Rolling around at the speed of sound, got places to go…
Ok, let’s cut to the chase straight away – there’s a reason why City Escape is such a good Sonic level, and one that will bring a nostalgic glint to the eyes and hum to the lips of most gamers. That damn music. From the second that bass lick hits your ears before Sonic himself has even hit the ground, it’s amazing. Then the lyrics kick in, and before half the level is even done you’re bopping your head along to the tune. Give it a little while and a few more play throughs, and you’ll even be singing along, which is far more of a guilty pleasure than it really should be. Whatever magic fairy dust was floating around when Crush 40 made this track, it certainly did its job very well.
Yet to say City Escape is a great level simply on the basis of its soundtrack would be a massive injustice, because the level itself is pretty cleverly designed, never mind fun to play. The opening cut scene deserves a special mention for setting the scene – Sonic’s wanted by the police, has just made a daring getaway, and is now diving down to Earth strapped only to a piece of metal. It’s cool, it gets the blood pumping, and when you take control and start boarding down the steep streets, it’s highly entertaining.
This first segment is not only exciting, it also goes out its way to look cool and show the game is all about fun. For instance; hitting a car in reality should halt you instantly, ruining the momentum. Here, all it does is send the car smashing into all the others, sending them all flying
like skittles in a grand display of gleeful carnage. And don’t forget the ramps – hit the peak of them, and with a simple button press you’re sent spinning merrily through the air, collecting all types of treats along the way. Sweet.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and you end up on your feet and wandering the streets and parks of the city. But even then you’re still thrown sweet little moments – that first time you grind down one of those twisting staircases, rolling under a wall to find yourself suddenly flying down a road at top speed, and of course the now-almost Sonic classic of running down the side of a building, complete with cheeky little camera spin just to add to the effect.
Yet it’s not only cool, it’s helpful! There’s Omachao, the slightly annoying tutorial guide, floating around in some places ready to scream advice at you, but there’s no need to ever trigger him. For the most part you’re left to your own devices, learning how to spin, dash and smash everything that lies in your path. The game even starts to give some glory to the daring at this early stage – shortly after learning how to homing attack from enemy to enemy, you’re left with a line of them hovering over a pit. There’s no need to go for it, but if you do, a nice little dose of points is your reward – very helpful for getting those elusive A ranks.
Even after all that, though, the game crams in one more defining moment – running full pelt away from a giant truck determined to make you into a hedgehog pancake. It’s a pretty simple sequence – it’s simply a case of holding the stick down and never stopping. Yet with the truck filling your screen and smashing everything out your way like skittles, it creates yet another memorable moment, and one that certainly raises a smile.
You may think this whole sermon steers way too much into the territory of just gushing about the level and ignoring its faults, and maybe to an extent you are right. But if you have ever played City Escape, you should remember how good it felt to do so that very first time, and how revisiting the level never really felt like a chore. And, of course, you should remember the music…
I’ll make it through from me to you, follow me!