Reviews// Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1

Posted 12 Oct 2010 16:57 by
16 years. Has it really been this long since we've had a Sonic the Hedgehog game that follows the blueprint of the Mega Drive classics I hold so dear? I feel like an old geezer just thinking about it seems like yesterday that I was wrecking Dr. Robotnik's plan on the Death Egg, only to follow him into space as Hyper Sonic (thanks, Super Emeralds) and smash the hell out of his Doomsday project.

If you're expecting something equally epic in this brand-spanking new, HD-polished Sonic the Hedgehog 4, then you'll be disappointed. At least with this episode it is only the first one, after all. But then, if you consider yourself one of Sega's tortured Sonic fans, you'll have been disappointed with this game before even playing it.

For Sonic 4 has been the subject of a seemingly never-ending wave of criticism by the online elite, all sheepishly resigning themselves to the fact that the game would be mediocre. Amidst the chaos, there were some legitimate concerns about just how Sonic Team would treat the game.

Thankfully, those fears were not realised. Sonic 4, in its current state, plays almost as well as the 16-bit classics. From the very start you're thrown into familiar surroundings, with Splash Hill an obvious homage to the original's opening stage, and all of Sonic's old abilities from the spin attack to the spin dash working exactly as you'd expect them to.

The only addition to the blue blur's repertoire of attacks is the homing attack from the 3D Sonic Adventure games. In a 2D context this means that springs, badniks and item monitors all have a red target appear over them whenever you're nearby and in mid-air. Pressing the jump button whilst airborne will make you zoom over to the target with relative ease.

Rather than cheapen the game, this move can allow Sonic to explore higher routes or to more accurately land a jump across a chasm. Although it's an entirely optional move you can opt to take higher routes in most levels without even using it you do end up relying on it more often than not. And it feels just as natural as any of Sonic's shield power ups in past games.

The level design is simply superb, all with multiple routes and several forks throughout the stage which offer the opportunity to climb up or down a route as you progress. Classic Sonic Zones have always had level gimmicks, and Sonic 4 is no exception Splash Hill Act 2 provides vines to swing from, while Casino Street contains cannons to launch out of.

There are one or two stages that seem to be entirely gimmick-heavy however. Lost Labyrinth Act 2 has Sonic carrying a torch through dim passageways, which isn't particularly inspiring, and the aforementioned Casino Street has an Act almost entirely dedicated to being fired out of cannons. Would have been nice to have seen some of those spread out across the other Acts to be honest.
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