Sonic Mania Plus: Ready for an Encore?

This is an updated review in conjunction with last year’s review of Sonic Mania, and the original review can be found at the end of this review. This review elaborates and builds on the review published at the original time of release.

After a successful comeback which saw the infamous blue hedgehog return to Green Hill Zone last August, Sonic Mania got the physical release treatment with the definitive retail release, Sonic Mania Plus.

Mania mode has been given a new lease of life with cutscenes taking place after the end of every Act 2 level, though all the levels have been given a new coat of paint and have been remixed for Encore Mode, which brings back Mighty the Armadillo & Ray the Flying Squirrel.

Encore Mode brings about 3 Game Slots instead of 8, which is perfectly understandable as less is more, but being able to switch between five characters (two during gameplay) is a plus, for instance, Sonic & Tails, Mighty & Ray or even Sonic & Mighty.

Angel Island Zone returns in Encore Mode, with Mighty & Ray trapped in a pod that can only be broken by either Sonic, Tails or Knuckles.

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Encore Mode gives you more than you initially bargained for, however, as you can play as all five characters that you can switch to during gameplay, but, if all 5 characters fall into bottomless pits or are crushed by spikes or areas of the level they’re unable to escape from, you can expect to see yourself with a game over and your score during gameplay being wiped.

 

This is because unlike Mania Mode, where you could collect up to a maximum total of 99 lives, Encore Mode gives you 5 lives, all 5 of which are the characters, though you get to retry the same boss 5 times before resulting in a game over from the last level you reached.

I’ve had a chance to try Encore Mode myself considering I got my physical copy of Sonic Mania Plus on the 17th July (Day of Physical Retail Release) and it is not as easy as I first thought, but it’s a whole lot of fun considering the levels have been remixed, with all zones, Green Hill Zone, especially, all being given new coats of paint.

Green Hill Zone, in Encore Mode, feels more like Sunset Hill Zone from Sonic Advance 3 (GameBoy Advance), whilst most of the levels remind me of the nostalgic days of some old-school Nintendo games. Flying Battery Zone in Encore Mode reminds me of the old-school Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) and the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) given the colour palettes for both Act 1 & 2 have that retro appeal, though Stardust Speedway Zone Act 2 in Encore Mode feels exactly like Act 3 of Stardust Speedway Zone in Sonic CD.

If you own the digital version and haven’t purchased the physical release of Sonic Mania Plus for PlayStation 4, XBOX ONE, Nintendo Switch, you can purchase the Encore DLC on all designated stores for a reasonable £3.99 / $4.99, or if you have purchased the physical version of Sonic Mania Plus for either of these consoles, all you have to do is load the physical copy and it will apply the update with the Encore DLC, complete with Mighty & Ray for free.

If you own the PC Version of Sonic Mania Plus, you can purchase the Encore DLC complete with Mighty the Armadillo, Ray the Flying Squirrel & Angel Island Zone on Steam for the same reasonable £3.99 / $4.99.

Continue reading “Sonic Mania Plus: Ready for an Encore?”

Monthly Roundup: April 2018

The time flew really fast this month, though it’s been a quiet and tough couple of weeks for me considering I lost another close friend of mine after the beginning of this month, which is why things have been rather quiet on here lately.

I’m getting a lot stronger now but will be making sure to stay strong for my friend as I know she would want for me to be happy and to be strong for her.

I’ll take a quick look-back at the articles published over April.

1.4.2018 – As the next few weeks were set to be very busy, this meant I wouldn’t publish as much due to work, but that I would try to find the time now and then over the course of April to see if I could publish some articles when the free time becomes available.

On the same day, I officially published a new landing page for the photography series: “The Concept of Expression” as I wanted to make sure the photography series gets its own designated page.

5.4.2018 – After much hype, anticipation, rumours and a social media storm that sparked frenzy about the iconic roast master following the success of Activision’s reboot of the bestselling original Crash Bandicoot trilogy with Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy, Spyro the Dragon finally marked his comeback in Spyro Reignited Trilogy, which, just like the Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy, comes with fully remastered versions of all three of the original Spyro games originally produced by Insomniac Games.

6.4.2018 – Since the start of 2018, the rise in knife crime has worsened, as it was revealed that more than 50 lives were lost, with most of the stabbings taking place in the space of the week commencing Monday 2nd April 2018.

14.4.2018 – It was an emotional rollercoaster, and I was away for a whole week as I paid my respects to a close friend of mine of two years who passed away on the 6th April. I chose to not publish anything for a week as I needed to come to terms with losing my close friend suddenly, but also so that I could process the news better. I paid tribute to my close friend by publishing a tribute that featured a photograph I produced of the moon with inspiration from Bruno Mars‘ ballad, Talking to the Moon.

15.4.2018 – Societies nowadays, especially now, expect you to suppress your real emotions to build an image of emotions that they expect of you. In this case, you put on a face where you look happy to everyone else, and that you are made to look like you can make it alone, but deep down, you feel broken, torn up inside, and you feel the true pain where you have been forced to suppress your real emotions because societies want you to look strong, when in reality, you are strong, but they feel the need to nitpick and make you feel like you’re weak for showing the real emotions you were born with.

21.4.2018 – Whilst on my way to work, I couldn’t resist seizing the opportunity to photograph mother nature in her finest form.

29.4.2018 – A week before, the United Kingdom baked in hot and muggy weather, with temperatures soaring to nearly 30°c.

Thanks for a great month, everyone. I’ll see you all in May.

It has been an emotional time for me mainly, but I’m feeling a lot stronger now and I’m coping better now compared to how I’ve been feeling in recent weeks, but I’ll try and find some time when I can to publish more and to make sure to get the best out of the time available as my friend would want me to go out and make sure to value every single day and to make sure to value the precious time wisely.

Alex Smithson

2017: A Year in Review

What a year it has been! It only felt like it was yesterday we started this year and now we are right at the very end of 2017. It’s been a fantastic year considering that so much good has happened, but this year has been an emotional rollercoaster in itself considering we lost quite a lot of famous celebrities this year, but also because of the terrorist attacks that took place over the course of this year. To all the loved ones who lost celebrities this year, including the loved ones of those who were killed in the terrorist attacks over the course of this year, always know I support you even when times get tough, but always know you have all the rights in the world to open up and show real emotions. It will help you get all the support you need and know that you will always have the best support network behind you.

To close 2017 on a high note, it’s now time to draw the final curtain on 2017 by taking a look back on the year in review.

January 2017

1.1.2017 – Kicking off 2017 with a bang, I welcomed you all to January on Mother Nature. As 2017 officially opened its doors and began with high spirits, I mentioned that 2017 will be a year of looking forward to the future and not back. As I finally decided to break the tradition with Spotify, I decided to do away with “The Mix of…” playlist and replace it with “Alex’s Mix” as I was getting bored of constantly replacing playlists every year, and I mentioned that “Alex’s Mix” would remain a permanent fixture on this website from this day onwards.

10.1.2017 – As it was exactly one year to the day since the Thin White DukeDavid Bowie, passed away at the age of 69 from liver cancer, I had made sure to pay my full respects to the Starman by drawing David Bowie, also because the 8th January 2017 would have marked his 70th birthday. Blackstar, which was David Bowie’s 25th and last ever studio album, which was released on his 69th birthday, was classed as “…a parting gift,” to his fans.

18.1.2017 – As I wanted to kick 2017 off with a bang, I decided to revisit the photographic collection I took on the 15th December 2016 by publishing a more up-to-date collection titled: “CROYDON / REVISITED”, which would revisit Croydon with more of a positive approach, given that there was some lovely weather in my first few weeks back at Croydon College.

On the same day I published this photography article that revisited Croydon, I published another photography collection, titled: “NIGHTLIFE IN BECKENHAM”, which followed my close friend’s birthday party the week before. I mentioned that Nightlife in Beckenham was absolutely tranquil and so peaceful, and the quietness of Beckenham gave me goosebumps as it was pin-drop silent, even though it is usually busy during the daylight hours. I kept in mind there were some blind spots in and around Beckenham so I did make sure to keep myself aware of everything around me so that I could make sure that I was safe.

24.1.2017 – Mental Health is not a laughing matter, especially considering that the negative stigma is attached to anyone who suffers from Mental Health, but when social media gets involved, it does everything to exploit mental health in such a negative way that you can’t help but feel disgusted at the level of negativity that makes your blood boil. I worked with the famous actor, Oli Regan, on this article as I wanted to raise awareness and join forces with him to end the negative stigma against Mental Health, and I also mentioned in this article that I had set up a page on Mother Nature called: “Mental Health Organisations“, given that I wanted to do my bit to help end the stigma against Mental Health, even though I don’t suffer from Mental Health myself. I published this article as a way of highlighting the negative stigma against Mental Health and that I wanted to help end the stigma, given that I previously worked with Oli Regan on the article: “Are Autism & Mental Health Overlooked? (Parental Guidance is Advised)”.

27.1.2017 – As part of my Self-Directed Project, I travelled to Kelsey Park to snap a collection of photographs given that my Self-Directed Project focuses around Nature. For this Self-Directed Project, I researched 5 different nature photographers; Ansel Adams, David Muench, John Shaw, Art Wolfe & Joel Sartore. As it was three years since I last visited Kelsey Park, I wanted to make sure to showcase how much my photography skills had improved over the course of time. This photography collection was created on the 24th January 2017 and published on this day (to reduce confusion).

29.1.2017 – As I joined forces with more than a million people who signed the petition to block Donald Trump’s State Visit to the United Kingdom, I published a small article with the link to the petition. I also published this article as I highlighted that I am entitled to a freedom of speech and also my own human rights, given that Equality & Diversity always matter in this world, and that all women are entitled to the same type of freedom as men and that they shouldn’t be controlled, shouldn’t be forced and shouldn’t be objectified just for being themselves. I also mentioned that if all of us men can have freedom, then all women can have the same freedom as all of us men.

February 2017

1.2.2017 – As this month was set to be just as busy as January, I welcomed all of you to February on Mother Nature. I mentioned that this month would be a lot busier considering I had a Maths mock exam just around the corner, but also because I would be making sure to get out more and make use of the free time I have on my days off to photograph nature-based places for my Self-Directed Curiosity Project.

Also, in a surprise announcement, Beyoncé announced to the world that she was pregnant with twins. Her last pregnancy came in 2011 when she was pregnant with her first child, Blue Ivy Carter, who she gave birth to on the 7th January 2012.

2.2.2017 – As the hashtag, #TIMETOTALK, was officially trending on Twitter, Oli Regan asked me to write this article as this day was Time to Talk Day, in which anyone suffering from Mental Health can speak up about their Mental Health, as well as to how they feel the negative stigma affects and negatively impacts them and anyone else suffering from any kind of Mental Health condition. Oli Regan also appeared live on BBC Two at 9:30 AM and again at 10:30 AM on the Victoria Derbyshire Show. He would also go on to talk about Mental Health on BBC Newsbeat at 12:00 PM and 1:00 PM, including how suffering from Mental Health affected him over the course of his life.

3.2.2017 – Continuing on from my first set of photographs that I took previously at Kelsey Park, I headed to Dulwich Park on the 31st January 2017 to photograph the scenery and also some ducks and birds. I saw some Mallards and Parakeets whilst I was there, including some squirrels, though to tell you the truth, some of the squirrels I came across looked bigger than their usual size, so I did make sure to walk very slowly to photograph them and I was pleased with the end result that I achieved from this photographic collection.

5.2.2017 – Following on from my visit to Dulwich Park, I decided to visit Beddington Park on the 1st February 2017 to photograph some of the scenery, and I also photographed some of the gravestones, given the names on some or most of the gravestones consisted of people who may have died a few years earlier, including those that may have died up to more than 100 years ago.

7.2.2017 – As I wanted to set the tone of this article, I recommended Madonna’s True Blue record to soothe the soul, as this article was titled as Relaxation. I mentioned that after a relaxing day, despite doing the mock exam for GCSE Maths the day before, I mentioned that I wasn’t stressed, which was a first for me in a long time considering that I’ve been so focused on the coursework lately.

17.2.2017 – Just a few months after we all witnessed the marsupial make his comeback, it was officially announced that Crash Bandicoot would be coming back to PlayStation on the 30th June. I mentioned I would be pre-ordering the Crash Bandicoot N⋅Sane Trilogy, and the release date of the trilogy comes exactly two weeks after I mark my 19th birthday.

19.2.2017 – As it was almost a year since we lost the iconic music legend, Prince Rogers Nelson, who passed away on the 21st April 2016, I wanted to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the iconic music legend by drawing for this sixth artistic interpretation. This drawing was the first Artistic Interpretation for 2017 and I wanted to make sure that Prince Rogers Nelson would be the first musician I would draw for 2017.

24.2.2017 – After months of rumours and speculation, Cheryl officially announced she was pregnant! This news came at the perfect time and it was only a few weeks before that Beyoncé announced her pregnancy with twins to the world. February was most certainly shaping up to be a fun-filled and heartwarming month.

25.2.2017 – Following hot on the heels of my previous Artistic Interpretation which was based on the iconic music legend, Prince Rogers Nelson, I worked and completed my 7th Artistic Interpretation which focused on the Destiny’s Child musician and solo hit-maker, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles.

Also on this day, the world lost a face of the film world. Bill Paxton, best known for appearing in Apollo 13, Titanic & Twister, sadly passed away at the age of 61 after complications following surgery.

March 2017

1.3.2017 – Welcoming all of you to March on Mother Nature, I mentioned that I decided to go retro with the article image and did it up in the inspired style of Sonic Mania, considering that Sonic Mania and Project Sonic 2017(now officially titled ‘Sonic Forces’) would be released over the next few months. I also mentioned that the next few weeks would be much busier considering my Summative Assessment deadline for the Self-Directed Curiosity Project was just around the corner.

3.3.2017 –  After a three-year break from music, and after his hotly anticipated second studio album became the most streamed album on Spotify and other music services, Ed Sheeran is back with his third studio album, ÷. Shape of You really sets the tone of his latest album, because it has a unique vibe that really sets the mood you want to experience when listening to this album. I mentioned that ÷ is the first ever vinyl record I have owned and that I felt so honoured to go retro for the first time and it was an absolute honour to review Ed Sheeran’s ÷ (Deluxe) album.

8.3.2017 – As this day marked International Women’s Day, I wanted to make sure all women across the world get to celebrate being the women they are and to always be themselves. I also mentioned that all women deserve equality, diversity, respect, compassion, care and love regardless of skin colour, sexuality, gender, culture, religion and place of origin and that it’s right for all of us, including myself to celebrate all women as part of International Women’s Day.

15.3.2017 –  Let’s face it. We’ve all seen for ourselves the negative stigma that has become attached to Mental Health. The negative stigma has all too often put a strain on all governments and organisations, with Mental Health sufferers having to experience the harsh reality that they may end up not being allowed to access the help, support and treatment they need. Writing this article gave me the chance to be open about my anxiety, and although I am not officially diagnosed, I do suffer from Anxiety, and writing this article gave me the chance to be open about my Anxiety, as well as to how I have been able to manage and keep my Anxiety under control.

20.3.2017 – It was an absolute honour for me to share with you, my review of Oli Regan’s recently released début album, My Diary of Pain. I talked about how the rawness of Oli’s voice on this album really stands out, as he spoke from the heart, the mind and the soul about how he really feels. If you get a chance, please do listen to his album, My Diary of Pain, it is so good!

22.3.2017 – 24.3.2017 – No articles were published as I released an open statement on Wednesday 22nd March 2017 in light of the horrific terrorist attack that took place down Westminster Bridge, London, in which 3 victims died, including the police officer, PC Keith Palmer.

25.3.2017 –  After months of rumours and speculation that she was pregnant, Cheryl & Liam officially announced a few weeks before that they were expecting their first child together. It became official that Cheryl & Liam officially welcomed their first ever child together!

Also, on this day, I asked you all if you were ready for the clocks to go forward, considering that the time went quicker than expected and that it had only felt like it was yesterday we had just put the clocks back one hour, which proves and rings true even to this day that time sure does fly.

26.3.2017 – As this day marked Mother’s Day, I wished all mothers around the world a Happy Mother’s Day and hoped that all mothers had their Mother’s Day filled with love, happiness, joy, respect, compassion and care.

28.3.2017 – As part of my Final Major Project for the last year of my UAL Level 3 Extended Diploma Film & Photography Course at Croydon College, I was asked to produce a 6 minute and 40 second presentation on a time-keeping tool called Pecha Kucha, which is the Japanese term for Chit-Chat.

Pecha Kucha, which is Japanese for Chit-Chat, is where you produce 20 slides that have to be exactly 20 seconds each. For every slide, you would need to explain in 20 seconds for each slide a brief run-down of the kind of work you are going to produce, regardless of whether it is project-based or not. The 20 slides would have to consist of one or more short sentences you can talk about within 20 seconds, including any work you have currently produced to date.

As my Pecha Kucha presentation focused solely on Facial Expressionism, I mentioned that I would research certain photographers, such as Cecil Beaton, Walker Evans, August Sander, Thomas Ruff and any other photographer that specialises in Facial Expressionism; the field of work I want to produce.

29.3.2017 –  In the last few years, the police numbers have gone down due to cuts that have been made to save our government money, our money of which is supposed to be used to keep our police officers on the streets. On Wednesday 22nd March 2017, exactly one year to the day of the devastating attacks that took place in Brussels, which saw 35 people killed (32 victims, 3 perpetrators), with more than 300 people injured, a terrorist attack took place down Westminster Bridge, where 5 people were killed as a result, one of which was the terrorist, while the other was a police officer who was stabbed and sadly died as a result of his injuries.

31.3.2017 – I published two photographic articles that focused on Croydon, considering that I seized the opportunity to photograph Croydon while the lovely weather lasts. The weather has been absolutely peaceful lately and it was good to see that the weather was finally looking up and that it was most certainly shaping up to make the two-week holiday as relaxing and as peaceful as ever!

April 2017

1.4.2017 – Welcoming you all to April on Mother Nature, I mentioned that this month would set to be just as relaxing and as peaceful as March, but that it would also be set to be quite the busy month for me, considering I would need to travel to places up in London that I can photograph, including heading to certain galleries in London to further my research and development for the Facial Expressionism Final Major Project that I’ve been working on.

7.4.2017 – The Blossoming Feels of Spring highlighted how wonderful this day was because it was nice and sunny, the temperature was just right. and I had ceased the opportunity to photograph some parts of my garden. I experimented with the ISO frequently to see which ISO setting suited the lighting conditions the best.

8.4.2017 – Nature is Beautiful proved that even Mother Nature herself continued to amaze us and because there was a small breeze in the air with the lovely sunny weather on this day, it was safe to say that this weather was beautiful and that Mother Nature is also beautiful.

9.4.2017 – Inspire to be Positive was my way of inspiring others and to promote positivity, equality and diversity towards everyone, and that we should all drown out negativity and inequality.

11.4.2017 – This day marked the beginning of a new chapter for Windows 10. As Windows Vista officially ended extended support on this day, the Windows 10 Creators Update was officially released. I gave a full run-down on the features I came across in the Creators Update considering that I made the jump to the Windows 10 Creators Update a week early ahead of this day’s official release and mentioned that another major Windows Update was set to be released in the coming months.

15.4.2017 – As it was four years since I last visited Battersea Park, it was safe to say that not a lot had changed since my last visit. During the course of my time that I revisited Battersea Park, I produced a large photographic collection that consisted of my journey to Battersea Park, including perspective photographs that I took throughout certain areas of Battersea Park itself, even though two dogs had caught two of the tennis balls me and my family were using when we played cricket on the large field, which were eventually knackered after a few whacks with the cricket bat.

21.4.2017 – As part of my Final Major Project, I did research on the photographers that influenced me in the photography work I wanted to produce, considering that my Final Major Project is based on Facial Expressionism. The first photographer I researched for my Final Major Project was Fazal Sheikh, as his work aimed to document and even personalise the power of portraiture whilst bringing the displaced parts of the world, including its own people, into focus.

23.4.2017 – Continuing on from the first photographer I researched for my Final Major Project, the second photographer I chose to research was Irving Penn, as he was an American photographer who was best known for his portrait, still life and fashion photography collections, and his photography career consisted of work he produced with the top fashion magazine company, VOGUE, including Clinique and Issey Miyake.

24.4.2017 – Following on from the research I did so far for my Final Major Project, I started to develop my photography skills further, and the first subject I photographed for my Final Major Project was my good friend, Jonathan McCartney. As Fazal Sheikh & Irving Penn’s photography work inspired me in the development of my Facial Expressionism Final Major Project, I experimented with a white backdrop on the first set of photographs I took of my friend, Jonathan and acknowledged that some of the emotions might not connect to some of the photographs depending on which way the first headshot photographs were viewed. I also experimented further with the same photographs by converting the photographs into words with the app, WordFoto.

25.4.2017 – Following on from the first set of headshot photographs I took of my good friend, Jonathan McCartney, I presented to you the second headshot photographs I took of my friend, Jonathan, but this time, with a black backdrop, which I must say actually worked much better compared to a white backdrop, and the black backdrop was an idea a close friend of mine suggested to me after he critiqued the Headshot #1 photographs I took of Jonathan. These headshot photographs not only improved my photography skills, but it made a lot of sense to use a black backdrop in these photographs, including any other photographs that I would produce. I made sure to experiment carefully with these photographs by editing them in WordFoto and GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) so that they could retain the facial expressions I asked Jonathan to make, as these headshot photographs would tie in with my Facial Expressionism Final Major Project, including the research I did so far on the Facial Expressionism photographers, Fazal Sheikh and Irving Penn.

28.4.2017 – Continuing on from the first and second photographer I researched for my Final Major Project, the third photographer I chose to research was Thomas Ruff. Thomas Ruff is a German photographer who lives and also works in Düsseldorf in Germany. As he shares a photography studio with other German photographers, such as Andreas Gursky, Axel Hütte and Laurenz Berges on Düsseldorf’s Hansaalee, the photography studio itself formerly comprised of a municipal electricity station, which was converted between the course of 1998 and 2000 by the architects, Herzog & de Meuron, who are part of Tate Modern fame, with an updated basement gallery that was completed in 2011.

29.4.2017 – Following on from the research I did so far on the photographers, Fazal SheikhIrving Penn and Thomas Ruff, the second subject I chose to photograph for my Final Major Project was Steven Geer. For the Headshot #3 photographs, just like I did with the Headshot #2 photographs I took of my friend, Jonathan McCartney, I had made sure to use the black backdrop again, so that the facial expressions I would get Steven to do wouldn’t just have a real sense of depth, but that the expressions that Steven would make would capture a real sense of emotion. I experimented very carefully with the photographs as these photographs would build on the research I did so far on the 3 facial expressionist photographers; Fazal Sheikh, Irving Penn & Thomas Ruff.

30.4.2017 – Following on from the research I did so far on the photographers, Fazal SheikhIrving Penn and Thomas Ruff, the third subject I am honoured to have photographed for my Final Major Project was the famous actor and Mental Health Awareness Campaigner, Oli Regan. For the headshot photographs I took of Oli, I experimented with a black backdrop so that the facial expressions I asked Oli to make would give the emotion from the facial expressions he made more emphasis and more depth. After I photographed Oli with the black backdrop, I then opted to try out a red backdrop, so that I could capture some of the facial expressions again, but this time, I wanted to try and photograph Oli like as if I photographed him for a magazine cover photoshoot.

May 2017

1.5.2017 – Welcoming you all to May on Mother Nature, I mentioned that May was set to be one of the busiest months for me considering I had a lot of revision and coursework to, and I also went on to mention that the next few weeks would be full of a lot of hard work and dedication.

7.5.2017 – As this day marked the end of such a fantastic weekend, considering I went out and partied the night before at my friend’s house, I seized the opportunity to photograph BOXPARK before heading home after staying at my friend’s house for the night.

11.5.2017 – I continued the Headshot photographic collection I was developing for my Facial Expressionism Final Major Project by photographing my close friend, Leonardo Mouza, for Headshot #5. This headshot photography collection came after I photographed the famous actor and Mental Health Awareness Campaigner, Oli Regan.

15.5.2017 – I continued the research phase of my Facial Expressionism Final Major Project by picking August Sander as the fourth photographer I would research and I included Harvard Referencing as Harvard Referencing is essential for my coursework.

16.5.2017 – Headshot #6 continued on from Headshot #5, as I photographed Leonardo Mouza for my Facial Expressionism Final Major Project, along with his close friend, Terrence Mathew. The photographs I produced for Headshot #6 involved photographing both Leonardo and Terrence in the walkway outside Croydon College.

18.5.2017 – For Headshot #7, I photographed my close friend, Mhamad Rauf, but just like before, I photographed Mhamad in the walkway outside Croydon College, and also did some modelling headshots whilst the etched graffiti walls were present.

20.5.2017 – My good friend, Miles Khan, launched his website, and his website contains work he has produced of his multi-coloured pills, which he has been advertising on Instagram. I also detailed the pill designs that Miles Khan has produced so that you can choose from a wide array of choices of the type of pill design you want to purchase.

Also, on this day, I drew the research stage of my Facial Expressionism Final Major Project to a remarkable close, as the fifth and final photographer I chose to research for my Facial Expressionism Final Major Project was David Bailey.

22.5.2017 – As part of my Final Major Project, Headshot #8 followed on from Headshot #7, which focused on the subject, Mhamad Rauf, as I photographed my close friend, Kasra Soltani, for my Facial Expressionism Final Major Project. I used the walkway again outside Croydon College to create an entirely different approach to the facial expressions I wanted Kasra to make by getting him to do those facial expressions I asked him to make in the way he does those facial expressions naturally.

Also, on this day, I notified all of you in advance of the General Election on Thursday 8th June 2017 that you had until 11:59 PM on this day to register to vote so that you could vote for your choice of government, including getting the chance to get your voice heard on Thursday 8th June 2017.

24.5.2017 – I continued on from Headshot #8 by photographing my close friend, Kasra Soltani, again for Headshot #9 of my Facial Expressionism Final Major Project, but instead, just like with the subjects I photographed earlier on in the Final Major Project, I used a black backdrop to bring out the emphasis in the facial expressions I asked Kasra to make.

26.5.2017 – Headshot #10 brought my Facial Expressionism Final Major Project, as I photographed my close friend, Kasra Soltani, for my Final Major Project. As Headshot #10 was the final collection of photographs I had produced for my Final Major Project, I did make sure to adjust the lighting so that the lighting could accommodate for better focus on Kasra so that each expression he has made would connect to the photography work I have already produced.

30.5.2017 – As I prepared to end my Final Major Project, which I mentioned would come to a close on Monday 5th June 2017, I produced Contact Sheets for my Facial Expressionism Final Major Project which I would stick into my sketchbook once they were printed. All of the Contact Sheets I produced would feature all of the photography work I have produced throughout the duration of my own Facial Expressionism Final Major Project work, which would feature my photographed subjects; Jonathan McCartney, Steven Geer, Oli Regan, Leonardo Mouza, Terrence Mathew, Mhamad Rauf & Kasra Soltani.

Also, on this day, I mentioned to all of you that after a lot of hype, anticipation and a lot of excitement, Sonic Mania would officially grace our screens on the 15th August. I also mentioned that this news couldn’t have come at a better time, as 2017 would mark 26 years since Sonic the Hedgehog graced our screens.

June 2017

1.6.2017 – Welcoming all of you to June on Mother Nature, I mentioned that the weather was set to get warmer and humid considering we had lovely weather in the weeks leading up to the beginning of June. I also mentioned that I was preparing to finish my final year at Croydon College as all of my Final Major Project coursework, which solely focused on Facial Expressionism, was due on Monday 5th June 2017.

6.6.2017 – I released an open statement that followed the horrific terrorist attacks that took place down London Bridge & Borough Market, and I even did make sure to lay it all down on the line how I really felt about why I felt the foreign aid budget should be cut, though I paid tribute to the victims in the open statement by letting all those who were affected know that my heart, thoughts, prayers and condolences went out to all those who were affected by these sadistic terrorist attacks.

26.6.2017 – As I was able to meet my deadline with all of my coursework backed up to some hard drives, I did a massive clear-out on my laptop. I needed to get that much-needed storage space back as my laptop was being cluttered with all of the coursework I’ve done over the course of the entire year.

30.6.2017 – After 21 years, Crash Bandicoot marked his return to PlayStation in the Crash Bandicoot: N⋅Sane Trilogy. I mentioned how it was ironic that I mentioned in an article on the 9th July 2015 that it would be nice to see the trilogy being remastered, with mine and everyone’s prayers finally being answered on the 13th June 2016, just before my 18th birthday, that the Crash Bandicoot trilogy was being remastered and would be released for the PlayStation 4. This day was perfect and it was finally a relief to see Crash Bandicoot make a remarkable comeback to PlayStation.

July 2017

1.7.2017 – Welcoming you all to July on Mother Nature, I described that the weather was expected to be getting much hotter and more humid, whilst also mentioning that I would be looking around for jobs considering that my time at Croydon College had almost reached the end.

14.7.2017 – This day officially marked the end. My education came to a remarkable close as I finished my final year at Croydon College. The end result from my final year of the two-year UAL Level 3 Extended Diploma Film & Photography Course was that I passed with my final grade being a Pass.

25.7.2017 – After hearing about the beautifully artistic mural that the artist, Bareface, had produced of the late music legend, Amy Winehouse, who sadly passed away at the age of 27 on the 23rd July 2011, on the Croydon Advertiser, I just could not resist seizing the opportunity to photograph the mural.

31.7.2017 – Would you find it hard to believe that it was exactly 21 years ago since Crash Bandicoot graced our screens? Remember the days where you would jump over obstacles, smash through boxes and tackle side-scrolling levels? Well, those days are finally back! As the Crash Bandicoot: N⋅Sane Trilogy is back to true form, with all three of the original Crash Bandicoot games completely remastered from scratch.

Well, those days are finally back! As the Crash Bandicoot: N⋅Sane Trilogy is back to true form, with all three of the original Crash Bandicoot games completely remastered from scratch.

Also, to kick off my own photography series, titled: “The Concept of Expression”, I photographed two close friends of mine as I mentioned I would be intending to explore the concept of expression, as well as to how a facial expression can alter or change the mood of a photograph. In this case, the two close friends I photographed for my own photography series were Saviyon Thomas & Shaquille Roachford.

August 2017

1.8.2017 – Welcoming all of you to August, I mentioned that the next few weeks were set to be peaceful, but also a little busy, as I had my next batch of photographs on the way very soon, which would feature a certain someone who is a very close friend of mine.

2.8.2017 – “Should We Change at the Expense of Others?” was my way of getting all of you to see the way I see things from a personal perspective, considering that changing ourselves at the expense of others would mean we would put ourselves in a position where we’re made to change ourselves in order to be socially acceptable to everyone else.

9.8.2017 – A few weeks prior to writing the article: “Croydon Murals Defaced Beyond Recognition”, I spoke about the beautifully exquisite Amy Winehouse: “Tears Dry On Their Own” mural, which was produced by the artist, Bareface, in conjunction with and as commissioned by the RISE Gallery.

I published this article, because on Saturday 5th August 2017, me and two close friends of mine paid a visit to Katharine Street because we wanted to find out if the mural of Amy Winehouse was still in the same finished state it was when I photographed it just a few weeks before.

Sadly, on closer inspection, I was devastated to discover that not only had the mural been defaced, but a grey block and teardrop were drawn just below her eye, with some graffiti etched onto the back of Bareface’s clothing, which ultimately destroyed Bareface’s true work of art.

15.8.2017 – It was a long time coming! Sonic Mania finally arrived and officially marked a nostalgic return to form with the help of Christian Whitehead, Tee Lopes, PagodaWest Games, Lola Shiraishi & Headcannon!

Reliving 26 years of some of the most iconic levels from Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Sonic CD and Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic Mania revisited Green Hill Zone with an easter egg of an old landscape that was ditched from the final release of Sonic the Hedgehog, with the zip-line being re-introduced, and a lost level which was meant to appear in the original Sonic games but never got used finally came to Sonic Mania, and that was Mirage Saloon Zone. Studiopolis Zone, which is an all-new level, officially débuted in Sonic Mania with a city-like landscape that made it feel a little like Stardust Speedway, Casino Nights and Carnival Night Zone mixed in.

22.8.2017 – Following on from when I photographed my close friends, Saviyon Thomas & Shaquille Roachford, I was honoured to have been given the opportunity to photograph my close friend, the actor and mental health awareness campaigner, Oli Regan, again, but this time for my photography series: “The Concept of Expression”.

As I look to explore the concept of expression in the subjects I photograph, photographing Oli gave me the chance to explore his personality, regardless of the angle, but more importantly, as body language is a consistent boundary for the subject’s facial expression, photographing Oli again gave me the chance to explore his personality through these photo headshots, as well as his persona, so in this case, because he’s an actor, he puts on a serious face, which makes the photos interesting, considering that being serious really makes him stand out.

September 2017

1.9.2017 – As I welcomed you all to September, I mentioned that this month was set to be just as busy as the last, as I mentioned I wouldn’t be publishing as often as I used to, considering that I would prioritise my time effectively around looking for jobs.

18.9.2017 – ‘The Harsh Reality of Social Media (Parental Guidance is Advised)’ was my way of expressing my own realistic views on how social media has changed the way we communicate with one another, as opposed to how negatively used social media can be, given that social media is often used by some or most people to criticise and judge those online without them even having the bottle to say their comments to that person’s face.

25.9.2017 – ‘My Personal Note to Reality’ was my way of finally being open to everyone about where I stand, and that I would treat everyone equally and diversely, but that I would refuse to tolerate, let alone mix with the judgmental type that are in-equal and lack diversity for others.

On the same day, I published an article, called: “Mindfulness”, in which I would give a short but straightforward run-down about how mindfulness can be helpful to certain aspects of our everyday lives, based on the life experiences that we are or may have already been through.

26.9.2017 – ‘Camden’ was an article I wanted to share with you all, as I had paid a visit to Camden a few weeks prior to writing the article, given that Camden is a wonderful and friendly place, which is home to the late music legend, Amy Winehouse.

29.9.2017 – ‘Should We Listen to the Non-Believers?’ was my way of describing how the non-believers were and always would be the bad people who would spread poison wherever they go, intentionally bringing others down when they don’t deserve it.

On the same day, I published a small but quick-fire article in which I announced I had decided to put publishing my photography work on hold, given that my laptop was sent off to be repaired after the Audio Enhancements tab wouldn’t work whilst headphones were connected, but that I would publish the photography work I wasn’t able to publish at a later stage. I also mentioned that I finally passed GCSE English after three years and that I no longer have to do GCSE English, which is the best result I wanted.

October 2017

1.10.2017 – Welcoming you to October on Mother Nature, I mentioned that October was set to be just as busy as the last considering I was looking around for jobs, which meant I wouldn’t be publishing as much as I used to.

10.10.2017 – As this day marked World Mental Health Day, I wanted to raise awareness by telling you to make a difference, so that if you are or know someone who has a mental health condition, this day was about coming together and supporting everyone regardless of what mental health condition you and everyone else has or may have.

13.10.2017 – It’s been five years since The Truth About Love, but P!NK is back with a bang! Beautiful Trauma is the hotly anticipated album of the year and it’s no surprise to see P!NK bless us with such good music. In case you missed it, to read my review of P!NK’s album, Beautiful Trauma, click here.

16.10.2017 – This day was strange, to say the least, and for a good reason too. The sky was all yellow as a result of a sand and dust storm. This was due to Hurricane Ophelia leading a destructive path of its own, considering that the United Kingdom is no stranger to this kind of weather.

26.10.2017 – “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay.” was my way of telling all of you that it’s okay that you’re not okay, that you should never keep your emotions inside and open up to everyone, and that you’ll begin to notice that you’re much stronger than before.

30.10.2017 – After months of job-hunting and a lot of hard work, I finally secured myself a full-time job! This day was the best highlight of my year alongside passing my UAL Level 3 Extended Diploma Film & Photography Course with a Pass, as well as passing GCSE English with a C.

31.10.2017 – As Halloween Night finally arrived, everyone got into the spirit of dressing up to look like some characters from films or TV Shows, even with some going to such effort to dress up like the zombies from The Walking Dead, but what about the films? Well, to get into the Halloween spirit, I recommended up to almost 50 horror films for all of you if you wanted to put some fright in your ghoul for Halloween.

November 2017

1.11.2017 – Welcoming you all to November, I mentioned that November was set to get a whole lot busier for me considering I was about to embark on my first ever full-time job considering I finished my education for good in July, which meant I wouldn’t be free mostly as I would be putting myself first to earn from my full-time job whilst I learn and re-take Maths.

Also, on this day, ahead of the 3rd November release of Apple’s hotly anticipated tenth anniversary iPhone, the iPhone X (officially pronounced 10), I published a wallpaper pack that would consist of some wallpapers with Mother Nature’s cube, with a further set of wallpapers that would all be the same colours, just without Mother Nature’s cube.

2.11.2017 – As I use this product on a regular basis to make sure the style of my hair always stays as trendy as possible, I wrote a review on L’Oréal’s Matt & Messy Putty and I recommended this hair product to all of you considering it would give your hair that roughed up natural look, which would make your hair look as natural as possible whilst keeping the hairstyle you have in check.

6.11.2017 – Fireworks are used now and then when it comes to a special occasion; a party, or even during Bonfire Night and on New Year’s Day, but why is firework safety important? Well, the article I wrote: “Firework Safety: Why it’s Important” would allow me to air my views and reasons for why I believe that firework safety is important. I also highlighted considering I take your health and safety seriously and wanted you to stay as protected as possible by asking you to stay safe and wrap up warm, and that your health and safety are both important, and that no one, and I mean no one, is allowed to compromise that.

December 2017

1.12.2017 – Welcoming all of you to December, I mentioned it was hard to believe that we finally reached the last month of 2017. I also mentioned that time flew so fast, but that 2017 was a fun year and a better one too.

15.12.2017 – Living our lives outside the comfort zone means there are new challenges that can help us to prosper and succeed if we work hard, and writing this article: “Living Life Outside the Comfort Zone: What Was it Like for You?” was my way of expressing what life was like after I started living it outside the comfort zone considering I had completed my first month of working full-time in my first ever full-time job, and then I asked all of you what it was like for you the moment you started to live life outside the comfort zone.

28.12.2017 – Going back to the drawing board with the photographs I previously produced that featured my close friends, Saviyon Thomas & Shaquille Roachford, I produced some more photographs that followed on from when I photographed my close friend, the actor and mental health awareness campaigner, Oli Regan, of Saviyon & Shaquille. Considering this was an updated collection of the photographs I produced that featured both Saviyon & Shaquille previously, I had made sure that the updated photo-set would have that cut and thrust appeal about them by going beyond the expression, in which I would explore their personalities a little more in-depth.

I also published another photography collection on this day, but this time consisting of my trip up to London on the 26th September 2017, which was a wonderful day considering it was breezy, warm and sunny.

It is finally time to close the doors on 2017, and on a highly positive note too. Thank you so much, everyone, for such a fantastic, wonderful, emotional, joyful and positive year. This year was special and was also an interesting year too, but it will always be one of the best years of my life, and also one of the most eye-opening years of my life too.

See you in 2018!

Alex Smithson

Monthly Roundup: August 2017

This month sure flew like clockwork, didn’t it? I’ve been so busy and so productive lately with job-hunting and other things, whilst going out and enjoying myself with friends that it’s officially the end of the month.

I would love to hear how your month went, I am keen to find out whether you enjoyed August, and if not, please feel free to submit your response below in the comments. I would love to hear what you got up to over the course of August.

Without further ado, I will take a look back on the articles I published over the course of August.

1.8.2017 – Welcoming all of you to August, I mentioned that the next few weeks were set to be peaceful, but also a little busy, as I had my next batch of photographs on the way very soon, which would feature a certain someone who is a very close friend of mine.

2.8.2017 – “Should We Change at the Expense of Others?” was my way of getting all of you to see the way I see things from a personal perspective, considering that changing ourselves at the expense of others would mean we would put ourselves in a position where we’re made to change ourselves in order to be socially acceptable to everyone else.

9.8.2017 – A few weeks prior to writing the article: “Croydon Murals Defaced Beyond Recognition”, I spoke about the beautifully exquisite Amy Winehouse: “Tears Dry On Their Own” mural, which was produced by the artist, Bareface, in conjunction with and as commissioned by the RISE Gallery.

I published this article, because on Saturday 5th August 2017, me and two close friends of mine paid a visit to Katharine Street because we wanted to find out if the mural of Amy Winehouse was still in the same finished state it was when I photographed it just a few weeks before.

Sadly, on closer inspection, I was devastated to discover that not only had the mural been defaced, but a grey block and teardrop were drawn just below her eye, with some graffiti etched onto the back of Bareface’s clothing, which ultimately destroyed Bareface’s true work of art.

15.8.2017 – It was a long time coming! Sonic Mania finally arrived and officially marked a nostalgic return to form with the help of Christian Whitehead, Tee Lopes, PagodaWest Games, Lola Shiraishi & Headcannon!

Reliving 26 years of some of the most iconic levels from Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Sonic CD and Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic Mania revisited Green Hill Zone with an easter egg of an old landscape that was ditched from the final release of Sonic the Hedgehog, with the zip-line being re-introduced, and a lost level which was meant to appear in the original Sonic games but never got used finally came to Sonic Mania, and that was Mirage Saloon Zone. Studiopolis Zone, which is an all-new level, officially débuted in Sonic Mania with a city-like landscape that made it feel a little like Stardust Speedway, Casino Nights and Carnival Night Zone mixed in.

22.8.2017 – Following on from when I photographed my close friends, Saviyon Thomas & Shaquille Roachford, I was honoured to have been given the opportunity to photograph my close friend, the actor and mental health awareness campaigner, Oli Regan, again, but this time for my photography series: “The Concept of Expression”.

As I look to explore the concept of expression in the subjects I photograph, photographing Oli gave me the chance to explore his personality, regardless of the angle, but more importantly, as body language is a consistent boundary for the subject’s facial expression, photographing Oli again gave me the chance to explore his personality through these photo headshots, as well as his persona, so in this case, because he’s an actor, he puts on a serious face, which makes the photos interesting, considering that being serious really makes him stand out.

Thanks for such a great month everyone. Although it has been quite the busy month, I wanted to take a moment to remember the TV legend and Strictly Come Dancing presenter, Sir Bruce Forsyth, who sadly passed away on the 18th August 2017, but I also wanted to take this opportunity to also pay my full respects to all the victims and all the families who have lost their loved ones as a result of Hurricane Harvey. My thoughts are with all of you at this time.

Again, thanks for a great and busy month everyone and I will see you all in September. To everyone going through Hurricane Harvey, stay strong, but always know I’ll keep you all in my prayers and hope this hurricane ends soon.

Alex Smithson

Sonic Mania: A Nostalgic Return to Form.

It’s been a long time coming! Sonic Mania has finally arrived and is a nostalgic return to form with the help of Christian Whitehead, Tee Lopes, PagodaWest Games, Lola Shiraishi & Headcannon!

Reliving 26 years of some of the most iconic levels from Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Sonic CD and Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic Mania revisits Green Hill Zone with an easter egg of an old landscape that was ditched from the final release of Sonic the Hedgehog, with the zip-line being re-introduced, and a lost level which was meant to appear in the original Sonic games but never got used finally came to Sonic Mania, and that lost level was Mirage Saloon. Studiopolis is an all-new level that officially débuts in Sonic Mania with a city-like landscape that makes it feel a little like Stardust Speedway, Casino Nights and Carnival Night Zone mixed in.

After such a long wait, Flying Battery Zone has officially been revived and is officially a part of Sonic Mania, which wasn’t just a fan favourite, but is also one of the most iconic levels taken from Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles and Sonic & Knuckles, a level of which I absolutely love. Both Acts for Flying Battery Zone have had some changes here and there with access to some new and unseen areas, giving all gamers a chance to discover certain parts of both levels that have never been seen before.

Chemical Plant Zone has returned in Sonic Mania but with a difference; Chemical Plant Act 2 contains an upbeat sound whilst giving gamers like myself the chance to go inside the Chemical Plant. This gives the Sonic franchise a new lease of life considering that Chemical Plant is often seen in some or most of the games released in the Sonic series. The last known appearance that Chemical Plant made was in Sonic Generations, but this time, it’s back with quite a few changes. The songs for Chemical Plant receive up-to-date futuristic sounds, modernising the old into the new.

The man behind the soundtrack for Sonic Mania is Tee Lopes, who, just like Christian Whitehead, is also a massive fan of the Sonic the Hedgehog series and his work on making the soundtrack for Sonic Mania is sure to make everyone’s eyes water with joy.

Special Stages are back and have an eerily similar feel to the Sonic CD Special Stages, though you will need to think quickly and act quickly to catch the UFO that carries the Chaos Emerald per each Special Stage that you play.

Eggman is back but with a difference. Working alongside him, the Hard-Boiled Heavies aim to manipulate the timestream by stealing the mysterious gemstone, which is revealed to be the Phantom Ruby, which is the energy source Tails picked up on one of his energy readings far away from Angel Island Zone.

The other new levels that make their début alongside Studiopolis Zone & Mirage Saloon Zone in Sonic Mania are Press Garden Zone & Titanic Monarch Zone, though the other few notable levels that have been revived for Sonic Mania are Stardust Speedway Zone, Metallic Madness Zone, Hydrocity Zone, Oil Ocean Zone and Lava Reef Zone.

Does Sonic Mania live up to the hype and anticipation?

Of course, it does! Sonic Mania brings about the nostalgic days of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, including Sonic CD. With past levels, such as Green Hill Zone, Chemical Plant Zone, Flying Battery Zone, Lava Reef Zone, Hydrocity Zone, Stardust Speedway Zone & Metallic Madness Zone making a comeback, Sonic Mania truly lives up to the hype and anticipation me and everyone else have waited for. Sonic Mania was delayed earlier this year as more time was required and some more levels were being added in, but I was glad it was delayed until today for its release as a delayed game is better than a rushed game.

Does Sonic Mania capture the true essence of old-school retro games?

Definitely! Because Sonic Mania has revived some of the well-known and well-loved levels from the 16-Bit Sonic franchise, the old-school retro appeal gives Sonic Mania the true essence that it needs. The true essence of old-school retro games is the nostalgia the games carry, and for Sonic Mania, it does exactly that, it captures the true essence of old-school retro gaming.

How many levels are in Sonic Mania?

In their particular order, the levels that are in Sonic Mania are:

  1. Green Hill Zone
  2. Chemical Plant Zone
  3. Studiopolis Zone
  4. Flying Battery Zone
  5. Press Garden Zone
  6. Stardust Speedway Zone
  7. Hydrocity Zone
  8. Mirage Saloon Zone
  9. Oil Ocean Zone
  10. Lava Reef Zone
  11. Metallic Madness Zone
  12. Titanic Monarch Zone

I must admit, when I heard that Titanic Monarch was a completely new level, I was a little bit stunned at first with the name, but I was pleased the name was used as the name pays homage and pays tribute to the RMS Titanic ship that sunk on the 15th April 1912, 105 years ago. Although this might not seem like a relevant connection between the level and the ship, it certainly pays tribute respectively as the name remembers the ship perfectly. Fair play to Christian Whitehead, Tee Lopes, PagodaWest Games, Lola Shiraishi, Headcannon & SEGA for paying homage and for paying tribute to the RMS Titanic, I think it’s a perfectly respectful and touching gesture.

Below are the screenshots for Sonic Mania that I managed to gather together during gameplay.

Below is the video playlist I’ve created for Sonic Mania. Please feel free to watch the gameplay footage I have uploaded to my YouTube Channel, and if you have a YouTube Channel and want to see gameplay footage from Sonic Mania, please make sure to like, comment and subscribe.

Sonic Mania hasn’t just proved to be so popular, but because Sonic Mania has brought back the nostalgia and magic of past games, this gives the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise a new lease of life and also brings to the table the potential for more Sonic games and potential sequels now that Sonic Mania has exceeded mine and everyone else’s expectations. Sonic Forces follows on from Sonic Mania this holiday season, but I can be absolutely sure from my own perspective, that the Sonic franchise will be open to the potentiality of more games and sequels.Sonic Mania has me falling in love with retro games once again.

To conclude, Sonic Mania has me falling in love with retro games once again.

If you haven’t yet purchased your copy of Sonic Mania, I strongly recommend you do, because Sonic Mania isn’t just a nostalgic game worth playing, it’s a game that stays completely true to the entire Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. What are you waiting for? Purchase your copy of Sonic Mania now! If you pre-ordered the PC version of Sonic Mania on Steam before today, the PC version will be released on the 29th August 2017. To make up for polishing the PC Version, those who pre-ordered the PC version of Sonic Mania before the 15th August will receive a free copy of the first ever Sonic game, Sonic the Hedgehog.

SEGA, Christian Whitehead, Tee Lopes, PagodaWest Games, Lola Shiraishi and Headcannon, including all those involved in the making of Sonic Mania, you are awesome! Thanks for making Sonic Mania the perfectly crafted masterpiece it truly is, but more importantly, thanks for taking me and everyone else for a nostalgic trip down memory lane. You are all awesome and all of you rock!

Alex Smithson

© SEGA, Sonic Team, Christian Whitehead, Tee Lopes, Lola Shiraishi, PagodaWest Games & Headcannon 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

© The Sonic Mania logo, including all the screenshots, all of the gameplay videos, thumbnails and official art, are all copyright of SEGA, Sonic Team, Christian Whitehead, Tee Lopes, Lola Shiraishi, PagodaWest Games and Headcannon. Full copyright goes to the respective owners.

Sonic Mania Rating: 10/10

Sonic Mania. Out 15th August!

After a lot of hype, a lot of anticipation and a lot of excitement, Sonic Mania will officially grace our screens on the 15th August!

This news couldn’t have come at a better time, as this year will mark 26 years since Sonic the Hedgehog graced our screens.

Christian Whitehead, PagodaWest Games & Headcannon, who are responsible for making Sonic Mania a reality, showed us Green Hill Zone, including Studiopolis & Mirage Saloon, which are two new levels for the Sonic franchise, with past-time favourites, such as Flying Battery Zone and Stardust Speedway even making a comeback.

I must admit, when SEGA announced the game was being delayed until the Summer, I wasn’t sure at first, but I am so glad they delayed it because it made more sense to delay the game so that it could give them more time to make sure the game could not only capture the magic of the first three Sonic games, but that Sonic Mania could pay homage to the franchise itself. Stardust Speedway, which made its debut in Sonic CD (or Sonic the Hedgehog CD, however you choose to call it), which last featured in Sonic Generations and in Sonic the Hedgehog 4 (Episode II) for the segment, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode Metal, returns in Sonic Mania with modernised visuals that go old-school, which is what myself and every Sonic the Hedgehog fan wanted.

Overall, I have a strong feeling this game will not just be popular once it’s released, but I can guarantee this game will be a smash-hit for SEGA when it is released before the next Sonic game in the Sonic franchise, Sonic Forces. Sonic Mania is most definitely the game I will be playing and reviewing so stay tuned as there’s more to come, what with Miles “Tails” Prower and Knuckles the Echidna also returning in Sonic Mania!

Are you excited for Sonic Mania and Sonic Forces? Please let me know. I would love to hear your response.

Alex Smithson

Welcome to March!

Welcome to March on Mother Nature! As you can see, I have decided to go retro with the article image and do it up in the inspired style of Sonic Mania, considering that Sonic Mania is set to be released within the next few months. There is news just around the corner surrounding Sonic Mania and Project Sonic 2017, which I am excited about and I honestly cannot wait to get my hands on Sonic Mania when it comes out. If Project Sonic 2017 gets an official title and if there’s all-new gameplay featuring both Classic Sonic & Modern Sonic, then I shall consider the possibility of buying the Project Sonic 2017 if it lives up to the hype. I know SEGA & Christian Whitehead both have one heck of a great year ahead so I am pretty sure they will exceed our expectations any which way.

The next few weeks are going to be much busier considering my Summative Assessment deadline for the Self-Directed Curiosity Project is right near the end of this month, so I will be making sure to work my socks off as I am so determined to pass and bump last year’s grade up to a Merit or Distinction at least. Also, I will be working harder than usual over the course of the next few weeks as I have a GCSE English Speaking & Listening Assessment coming up which I am currently preparing for, so I hope it goes well, so fingers crossed! Meanwhile, I will be making sure to put all of the hard work in with my GCSE Maths coursework as I seriously want to pass this time around.

Spring is ready to embrace its beautiful side and with the clocks going forward towards the end of the month, it is safe to say that Mother Nature will blossom with vibrant colours and displays. Not only that, but with the temperature of the weather slowly going back to normal, I cannot wait to enjoy the lovely Spring weather once again. The clocks are set to go forward as part of Daylight Saving Time on Sunday 26th March 2017 at 1:00 AM so I thought it would be wise to let you all know in advance so you know exactly when the clocks go forward.

I should warn you as I read something a short while back for when the clocks went back that if you have any devices with Airplane Mode switched on, such as an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple Watch and any Android devices and smartwatches, then it’s recommended that Airplane Mode must be switched off very briefly in order for every device’s clock to go back or forward an hour. I am prepared for the clocks to go forward so to speak, but even so, why waste time when you make the most of it by making the best out of it?

If I am able to find the free time over the next few weeks, I may consider doing some drawings that I can publish on here, or if I head out to certain places in and around London over the next few weeks to photograph anything nature-based for my coursework, then I will make sure to publish any photography work I produce on this website.

Until then, Welcome to March!

Alex Smithson

Sonic Generations: A Shift Between Classic Sonic & Modern Sonic

As Sonic Generations marked the 20th Anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog, it was clear that this game had everything to offer, because for the first time, and with Stereoscopic 3D, you would get to see Classic Sonic & Modern Sonic in an entirely nostalgic form that would shift between the past and the present. I will not deny this, but I have played the game myself and I absolutely love it, because it delivers and creates not just a nostalgic feeling that makes you think of the good old days of Classic Sonic, but it gives you the approach that Sonic is back and Retro is back too.

As a massive SEGA fan, I love the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise and have played previous games, such as Sonic Heroes, Sonic Rush and even the Christian Whitehead reboots of Sonic the Hedgehog & Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and I won’t lie, I wish I played Sonic Generations sooner, because it’s one of those games where you cannot afford to not play it to appreciate and understand the true aspects behind how the game was really made, as well as the hard work that SEGA went to in order to modernise and remaster past levels.

For the first time, you can play these levels in modern form:

  • Green Hill Zone (Taken from Sonic the Hedgehog)
  • Chemical Plant (Taken from Sonic the Hedgehog 2)
  • Stardust Speedway (Metal Sonic Rival Battle) [Classic Sonic] {Taken from Sonic CD}
  • Death Egg Robot (Boss) [Classic Sonic] {Taken from Sonic the Hedgehog 2}
  • Shadow the Hedgehog (Rival Battle) [Modern Sonic] {Taken from Sonic Adventure 2 Battle}
  • Sky Sanctuary (Taken from Sonic & Knuckles)
  • Speed Highway (Taken from Sonic Adventure)
  • City Escape (Taken from Sonic Adventure 2)
  • Seaside Hill (Taken from Sonic Heroes)
  • Crisis City (Taken from Sonic the Hedgehog) [2006]
  • Silver the Hedgehog (Rival Battle) [Modern Sonic] {Taken from Sonic the Hedgehog ’06)
  • Perfect Chaos (Taken from Sonic Adventure)
  • Rooftop Run (Taken from Sonic Unleashed)
  • Planet Wisp (Taken from Sonic Colours)
  • Egg Dragoon (Taken from Sonic Unleashed)

Also, for the first time, you can play the final boss in the level, Time Eater. If you have all of the 7 Chaos Emeralds, you will be able to play as Classic Sonic & Modern Sonic but as Classic Super Sonic & Modern Super Sonic, and you will be able to fight Dr. Robotnik & Dr. Eggman.

If you have the PlayStation 3 version of Sonic Generations, it comes bundled with the first ever Sonic game, Sonic the Hedgehog, which is an added bonus considering you can play two games as well as one. To get the first ever Sonic game in Sonic Generations, you need to buy the SEGA Mega Drive Controller in the game with the points that you collect through every level that you have completed and don’t worry, you don’t pay extra money for the game at all, you just use the points you earn in the game for every level to get the controller in the game and you’re ready to go at any time.

Below are some screenshots from some of the Classic & Modern levels of Sonic Generations if you want to relive the nostalgia of past Sonic the Hedgehog games.

It’s hard to believe it was five years ago this game was released, and I won’t lie, playing this game has made me realise just how much technology has evolved in the gaming world, and not only that, but to see games from past time being remastered, it’s amazing how some games still capture that nostalgic appeal from the last 10 to 20 years.

I felt it was right to write a review on this game considering it’s exactly 25 years this year since the first ever Sonic game was released, and to continue the celebrations, Christian “Taxman” Whitehead, who has ported Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 & Sonic CD to smartphones and consoles, is working again with SEGA and also with PagodaWest and Headcannon on the upcoming 2017 Sonic game, Sonic Mania, which will relive the nostalgia of past levels from some games, including some new levels, though some of the new levels will be new to me as I have never seen them before, apart from watching clips of Sonic Mania on YouTube and on some gaming websites. Also, as the as yet untitled Project Sonic 2017 game is being developed for the XBOX ONE, the PlayStation 4, the Nintendo Switch and also for Laptop / PC, it’s safe to say that SEGA have a fantastic year ahead. 2017 is going to be SEGA’s year, and I am absolutely sure of that.

What do I think of Sonic Generations? I love the game with a passion, because it relives the nostalgic appeal that I had with past games, such as Sonic Heroes & Sonic Unleashed, and because I have played Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic CD & Sonic Heroes, including Sonic & The Secret Rings and Sonic Colours, Sonic Generations really captures the heart of what made SEGA, and Sonic Generations as a whole captures the flare that past Sonic the Hedgehog games had as well.

Overall, I am absolutely glad to have played this game and I will still continue to play the game anytime and also because the HD Graphics on the game are perfectly crisp, and you can’t help but feel like as if you’ve immersed yourself in the game even though you’re the one playing the game. Sonic Generations is such a fantastic game and I absolutely love the fact that SEGA have decided to give past levels from past games the new lease of life they deserve.

One more thing. If you haven’t got Sonic Generations, then I strongly recommend you buy it for the PlayStation 3 as it is on the PlayStation Essentials list, or if you have a Laptop / PC, then it will be available to purchase on Steam.

I wholeheartedly recommend Sonic Generations.

If you enjoyed my review of Sonic Generations, then please feel free to comment below your feedback on this review. All feedback is much appreciated and to end this review on a high note, I just want to say this:

THANK YOU SEGA FOR SUCH A FANTASTIC AND NOSTALGIC GAME!

Alex Smithson

© SEGA & Sonic Team 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

© Any logos / promotional images used, such as the SONIC GENERATIONS Trademark, the Registered SEGA Trademark, including the promotional image of Classic Sonic the Hedgehog & Modern Sonic the Hedgehog, including the concept art behind the logo and the game’s screenshots are all copyright of SEGA & Sonic Team. No Copyright Infringement Intended.

Sonic CD: Old-School Retro Meets Modern Gaming

As I share my love for SEGA‘s blue mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic CD officially went widescreen, thanks to Christian “Taxman” Whitehead, who is best known for porting SEGA’s iconic classics, Sonic the Hedgehog & Sonic the Hedgehog 2 to consoles, smartphones and even tablets and as I was lucky to grab a copy of Sonic CD via iTunes, I started playing on the game and I can be honest, it is much better now compared to the 1993 SEGA CD release.

As Sonic CD was also re-released for the PlayStation 3, XBOX 360, Android, Steam and Windows Phone, it was safe to say that the Classic Sonic we all knew and loved was back and to be honest, playing the game in widescreen is so much better now than before as you can finally feel comfortable playing a treasured classic from the past without needing to go back to a certain area in each level that you play.

The 7 time stones, later known as the Chaos Emeralds in the future Sonic the Hedgehog games, were the crucial pieces of the puzzle that would come together once you claimed them through 7 Special Stages in the game. This, of course, would give Sonic the Hedgehog the ability to defeat Eggman once and for all, or Dr. Robotnik as Sonic’s arch nemesis is most famously known as.

I won’t lie to you, it’s such a good game to play and it has the old-school retro appeal that can make you feel like as if you were in the 1990’s playing this game the moment it was released. I love the game, as it is different in its own right, but at the same time, you can’t help but feel like you wished you played this game sooner.

It’s hard to believe it was 23 years ago that this game was released, it’s amazing how the time flies, but when you consider how much technology and gaming have evolved, it’s amazing to see old games becoming new again, and it’s also amazing to see old games being revived for the big screen. Sonic CD was remastered to be played in 16:9 widescreen and it is Full HD, so you’re getting the best from this game, even if you have or haven’t played it before.

But overall, Sonic CD is such a fantastic game and you cannot go wrong with such a fantastic old-school classic like this. Sonic CD’s old-school retro appeal has officially met the modern gaming world and it’s safe to say that this game is worth downloading and is worth playing. I wholeheartedly recommend playing the game, because the moment you start playing it, those seconds turn into minutes, and those minutes quickly turn into hours of gameplay.

If you enjoyed my review of SEGA’s Sonic CD, please feel free to submit feedback. All feedback is much appreciated.

Alex Smithson

© SEGA & Sonic Team 1993, 2016

© Any logos / promotional images used, such as the SONIC CD Trademark, including the promotional image of Metal Sonic & Sonic the Hedgehog side-to-side are all copyright of SEGA & Sonic Team. No Copyright Infringement Intended.