ve got to lie in the recovery position to try to ease the pain, and the more sleep you can grab, the better your chances of survival will be. There’ll be a moment after you wake up, where you may be tempted to “assume consciousness”. This will be a fatal mistake so try to leave yourself alone and drift right back off to blissful sleep.

At this point, everyone’s got their own hangover cure which they’ll swear by. For me, your only hope is plenty of water, preferably before you go to bed, but having some on hand after that miserable awakening is the next best thing. Also, if you can get some massively starchy grub into you, ideally a brekkie roll or a Chinese takeaway down you, then your body will thank you for it, no matter what your bowels say. You may also want to plonk yourself down in front of a mindless video game to while the write-off day away and attempt to stave off The Fear.

But whatever you do, don’t choose Sonic 3D Blast in this endeavour, and this goes for both the Mega Drive and Saturn versions although let’s reserve slightly more contempt for the Saturn version for not being the dedicated Sonic game that that console so badly needed. By God, I’ve never had a game inflict so many headaches on me as Sonic 3D Blast for Mega Drive. Perhaps Sonic in any form is a no-go for hungover gamers – Sonic 2’s downing music in Chemical Plant Zone will cause you fear and depression, Sonic 3’s Carnival Night Zone barrel will make you want to die. Sonic Spinball’s sounds, meanwhile, will destroy your soul.

The isometric nature of Sonic 3D Blast veers into migraine-inducing territory though. There are lots of people who get headaches and motion sickness from games and normally I’d look down on these casuals and laugh at them, but it looks like I’m the stricken one today. I can’t even bear to look at this game in motion. I’m not so sure I’m missing much though.

The game starts with an alarming scream, similar to ones I’ve given when I’ve started awake after a hefty night out. It then segues into what’s almost an FMV of Sonic running through Flicky Island. It would be easy to mock this, but the video and really the entirety of the graphics are really impressive when you consider that this is 1988(?) hardware. The music is decent fare too, and different tunes for Act 1 and Act 2 which is what I like to see.

That’s about it though. It’s obviously not classic left-to-right gameplay anymore, it’s find five irritating Flicky birds who could be hiding anywhere, then drop them off and proceed to the next part of the level.  That’s it, and it gets quite boring quite quickly. I suppose it’s never been fronted as a mainline Sonic game, which is just as well – start playing it and the first thing you’ll notice is how badly Sonic staggers around like he has a few frothy soups onboard. He probably moves a bit like I did after that awful game of Kings, not that I remember it.

This was the end of Mega Drive Sonic, and bar that occasional reunion night like Sonic Mania, things have only declined since. This game probably should have indicated to us which way 3D Sonic games were gonna go. But I know how poor Sonic feels. Now if you’ll excuse me, I had a bit too much beer in my fish batter, and I gotta go to the toilet fast.

27 July 2021

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