Reviews: Sonic The Hedgehog 4
"mixed reviews" (an episode 2 review)
When I researched the response to Sonic the Hedgehog 4 E:2 many players say the game is mediocre. Often times claiming that both episode 1 and Sonic the hedgehog 2 were better games than this one (talk about nostalgia filter). While you can say that all Sonic games are "lacking" in the very least I would argue that episode 2 is a great step in the right direction and a sign that Sega is trying to get back to it's roots while still being innovative. Pros: I like the combos, they are a bit of a game breaker at times but they are useful. I'd say an improvement from Sonic 3 and Knuckles in this aspect where it was extremely Awesome Yet Impractical. I hated the Sonic the hedgehog 2 bonus levels but they give you a few tricks and power-ups to make them easier with this remake. Optional Super transformations in the boss battles return (Sonic Colors/ episode 1 brought the in-game transformation back and this one allows you the choice of using it on the bosses again). Again that's a game breaker but still pretty old school. Cons: The game is too simple, short and easy. I guess this is Sega "listening to the fans" saying they wanted more simple games. The physics are improved but still kind of Sonic Rush-esque. Episode metal seems to be a waste of space IMO, he doesn't seem much different from Sonic which makes his appearance unnecessary. Overall I like this game and hope the negative and "mixed" reviews don't deter Sega from retaining the good ideas they developed here.
(ep 2 review) Like a long-lost Genesis classic
Some of you might have heard that Sega accidentally sold the beta for this game on Steam before pulling it. Well, I happened to get it (not knowing it was the beta), and I gotta say, this game has surpassed my expectations. The mechanics are improved, and much closer to the Genesis games. Sonic's movement and jumping feels more natural, and I haven't seen any moment where I thought the movement was off, unlike with Episode 1. The level design is also much better. There's a great many creative ideas in the levels and many fun surprises. The levels follow the mold of Episode 1, being themed after the Genesis games, and players will recognize remakes of Sky Chase (complete with riding on Tails' plane, not a favorite of mine tbh) and Wing Fortress, and a level that's a hybrid of ideas from Sonic 3's Carnival Night and Ice Cap. The major gameplay change here is the addition of Tails the Fox. You can't play as Sonic or Tails solo, and Tails is always with you, but here I don't mind. The game is built with Tails in mind, and there's a call button that summons him to you, as well as a "team" button that lets him pick up Sonic so they can fly or swim together, or roll into a big ball that can plow through enemies and launch off ramps higher, but can't move backward. The levels are built with these abilities in mind, and while the "roll into a big ball together" one is rarely required, it has proven very useful in some non-required situations, and it even turned the race against Metal Sonic into a complete breeze. The game's 2-player mode is different from the Genesis days. In co-op, Sonic and Tails are treated as equals. If one is left behind, they can push jump to immediately catch up. Either player can activate a "team" move at any time. And if either character dies, they can push jump whenever they wish to respawn on the spot, drawing from the team's pool of lives. Finally, while the audio is similar to Episode 1 and sounds very synthesized (though the music is catchier), the graphics have gotten a big overhaul. While the game still mixes 2D prerendered sprites with 3D graphics, there's more 3D and less 2D, and the mix looks more natural together. Basically, this is the sequel I hoped Episode 2 would be, and more. Better mechanics, better graphics and music, and more creative and fun level design.
(ep 1 review) A good effort, but flaws hold it back
Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 1 tries to bring back the Genesis/Megadrive style of gameplay from the older Sonic the Hedgehog games, with not only 2D gameplay, but the physics and movement of the older games, albeit with modern influences like the homing attack. Unfortunately, while I found a lot to enjoy in the game, it doesn't quite capture the things the Genesis games did right, and in some places seems to miss the point. Take the physics. Sonic accelerates oddly and slows down quickly. It feels very unnatural, and it takes away from the fun of making Sonic move and using the physics and momentum that you've earned and built up. When rolled into a ball, I jumped, causing Sonic's momentum to stop as he practically curved right upward. One segment inside a U-shaped area required Sonic to run back and forth up the walls to build up speed and rush up the right wall in order to escape. Well, I tried doing that while rolled into a ball, but Sonic failed to gain anywhere near as much momentum as he logically should, or would have in, say, Sonic 2. I switched to just plain running, and somehow he gained a surprising amount of speed and rushed right up the wall. It didn't make sense. Finally, any object that propels Sonic into the air, such as a cannon seems to cause him to lose forward momentum in mid-air for no apparent reason, unless you're holding forward. The older games didn't do this, and it also makes no logical sense. The momentum is just plain broken. I could overcome these flaws, and Sega has said they are planning to fix the physics for episode 2, so I have to give them a lot of credit there. The next issue is the level design. Overall, it tends to do a very good job of mimicking the style of the Genesis Sonic games, with similar styles of obstacles, some outright lifted wholesale from previous games for that nostalgia factor they seemed to be going for. There were times when the difficulty spiked frustratingly, which really caught me by surprise considering this is episode 1. Some obstacles also felt awkward, like having to "uncork" water in a room by tilting the entire screen (it's really hard to explain until you do it) and avoid bumping into spikes. In short: a decent first effort, with some frustrating flaws, and I hope the sequel is better.
Sega, please do not make Episode 2 an iPhone game.
Because messing with the physics to accommodate a touchscreen nearly ruined the game. With touchscreen interfaces, you can't tell whether you pressed a button by touch alone. Anyone making a platformer for the iPhone has to design around this. For instance, making it so the character stops accelerating when you let go of the buttons. Or giving the character slow acceleration so he never gets out of control. Or partially automating movement (like Canabalt), with, in this case, a homing dash. And Sega/Dimps pulled it off. Compare the iPhone versions of Sonic 4 and Sonic 2 - the former controls well, but the latter is almost unplayable. But this isn't how a Sonic game should play. Sonic shouldn't accelerate like a boulder, completely ignore momentum, or rely on spamming the homing attack to smooth over jerky physics. And the way Sonic controls is the same for every console, even the ones that have real buttons. It sounds like I'm making a big deal over nothing, but Sonic is just so incredibly off feeling. There's no building momentum like in the Genesis games, but none of the blistering speed of the Rush series. There's other flaws, but this is a bit of a showstopper. The presentation is a bit weak, as well. The music is just okay. The melodies are nice, but most of the good songs are drowned in 80s Casio string synths. It's not bad, but considering how high the standards for music are in Sonic games, it's a bit disappointing. The graphics are serviceable: Sega tried to update the Genesis look, and mostly succeeded. I know people are disappointed that the game doesn't look like this, but really, a game like that is only possible on the PS 3, 360 and PC, and Sega wouldn't have gained anything from making a separate version for HD systems. It's a shame, too, because there's a good game underneath all the issues. The level design is on par with anything from the Genesis games (which just highlights the physics problems) and there's some fairly cool takes on the Genesis levels, like the giant drill in Mad Gear Zone and a level where you have to score well on a pinball machine to go onwards. It's pretty short, but so are most Sonic games. It has potential, but it's not worth $15 and I'd recommended you wait for Episode 2 or buy Sonic Colors instead.