Michael Iantorno PhD Candidate, Game Designer, and Writer

Interview: Sonic 2 XL Co-Creator Captain Bozo

Sonic 2 XL is a hack of Sonic The Hedgehog 2 for the Sega Master Drive/Genesis by a pair of Sonic afficionados named Captain Bozo and Ranger. In this particular hack rings are replaced with onion rings, and Sonic becomes fatter and slower after eating them. Despite its rather odd premise (or perhaps because of it), Sonic 2 XL has gained accolades from across the hacking and gaming communities.

The World Is Square is pleased to present an interview with Captain Bozo, the programmer for this unique game hack.

Michael: The first question many people have when playing Sonic 2 XL is “where did you get the idea for this hack?”. Perhaps you can fill us all in on your creative process for the game?

Captain Bozo: (Laughs) Well, as you and many people know, Ranger is the co-creator of the hack. He’s a decent artist, but one of the things he’s kinda into drawing is fat Sonic characters. I had wanted to do a Sonic hack, and suddenly I just had the idea with him. I’m not into the more… fetishy side of this, but it’s very hilarious, so I decided to go with it.

I understand that Sonic 2 XL isn’t the first “rings are bad” Sonic hack out, but it has certainly been the most popular. Were you surprised at the press coverage you received in Kotaku, Auntie Pixelante, and other gaming sites?

I really was surprised! I was kinda expecting a positive response, thinking something like “OH MAN THIS IS FUNNY” and that would be it. I never dreamed it would be as huge as it has been.

Indeed. Most hackers would kill for the publicity the game’s been getting (myself included!). In contrast to the media, how has the hacking community in general reacted to the game?

The hacking community honestly, while they think it’s hilarious, hasn’t really said too much more than that. It’s really not very impressive technically speaking, especially when it comes to the Sonic hacking community, which is one of the most advanced I’ve ever seen.

I mean, some people have put Samus and Yoshi into the game, completely functional. My hack really only added a few lines of code and some sprites.

A few lines of code have gone a long way it seems! I think most people know about the game’s core mechanics (eat rings, get fat), but what other tweaks were made to the game to enhance playability?

Well, along with getting fat, there are a few physics tweaks, such as making you slower and heavier. It’s been a while, so I don’t remember quite all of them. For instance, you cannot play as just Tails, because I never made sprites for him. There was also the issue of becoming fully engorged and rolling past the goal, which would kill you and lock up the game after the level ended. I had to put in an exception for that.

I was considering making springs not work as you get too heavy, but I wanted to keep the game completable. That’s also why I added fat reduction monitors when rings are unavoidable.

I can’t think of many things more depressing than a morbidly obese Sonic trying in vain to bounce off a spring.

(Laughs) Yeah it’s pretty hilarious, but I wanted people to be able to beat this hack.

I’m going to step back a moment and utilize my fine arts degree to look at the themes of the game. It has been pointed out that Sonic 2 XL turns one of the most common video game tropes (collection and consumption) on it’s head by transforming it into a strong negative. Was this an intentional message, something that developed throughout the hacking, or just completely incidental?

I love how deep people read into the hack. I obviously meant for the collection to be negative, but I never thought of making it a message towards other games and/or consumption and collection in general. It’s mostly meant to be funny, and to be a surprise to the site I made it for.

It’s funny what kind of themes people pieced together! My personal favourite: a gentleman put forth a theory that Tails was an enabler for Sonic, helping him gorge upon rings through his various phases of obesity.

(Laughs) Yeah, I read that one too! That would make the little fuzzball a bit darker. Perhaps he likes Sonic more when he’s indulging himself, like an enabler would do for his alcoholic friend? I really, really love how deep people read into it. I never thought people would enjoy it as much as they do.

We touched on it briefly already, but I’d like to come back to this point to close out the interview. Sonic has a rather devoted hacking community, and completed hacks are by no means an anomaly. Can you recommend any specific hacks (Sonic or otherwise) to our readers?

It may surprise you to learn that I don’t really play too many hacks. My particular favorite Sonic hack is Sonic Megamix, which can be found on the Sonic Retro website, as well as my own. There is an extensive list of hacks there, and all of them are worth playing to some degree. As for other games, I’m particularly fond of Mario Adventure, a hack of Super Mario Bros 3, even though it’s very hard. It has quite a lot of technical features, which are really my favorite kind of hack.

The Sonic hacking community, the Zelda hacking community, and the Mario hacking community are all very advanced. My current project is to try and advance the Earthbound hacking community, which is pretty far behind in comparison, but is where I began hacking in the first place. I suggest you check out all four, though!

I heartily support EarthBound hacking myself, for obvious reasons!

Of course!

Thank you so much for your time today Captain Bozo! It was a pleasure being able to speak with you about your hack.

My pleasure! Thank you for the opportunity.

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By Michael
Michael Iantorno PhD Candidate, Game Designer, and Writer