A Speedy Spin Through Sonic's Coverage in Mean Machines
By James O'Neill - 18 Oct, 2010
With the buzz and excitement around Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I spinning its way through Splash Hill Zones everywhere, The Mean Machines Archive thought it would be apt to rekindle the context of the first feverish moments when we encountered a blue speedy hedgehog in the pages of Mean Machines. Therefore, we have buckled up our DeLorean and floored it past 88mph to head back to 1991 to experience Sonic's original Mega Drive release all over again, (nah not really, we flicked through all 24 issues of Mean Machines to scan read for any mention of Sega's mascot).
The first time that Mean Machines announced anything Sonic related to UK gamers was in Issue 5 (Feb. 1991), a small news paragraph on page 13 titled 'Pricks at the Speed of Sound' stated that the Mean Machines team were "dying to see" the first Sonic the Hedgehog title, because it was the most talked about game at the CES show in Las Vegas.
However, Sonic really hit the big time by Issue 8 (May 1991), as he adorned the prestigious cover of Mean Machines and on page 92 to 94 he was allocated a three page preview, complete with the magazine's gloriously huge screen shots. The preview was clear in their expectations of Sonic, explaining that "Sonic is set for an Autumn release, and is looking like the biggest and best thing ever seen on the Megadrive".
Sonic also featured in a small box picture in the top right hand corner of Issue 10's cover (July 1991), because it was this issue that Mega Drive Sonic the Hedgehog would receive its 92% scoring review on pages 42 to 44 of the mag. The review was handled by CVG's Paul Glancey and Rich Leadbetter, with Paul opening with praise for it visuals stating that, "I can't think of a Megadrive game with more spectacular graphics - even Mickey Mouse wasn't as visually exciting as this". Rich anticipated that readers would want to know how it stacked up against another well known platformer and he was clear that Sega's game had not quite matched Super Mario World's brilliance, he revealed that "it just doesn't have the depth to match Nintendo's masterpiece". In any case this would be the only time that a Mega Drive Sonic game would receive a review during the 24 issue lifespan of Mean Machines.
However, Sega were not going to confine their hip new mascot to the realms of 16-bit, so by the time Issue 13's (Oct 1991) news had arrived a small boxout revealed that the Sega Master System version of the game was "going to be MEGA!" The news piece's prediction was spot on and the SMS title was indeed a 'MEGA GAME' in Issue 15 (Dec 1991), although it narrowly received the coveted 'thumbs up' with a score of 90%. This time it was Rich and Jazza who reviewed it with Rich complementing "Sonic's addictive qualities and polished action", and Jaz suggesting that you should "Ask Santa to bring you a copy…"
As Mean Machines worked its way towards its final issue, timing would dictate that only two Sonic games would receive the mag's review treatment. However, there was still more mention of Sonic, as the team headed to the '92 CES Show for a news special in Issue 22 (July 1992). It was here that an early demo of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 caught their eye, although unfortunately their team member's journalistic determination for an exclusive had been partially thwarted, as the news reporter explained that "I tried filming it on my camcorder but was bundled away in seconds by an army of bouncers".
It was fitting that a game as great as Sonic 2 should grace the cover of the final ever issue of Mean Machines, as it was the second of only two Sonic covers for the mag. Issue 24 (Sept 1992) had a news exclusive on how the game was progressing towards its November 1992 release and they also announced that it would include a second foxy player, called 'Two-Tails'. The final issue of Mean Machines even included a huge Sonic 2 poster, as the news piece urged readers to keep an eye on the forthcoming magazine Mean Machines Sega, to be able to read their decisive Sonic 2 review.