Sonic the Hedgehog receives "demake" for the Atari 2600

Posted on October 3, 2013 - 8:00am by Arkonviox


This isn't the 8-bit version that was released for the Game Gear. This demake goes further back, working within the constraints of the Atari 2600's hardware limitations.

A demake of Sonic the Hedgehog has surfaced, scaling back the original 16-bit classic into a 8-bit technical achievement. This isn't the 8-bit version that was released for the Game Gear. This demake goes further back, working within the constraints of the Atari 2600's hardware limitations. It is a homebrew game called Zippy the Porcupine, made by Sprybug - a member of the AtariAge forums.

Sonic the Hedgehog fans will feel right at home with Zippy; he looks exactly like Sonic. He collects rings throughout the level, avoiding pits, and enemies recognizable from the Sonic series. Zippy features the fast paced game play Sonic fans know and love. Zippy can traverse loops, and perform the spindash attack.

Zippy attacks enemies by jumping on them, or spinning through them. Enemies burst apart when attacked, sometimes dropping rings. If an enemy touches Zippy it will steal his rings. Zippy needs rings in order to stay alive. Levels are littered with rings, and television sets containing certain multiples of rings. If Zippy takes damage while not carrying any rings, he looses a turn. If he looses all his turns it's game over.

There are three enemies found in Zippy the Porcupine, whom block paths in their own distinct fashion. One out of the three enemies is a robotic crab that slowly paces back and forth. It is placed in a location where the player is sometimes forced to kill it. The crab stops when it's ready to fire it's projectiles. The projectiles are little yellow orbs that blast out of it's claws. They fly out, moving in the shape of a small arc, but their distance is limited.

The second of the three enemies is a robotic bee that hovers toward the player. The bee is placed near spots where the player has to leap between endless pits. Like the crab, it stops when it fires it's projectile. The bee's projectile has a long range; It flies toward the player at an angle, making it difficult to avoid.

The final of the three enemies is a robotic fish found near bridges. It leaps from the pit below, while it attempts to bite the unsuspected player. It's the easiest enemy to forget about. The crab, the bee, and the fish are all enemies whom Sonic the Hedgehog fans should recognize.

The game play found in Zippy, isn't as fluid as it is in Sonic the Hedgehog. Zippy can't slowly walk up a loop like Sonic can. It sounds, and plays like Sonic the Hedgehog for the 8-bit Game Gear. What makes Zippy different from the Game Gear Sonic is there is no level music, and no background. The background comprising the games only stage consists of either black or dark blue. The foreground is bare bones, lacking the imagery that defines the grassy knolls found in the Green Hill stage of the Sonic series. The game is a stripped down version of the Game Gear Sonic.

Sprbug, Zippy's creator, plans to expand the game beyond the demo he released back in July.

Now just 15 more levels to make, the overhead map selection, the boss battles, and a few other things. I hope I have enough ROM space to pull it off.” - Spybug, AtariAge Forums, Jul 19th, 2013.

This isn't Sprybug's first Atari 2600 Homebrew. He is well known for programming Princess Rescue, a Super Mario Brothers clone. It has been both praised for it's technical achievement, and criticized for it's unorthodox design. Unlike Princess Rescue, Zippy has stuck to what defines Sonic the Hedgehog, except in name.

Johnny L. de Alba, known in gaming circles as Arkonviox, is a retrogamer, and indie game developer. All his work can be found on his Retrogaming website ( You can follow him on twitter @Arkonviox.

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