Socket – Sega Genesis
Platform: Sega Genesis
Developer: Vic Tokai, Inc.
Publisher: Vic Tokai, Inc.
Release Date (NA): August 17, 1993
Nerd Rating: 4.5 out of 10
Reviewed by NerdBerry
Socket is one of those games that features incredibly deceiving cover-art. Loaded with vibrant colors and some crazy background settings such as the Pyramids of Giza, Dinosaurs, and the monuments at Easter Island, Socket leaves gamers staring at the box and wondering what in the world this little game is all about. One of the great things about Socket is that it is a true Sega Genesis exclusive. Never ported to other systems, one can only get their electrically charged rocks off by playing Socket at home on their 20+ year old Sega Genesis (or an emulator if you’re a cheater!).
Who is this Socket and where is he going so fast? He’s a duck with an attitude, and he’s taking himself and his electric cord tail anywhere he needs to be. Socket is one bad duck. He’s so fast that he can turn out the lights and get out of the room before it gets dark. He’s got more alternating current than the electric company and more moves than Air-What’s-His-Name. Plug into Socket for a little AC buzz and some fast times!
It is the year 2902. It has not been a very good year and things appear to be getting worse. The evil ruler, Time Dominator, has finally constructed his dimension altering device (a time machine). Time Dominator has used the time machine to bring goods and treasures from the past. All this activity, however, has created a warp in the flow of time. Consequently, a Time Warp Patrol was quickly established to monitor this time warp. Before long the Time Warp Patrol, well aware of the need to stop the time warp, commissioned someone quite special who could freely travel through time, both past and future. This special someone was Socket and his only command was to destroy Time Dominator.
Socket is anything but intuitive or unique, despite the exciting and playful animation. It is a traditional platformer in EVERY sense of the word, borrowing many elements from Sonic, Mario, and other platforming games. Obviously trying to cash in on the break between Sonic 2 and Sonic 3, Socket should have just been called “Sonic 2.5 featuring a duck.” They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, and the Sonic Team should be flattered that Vic Tokai chose to make a similar game. Now, don’t get me wrong, it actually does have some pretty cool and fun features. The colors are what really set Socket apart from so many games. They are vibrant and pop right out of the screen! But what makes this game just like Sonic the Hedgehog is the game’s emphasis on speed, collecting lightning bolts to keep your energy meter high (just like collecting rings), and the platforming elements.
Socket runs around each stage with the goal of getting to the end. Every level is loaded with lightning bolts, which Socket must get to keep his energy meter from depleting, which doubles as his life meter. Socket loses energy with every hit he takes and with every move he makes. So it is imperative that you collect lightning bolts to continue your quest. The good thing is that they are abundant and easy to find. In the traditional levels, dying is actually pretty difficult. But the labyrinthine levels are much trickier and require a little more time and attention. At the beginning of each level Socket plugs his tail into a battery-type thing and charges up his energy meter. At the end of each level, he plugs it into another battery and unloads all of his energy (which is tallied up for points).
There are many problems with Socket and it’s not just the obvious rip-off of the little blue hedgehog. Socket is limited to only 2 moves: jumping and whipping his electric tail as an attack move. Granted, Sonic could only spin dash and jump, but Sonic could also jump on top of enemies and kill them! Socket must whip them with his electric tail. Not only are you limited to a single attack, but that attack doesn’t work when you’re on a hill or any slight grade. You must be on flat ground or in the air to use your attack.
Another major issue is the level layouts. They place a huge emphasis on Socket’s speed, but you can’t just fly through the levels or you will surely die. The enemies are scattered throughout and running fast will force you to run into them and lose your energy. It’s not a great feature. Why they would emphasize speed and moving fast yet make it so difficult to execute is beyond me. Just plain dumb.
And another MAJOR issue with the game (and this is probably the biggest problem) is the animation. While colorful and beautiful, there is just too much happening on the screen. There are too many details and the background blends in with the foreground, making it nearly impossible to separate the two and causing serious visibility troubles. That was the FIRST thing I noticed when I started the game. The screen looks crowded and overwhelming. I mean, it’s gorgeous and all, but they put way too much detail in about 90% of the stages.
Many critics rated this game fairly low. I have to agree with them somewhat, but I did get some enjoyment out of it. It’s a unique piece of 90s video gaming history. While most have never heard of this game, much less played it, it is still a part of the Sega Genesis library and should be recognized for its impact on video gaming when lumped together with all of the other 16-bit platforming games (such as Sonic series, Mario series, Ristar, Vectorman series, Donkey Kong Country series, Dynamite Headdy, etc). It will never stand out as being one of a kind or all that different, but it is still pretty fun despite its issues.
Developed and published by Vic Tokai, Inc, Socket never faired all that well. In fact, most of Vic Tokai’s games struggled to really break out into the mainstream but they did create a large number of games; Criticom, Decap Attack, Top Gear 2, Shinobi Legions, Kid Kool, Bump n Jump, and Flink being some of the more notable games. In 1997, Vic Tokai would close their doors to the video game industry and focus solely on telecommunications. I am a big fan of Vic Tokai solely based on their masterful release of the game Flink for the Sega CD. Truly a piece of art. Socket, however, ranks low on the list of Vic Tokai successes.
Overall, Socket is your run-of-the-mill platformer with very little to offer. Uninspired and unimaginative, Socket fails to fully capture the spirit and energy that Sonic the Hedgehog did just a couple years prior. With a blemished visual layout and a flawed control system, Socket himself doesn’t even enjoy the crazy time-traveling world he is forced to live in. The colors and decent platforming, however, save this game from complete failure. There is some fun to be had when playing Socket but it is very short-lived and sometimes not worth the frustrating parts of the game. It is worth a few bucks but I wouldn’t pay more than $10 for a complete copy. Socket could be a little more difficult and challenging, but playing this game for even an hour will most certainly drain you of all your energy. It’s just a bizarre game with a really weird story.
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