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Happy Birthday Sonic the Hedgehog

Though Sonic turned 20 yesterday, the spiky-haired Sega mascot’s appeal has always come down to his enduring teenage spirit.

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Happy Birthday Sonic the Hedgehog

Though Sonic the Hedgehog celebrated his 20th birthday yesterday, the spiky-haired Sega mascot’s appeal has always come down to his enduring teenage spirit: He tears through every environment (be it side-scrolling 2D levels or his very iffy forays into 3D games) at a breakneck pace, he aloofly throws innumerable hand gestures at the player to put the accent on each victory, and he’ll start impatiently tapping his feet and checking his nonexistent watch if you ignore him for longer than five seconds. Sonic had always served as the edgy antithesis to a certain squeaky-clean Italian plumber, the unruffled cool to offset the loveable buffoon, the Rolling Stones to Nintendo’s genial and affable Beatles. And while bridges have since been built between the two, a collaborative effort between Sonic and Mario would have been unthinkable at the peak of the early-‘90s console wars. To declare your childhood allegiance to Sonic over Mario spoke volumes, and hinted that your next 10 years might be spent listening to Beck and watching Tarantino films.

Sonic’s own teenage years have seen him flying off the rails, perhaps propping up some Mobius bar and knocking back whiskeys with Crash Bandicoot, Earthworm Jim, and Rayman. With the poor performance of the Dreamcast forcing Sega’s hand to bow out of manufacturing hardware, Sonic had emphatically fallen off the radar, given there was now no console for him to emblazon as its poster boy. After the undervalued Sonic Adventure, the blue-haired hedgehog limped through countless ports and was prostituted across each console in a series of increasingly poor titles (see the sloppy Sonic Heroes and the monotonous Sonic Unleashed). While Mario went from strength to strength as he ascended through 3D games (scoring cast-iron classics with Super Mario 64 and more recently with Super Mario Galaxy), Sega’s flagship character was a spent force. And even when the two rival brands buried the hatchet in 2008 for an Olympic Games frolic for the Wii, you got the impression that the nice-as-pie plumber was throwing a bone to the down-on-his-luck hedgehog. After almost a decade in the video-game doldrums, he needed it.

And while Sega may never be able to capture timeless moments like these again, the trailer for Sonic’s 20th-anniversary outing arouses a glimmer of hope that he may yet enjoy a renaissance. Nostalgia is very much a marked selling point for the forthcoming Sonic Generations, which comes as no surprise considering recent memories of the character are flooded with woeful disappointments (including, worryingly, the game that coincided with his 15th anniversary). If there’s anyone crying out for a return to form, though, it’s Sonic the Hedgehog…and Michael Stipe.

His birthday simultaneously makes me feel old and young again, and a glance at his now-iconic images resurrects many fond memories. Choosing to like Sonic was, for me, my first rejection of convention: His hair was spiky, his sneakers were bright and bold, he threw wanton hand signs that I only pretended to understand the meaning of, and he simply oozed attitude. And while I’ll stop short of blaming all the wrong decisions I’ve made in my life on the rebellious spirit I picked up from a fictitious blue hedgehog, I will propose that choosing Sonic as your video-game idol back in 1991 may give some indication as to your tastes and preferences in 2011. Hooray for the underdog! Happy birthday, Sonic.

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Let Your Sanity Go on Vacation with a Trip to the Moons of Madness

If you dare, ascend into the horrors of the Martian mind and check out the trailer for yourself.

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Moons of Madness
Photo: Rock Pocket Games

The announcement trailer for Moons of Madness opens with an empty shot of the Invictus, a research installation that’s been established on Mars. The camera lingers over well-lit but equally abandoned corridors, drifting over a picture of a family left millions of kilometers behind on Earth before finally settling on the first-person perspective of Shane Newehart, an engineer working for the Orochi Group. Fans of a different Funcom series, The Secret World, will instantly know that something’s wrong. And sure enough, in what may be the understatement of the year, Newehart is soon talking about how he “seems to have a situation here”—you know, what with all the antiquated Gothic hallways, glitching cameras, and tentacled creatures that start appearing before him.

As with Dead Space, it’s not long before the station is running on emergency power, with eerie whispers echoing through the station and bloody, cryptic symbols being scrawled on the walls. Did we mention tentacles? Though the gameplay hasn’t officially been revealed, this brief teaser suggests that players will have to find ways both to survive the physical pressures of this lifeless planet and all sorts of sanity-challenging supernatural occurrences, with at least a soupçon of H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmicism thrown in for good measure.

If you dare, ascend into the horrors of the Martian mind and check out the trailer for yourself.

Rock Pocket Games will release Moons of Madness later this year.

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Watch: Two Episode Trailers for Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone Reboot

Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes.

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The Twilight Zone
Photo: CBS All Access

Jordan Peele is sitting on top of the world—or, at least, at the top of the box office, with his sophomore film, Us, having delivered (and then some) on the promise of his Get Out. Next up for the filmmaker is the much-anticipated reboot of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, which the filmmaker executive produced and hosts. Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes, “The Comedian” and “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet.” In the former, Kumail Nanjiani stars as the eponymous comedian, who agonizingly wrestles with how far he will go for a laugh. And in the other, a spin on the classic “Nightmare at 20,0000 Feet” episode of the original series starring William Shatner, Adam Scott plays a man locked in a battle with his paranoid psyche. Watch both trailers below:

The Twilight Zone premieres on April 1.

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Scott Walker Dead at 76

Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde.

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Scott Walker
Photo: 4AD

American-born British singer-songwriter, composer, and record producer Scott Walker, who began his career as a 1950s-style chanteur in an old-fashioned vocal trio, has died at 76. In a statement from his label 4AD, the musician, born Noel Scott Engel, is celebrated for having “enriched the lives of thousands, first as one third of the Walker Brothers, and later as a solo artist, producer and composer of uncompromising originality.”

Walker was born in Hamilton, Ohio on January 9, 1943 and earned his reputation very early on for his distinctive baritone. He changed his name after joining the Walker Brothers in the early 1960s, during which time the pop group enjoyed much success with such number one chart hits as “Make It Easy on Yourself” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore).”

The reclusive Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde. Walker, who was making music until his death, received much critical acclaim with 2006’s Drift and 2012’s Bish Bosch, as well as with 2014’s Soused, his collaboration with Sunn O))). He also produced the soundtrack to Leos Carax’s 1999 romantic drama Pola X and composed the scores for Brady Corbet’s first two films as a director, 2016’s The Childhood of a Leader and last year’s Vox Lux.

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