Educational games in the Sonic series

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As the Sonic the Hedgehog series of platform games has grown in popularity, its publisher Sega has expanded the franchise into multiple different genres. Among these are several educational video games designed to appeal to young children. The first attempt to create an educational Sonic game was Tiertex Design Studios' Sonic's Edusoft for the Master System in late 1991, which was canceled despite having been nearly finished. When Sega launched the Sega Pico in 1994, it released Sonic the Hedgehog's Gameworld and Tails and the Music Maker for it. Orion Interactive also developed the 1996 Sega PC game Sonic's Schoolhouse, which used a 3D game engine and had an exceptionally large marketing budget. In the mid-2000s, LeapFrog Enterprises released educational Sonic games for its Leapster and LeapFrog Didj.

History[edit]

Sonic the Hedgehog is one of the bestselling video game franchises ever,[1] selling over 80 million units for the combined series as of 2011.[2] The original game, a side-scrolling platform game, was developed by Sonic Team in Japan. Released by Sega in 1991, it greatly increased the popularity of the Sega Genesis in North America and established Sega as Nintendo's main rival in the console market.[3][4] With the game's popularity, the series began to expand into other genres. While Sonic the Hedgehog 2 began development in late 1991, the Manchester-based Tiertex Design Studios began to work on an educational video game set in the Sonic universe called Sonic's Edusoft for the Master System. Edusoft was made using sprites ripped from the original game. Despite having been nearly finished, it was canceled. The game was not licensed by Sega, but the company did express interest in it and could have potentially published it jointly with US Gold.[5][6]

In 1994, Sega released the Sega Pico, an "edutainment" device powered by the same hardware used by the Genesis.[7][8] The system was designed appear similar to a laptop, a stylus called the "Magic Pen", and a pad to draw on.[9] As Sonic had become Sega's mascot, Sega released two educational games featuring characters from the Sonic franchise, Sonic the Hedgehog's Gameworld and Tails and the Music Maker.[8][10] Gameworld was developed by Aspect Co.,[11] the studio that produced the majority of the Game Gear Sonic games.[12] Another educational game, Wacky Worlds Creativity Studio, was released for the Genesis in 1994. Though it is not a Sonic game, Sonic does feature in it.[13][14]

In 1996, Sega and Orion Interactive collaborated to produce Sonic's Schoolhouse, an educational game in the Sega PC brand for Microsoft Windows. It was developed using a game engine similar to Wolfenstein 3D's and ten educators and psychologists helped create the game's challenges.[15][16] A cartoon clock was originally the star of the game but was replaced with Sonic; thus, Sonic's Schoolhouse is only tenuously connected to the rest of the franchise.[15] The game was released as part of Sega's US$20 million "Blue is Back" marketing campaign to promote six Sonic games releasing in the holiday shopping season; advertisements for the game were run in magazines and it was promoted in store displays. Sonic's Schoolhouse also came bundled coupons worth US$40 in discounts for Sonic merchandise, including comics and plush toys.[16]

In the mid-2000s, LeapFrog Enterprises published two educational Sonic platformers: Torus Games' Sonic X and Realtime Associates' Sonic the Hedgehog, for the Leapster and LeapFrog Didj, respectively.[17][18]

Games[edit]

Sonic's Edusoft[edit]

Sonic's Edusoft would have been the first educational Sonic game, the series' third entry overall, and the first Sonic game that was not developed in Japan. The game was aimed at five-year-olds[5] and centers around a series of minigames that feature math and spelling questions. Minigames are accessed from an isometric hub world and more non-educational games can be unlocked after a certain number of educational ones are beaten.[6] The game was virtually unknown until one of the game's programmers created a Wikipedia page about it, which was deleted after being deemed a hoax. The programmer later emailed screenshots to Sonic fansites but was unable to prove it was real. Edusoft was confirmed to be real after its ROM image was eventually leaked.[6]

Sonic the Hedgehog's Gameworld[edit]

Sonic the Hedgehog's Gameworld was the first of two Sonic games to be released for the Sega Pico.[8] The game takes the form of a picture book and changes the set of tasks the player must accomplish when a page is turned. Aimed at children ages four to seven, Gameworld stars Sonic, Tails, and Amy and features 13 minigames that are designed to teach the player problem solving.[8][20]

Tails and the Music Maker[edit]

Tails and the Music Maker was the second Sonic game to be released for the Sega Pico. It features Tails and is designed to teach children ages three to seven about making music.[21] Tails and the Music Maker uses the same picture book form that Gameworld uses.[22] The game features several minigames, including "Travels with Tails" (in which the player guides Tails through three levels) and "Percussion Pinball" (in which Tails is placed in a pinball environment).[23]

Sonic's Schoolhouse[edit]

Sonic's Schoolhouse is aimed at children aged five to nine[24] and takes place in a 3D environment viewed from a first-person perspective.[15] The gameplay has been likened to Doom (1993),[16] but the primary difference is that players must solve spelling, math, and reading questions in several difficulty levels based on age group. Sonic is not playable, instead acting as a guide.[15]

Sonic X[edit]

Sonic X is based on the anime series of the same name and was released by LeapFrog Enterprises for the Leapster handheld game console. It stars Sonic and Chris Thorndyke, a character created for the anime series, who must save Tails, Amy, and Knuckles from Doctor Eggman. The player must guide Sonic through three levels, periodically stopping to answer math questions. The three levels, Station Square, Angel Island, and Eggman's base feature sequencing, addition, and subtraction respectively.[26]

Sonic the Hedgehog[edit]

The Didj version of Sonic the Hedgehog is a side-scrolling platformer similar to the original Genesis Sonic games, but has numerous minigames that are designed to teach spelling. It is aimed at children ages seven to ten.[18]

Reception[edit]

Jeuxvideo.com regarded the educational Sonic games as obscure.[13] According to the programmer who worked on Sonic's Edusoft, the game was tested at a primary school in Didsbury, Manchester and was well-received. Retro Gamer expressed disappointment that it remained relatively unknown and offered praise for its "chunky" visual style. They also wondered "if the kids realised how lucky they were to get to play an unreleased and often forgotten Sonic game".[6] Reviewing Sonic's Schoolhouse, Hardcore Gaming 101 was strongly negative, calling it "a bare-bones edutainment title" that "offer[s] neither education or entertainment of any sort."[15] They criticized its voice acting, visuals, lack of difficulty and educational value, and poor use of the Sonic license, deeming it a "rather cynical attempt from Sega to tie it in with their mascot" and urging readers to instead play the Leapster games.[15] GamesRadar+ said Sonic's Schoolhouse was only "vaguely educational" and "a grade-schooler's nightmare."[27]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Then known as Novotrade International

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Harris 2014, p. 386.
  2. ^ Smith, Jamin (June 23, 2011). "Sonic the Hedgehog celebrates his 20th birthday". VideoGamer.com. Resero Network. Archived from the original on November 17, 2015. Retrieved November 17, 2015.
  3. ^ Kennedy, Sam. "The Essential 50: Sonic the Hedgehog". 1UP.com. Ziff Davis. Archived from the original on August 22, 2004. Retrieved March 8, 2015.
  4. ^ Smith 2006, p. 24—29.
  5. ^ a b Sonic's Edusoft programmer (user "the programmer") (March 16, 2007). "Unreleased Tiertex game? (Sonic Edusoft)". SMS Power. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d Matt; Retro Gamer Team (August 17, 2010). "Sonic Edusoft". Retro Gamer. Future plc. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  7. ^ Horowitz, Ken (February 7, 2013). "Interview: Joe Miller". Sega-16. Ken Horowitz. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
  8. ^ a b c d Beuscher, Dave. "Sega Pico - Overview". AllGame. All Media Network. Archived from the original on April 24, 2011. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  9. ^ GamePro 1994, p. 80.
  10. ^ a b c "Tails and the Music Maker". AllGame. All Media Network. Archived from the original on November 16, 2014. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  11. ^ a b "Sonic the Hedgehog's Gameworld". AllGame. All Media Network. Archived from the original on November 14, 2014. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  12. ^ Parish, Jeremy (June 5, 2014). "Who Makes the Best Sonic the Hedgehog Games?". USgamer. Gamer Network. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  13. ^ a b "Les autres apparitions de Sonic". Jeuxvideo.com (in French). June 23, 2011. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  14. ^ Alan Weiss, Brett. "Wacky Worlds Creativity Studio". AllGame. All Media Network. Archived from the original on November 15, 2014. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  15. ^ a b c d e f Bobinator (September 3, 2014). "Sonic's Schoolhouse - Windows (1996)". Hardcore Gaming 101. Archived from the original on October 8, 2014. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  16. ^ a b c d "Sega Entertainment, Orion Interactive Bring Fun and Games to PC Learning Software". Sega. October 10, 1996. Archived from the original on March 27, 1997. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  17. ^ a b Sonic X (Leapster, North American) boxart.
  18. ^ a b c LeapFrog Enterprises 2008.
  19. ^ "Sonic the Hedgehog's Gameworld". Igromania. Archived from the original on June 23, 2016. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  20. ^ Sega 1996, p. 3.
  21. ^ Sega 1994, p. 1.
  22. ^ Sega 1994, p. 2—3.
  23. ^ Sega 1994, p. 6—9.
  24. ^ Coach Kyle 1996, p. 100.
  25. ^ Sonic X (Leapster, European) boxart.
  26. ^ LeapFrog Enterprises 2005, p. 2—3.
  27. ^ Roberts, David; John Agnello, Anthony (August 10, 2016). "59 Sonic games, explained in 10 words or less". GamesRadar+. Future plc.

Sources[edit]