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Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 Review

Review; Dec. 7, 2010; Channels: Video Games; By Robert F. Ludwick
Sonic returns in 2D in a good but unspectacular game

Remember the good ol' days of video gaming? Remember when Sega ruled the world with Sonic the Hedgehog as its king? Those sure were the days, weren't they? Back before the deluge of 3-D Sonic games hit gamers upside their collective heads and caused the Sonic franchise to fall stunningly from grace.

Wait, what's this you say? Sonic is back in a new 2-D game? A new major 2-D game? Not just a mobile game but a downloadable game for all of the current major consoles? He's back folks, Sonic is back! Rejoice and be glad!

Well... Sure, you should be happy, especially if you're a Sonic fan. Unfortunately, Sonic is not quite ready to assume his old throne.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 Screenshots
Click the image above to view game screenshots

After more than a decade since Sonic last struck 2-D gold with Sonic and Knuckles, Sega finally decided to bring Sonic back to his form-fitting 2-D role on major consoles. With the recent success of Mega Man's return to the video game sphere in 2-D form, Sega had to have been thinking it was time to bring Sonic back to his former glory. Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 picks up right where Sonic and Knuckles ends. Sonic is thrust back into his starring role of "destroy badniks and find and destroy Dr. Robotnik."

The game progresses in typical Sonic fashion: Fight through a few similarly-styled levels in one region, then fight Dr. Robotnik at the end as he pilots some sort of boss machine. The level settings are all familiar Sonic level settings, such as a nice lush green zone to begin things, a casino setting and even a ruined labyrinth. Many of the levels here hearken back to better Sonic days.

In fact, the levels seem a little too old-style. Many of the enemies are just refreshed versions of old enemies in prior Sonic games. They've been updated for modern systems and designs, but they're still the same enemies from previous Sonic games. As a classic Sonic fan myself, this doesn't bug me too much, but... Really, Sega? Not much new content here.

The major difference in the levels this time around is you can replay them after beating them. You do not have to progress linearly as is the case in the classic 2-D Sonic games. This puts a bit of a kink in the classic Sonic gameplay -- you can replay levels if you don't feel that you've done well enough the first time around. In fact, you can replay levels to earn the Chaos Emerald (yes, it's back) that you failed to earn on your first run. Or you could pick a level that has lots of extra lives in easy-to-reach places to stockpile lives. This just doesn't jive with classic Sonic games.

The level designs themselves are pretty solid overall, but some can be very frustrating. In the ruined labyrinth mentioned earlier, there is one part in particular where it's not obvious how to progress and even when you figure out the mechanism, it's difficult to pull off. Speaking of difficulty, there is one point during a very important boss fight (in fact, the most important point of that battle) at which you may have to die a few times in order to, by chance, actually perform the action required at that point of the fight. The ambiguities here and there in the level design do get frustrating.

Back to the Chaos Emeralds. They've been re-introduced in Sonic 1 fashion with the giant floating ring as the entrance at the end of every regular level. You'll find yourself floating through a maze with rings, bumpers, one-pass gates, ring gates and your normal "fail zones" if you touch them. These levels do seem to get progressively harder as you progress. Obviously, once you've collected all seven of the emeralds, you can activate Super Sonic. Thankfully you can specifically choose to activate him, rather than gathering 50 rings and having him activate automatically on the next jump.

The music is a blend of old tunes and sound effects mixed with new updated tunes. Really, there's not much of interest to report here save for the now-familiar theme of Sega recycling old Sonic material and just updating it for the current age.

Unfortunately, that about sums up Sonic 4. It's good game, but it's mostly just recycled Sonic content with a fresh coat of paint. It's fun, and it has all of the niceties you'll find with modern games, such as leaderboards; however, it still comes up a bit short for all of the hoopla over Sonic returning to 2-D. It's a good buy for new and old fans of Sonic alike, but don't expect it to rock your world.



RGoodman4483 - Feb. 8, 2011 at 9:25:42pm

I was kinda disappointed too. They tried to add too much of the elements of the newer games, where they should have just kept it as basic as the Genesis classics.

Review Score


Titles rated E (Everyone) have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.

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