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  31/08/07 Caution: Echidnas May Eat Your Brain  
I don't have a good track record when it comes to choosing favourite characters. In any given TV or anime series, for example, my favourite character will generally be the one who starts out fairly prominently, but is gradually faded into the background once the actual plot starts to kick in. By the time the show's in its fifth season, they'll have been gone for so long that half the viewers won't even know they ever existed at all.

And it's the same with games. In the Sonic the Hedgehog series, which is the greatest video game series ever (no, shut up, it is), I found a particular favourite in Tikal the Echidna, who made her debut in Sonic Adventure, the first Sonic game on what the kids of today would consider to be 'proper' consoles. Tikal wasn't actually playable, but acted as a sort of guide to the other characters. When Sonic Adventure 2: Battle came out for the Gamecube, Tikal didn't appear in the main story but was included as a playable character in the the multiplayer mode. With this in mind, I was reasonably hopeful of seeing her in more games, especially since the next game due out was Sonic Heroes, which promised a stupidly large playable cast. Alas, this is where it all seemed to go wrong. Tikal was nowhere to be seen in Heroes, despite the presence of pretty much every other character from recent (and even not-so-recent) Sonic history. Christ, even Big the sodding Cat was in there (For those of you not familiar with Sonic fandom, which I'm guessing is most of you, Big the Cat is pretty much our equivalent of Jar Jar Binks). Now, I'll concede that Sonic Heroes did actually suck. But it would have sucked a lot less with Tikal in it. Well, for me, anyway.

Several more games have come out since then, and she's still nowhere to be seen. Mind you, neither is Big the Cat these days, so I suppose there's good and bad. In any case, I thought I was alone in my slightly anomalous obsession for a very minor character in an increasingly unpopular games franchise. But no, there is someone else out there, who goes by the name of SkyLights, who is even more serious about Tikal than I am. Specifically, this individual is producing a Tikal game. Not just a silly sprite-hack of another game, either. This is an honest-to-goodness original work in the style of the old 2D Sonic games.

You can download a demo version of Tikal and Chaos here. This is without a doubt the best fangame I've ever come across. The attention to detail is superb, the art is lovingly close to the old 16-bit games... even the music sounds like it could have come from one of the original games. Most impressive of all is how close the game comes to the unique feel and control of the Sonic series... the level design is every bit as intuitive and flowing, and the physics seem fairly solid (A little hard for me to tell, as I was playing the demo via a keyboard, which always feels odd to me). Those of you who can't be arsed downloading the game can peruse some gameplay videos on Youtube. This, my friends, is the sort of brilliance that can only come from true obsession!
     
 
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