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Knuckles' Chaotix (Sega 32X) artwork

Knuckles' Chaotix (Sega 32X) review

"The curse of the 32X even caused the great franchises of the time to release average games."

Knuckles' Chaotix (Sega 32X) image

The people at Sega sure had some weird ideas back in the day, didn't they? The Genesis was a great system, but eventually it's time to let things go and start fresh. Instead of going that route, though, Sega tried to artificially elongate the hardware's lifespan with a pair of high-priced add-ons. The Sega-CD at least brought players a handful of legitimately good games, but the 32X felt like a reject from the Island of Misfit Toys.

Among other sins, the 32X has the sad distinction of hosting the single 16-bit title that came close to flubbing up the Sonic the Hedgehog brand. The series had by that point declined mightily since its origins, thanks in large part to a number of uninspiring spin-off titles, but still... Sonic was a boss and his primary games tended to be very good, even electric.

Knuckles Chaotix proves to be a bit of an odd duck from the very beginning, though. Sonic himself is only present in the superior ending one gets by acquiring all of the Chaos Rings found in the various bonus stages. As the title suggests, this game actually belongs to Knuckles, who made his debut in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and became a playable character with the release of Sonic and Knuckles. Joining him are his sidekicks, the Chaotix (guys who haven't seen much action outside this first game). And when I say "joining", I mean that ever so literally.

Knuckles' Chaotix (Sega 32X) image

You pick the character you want to control. Initially, your only choice is Knuckles, but eventually you can select one of the four Chaotix members, as well. Each of them possess their own abilities. For instance, Mighty the Armadillo not only looks like a differently-colored Sonic but also runs like him. Charmy Bee can fly (a useful skill considering how much of this game takes place in vertically-oriented stages). Whatever two characters you control, they're essentially chained together by something best described as a really powerful rubber band. If you throw your partner upward, you'll be sent after him, allowing you to access high ledges you can't reach with a simple jump. In other cases, you should press a different button to hold your partner in place while you move in the opposite direction. Release that button and the resulting velocity gives both of you the super speed required to sprint up walls.

Essentially, what the game offers is a nice combination of Sonic staples and original ideas. After you clear some introductory/tutorial areas, you'll soon notice the game resembles a traditional Sonic title, but with a formula that was tweaked to make use of the "rubber band" design. Any move you learn in the tutorial must be applied repeatedly as you advance through the game. Even simple progression works differently than normal, though. You start in an "amusement park" that serves as your level hub. By running to the right, you'll activate a roulette that randomly chooses the next stage on your behalf.

There are five available zones, each consisting of five levels apiece (with a boss inhabiting the final level within a given world). You might clear a particular world quickly, or the roulette could leave you alternating between worlds before battling various bosses consecutively. That element of mystery represents one of the game's best ideas. It helps prevent you from quickly burning out on a particular zone, since successive stages within a particular zone are mostly just slightly longer and more complex versions of the stages that preceded them.

In spite of that unique twist, though I still found the overall game to be rather tiresome. I picked it up, played it, beat it, sort of liked it... and probably won't ever touch it again.

Knuckles' Chaotix (Sega 32X) image

The problems start with the "rubber band" system I mentioned, which sometimes leads to characters haphazardly flying out of control all over the screen. That particular ill is joined by lots of repetition. Nearly every single level looks and plays the same as the next. There are no bottomless pits or instant death traps, and the enemy population seems to have dropped compared to what you might encounter in the average Sonic game. Instead or running across foes, you'll spend most of your time roaming large environments and performing the moves that will catapult you to higher platforms in a low-risk setting where the most fearsome hazard is a 10-minute timer that might expire before you find the goal.

I found two sources of remote challenge in the game. Bonus stages were the first source. You have to run along 3D tunnels and collect spheres to obtain the Chaos Rings. If you want to secure the best endings, you'll have to practice quite a bit to hone your reflexes sufficiently that you can get through many of the available courses. Boss fights, which are quite challenging when compared to the generally toothless zones they follow, represent the game's other attempt to provide actual difficulty. You have to be proficient with the rubber band system in order to rocket your teammate into the vulnerable parts of Dr. Robotnik's contraptions, and failure actually has a price. Other than those particular situations, though, the whole campaign was mere child's play as I sprinted through one level after another. The zones melded into one never-ending level that offered only occasional changes to the background visuals.

Knuckles' Chaotix (Sega 32X) image

Don't get me wrong, though. If the game does appeal to you, there's plenty of content to keep you busy. Rings and power-ups are scattered all over the place, along with bonus stages you can enter when you're carrying enough rings. The whole experience looks and sounds like a good title from the late Genesis era, and you get to control multiple characters. Depending on how long you take to clear a stage, the next one may also take place during a different time of day, with altered enemy placement.

If you enjoy Knuckles Chaotix and want to squeeze every last bit of replay out of it, you'll find reasons to return to it even after you've reached the end. I'm not that sort of person, though. The couple of hours it took me to play through Knuckles Chaotix and save the day the first time were more than enough for me...


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (October 26, 2015)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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EmP posted October 26, 2015:

There were three 32X games that I was kind of looking forward towards playing. I actually beat one of them but have yet to get around to writing up my thoughts. Now I'll never bother because you beat me to it.

I've subbed the screenshots I took in case you want to use them and will probably get around to writing this up eventually. I think I enjoyed Choatix a little more than you - those trippy bonus stages were excellent and some of the boss fights rock, but you covered those aspects. Good K sniping and fine review.
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overdrive posted October 26, 2015:

I am much pleased with the addition of asset and have claimed FOUR of them for my review. I give my most sincere attempt at feigning a humble thanks.

I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with this game, simply because I'm so used to core Sonic titles from this era rocking like mad. I think with some work and alterations, this one could have rocked hard too, but as is, it only will be known to me as a 32X game that's good enough to not be a hilarious punchline for everyone except those unlucky people playing them.
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Vorty posted December 06, 2015:

Good to see more 32x coverage. I reviewed this game years ago and I kinda liked it
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overdrive posted December 11, 2015:

I'd say that "kinda liked it" would be the best way to phrase it. It was solid and all, but if you gave me my choice, I'd rather play any other Genesis core-Sonic* game than this one.

*Meaning the main series Sonic games -- this one ranks above stuff like that Genesis isometric-view Sonic game, the Spinball one, Mean Bean Machine and so on. I curse my purchase of that Sonic PS2 Collection for introducing me to a couple of those...

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