games / Reviews

Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 2 (XBLA, PSN, Wii, PC) Review

May 30, 2012 | Posted by Trace Aber


Game: Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 2
Genre: Platformer
Players: 1-2
Developer: Sonic Team
Publisher: Sega
Rated E for Everyone

Sonic the Hedgehog used to be one of the biggest names in the gaming industry, his only true rival being that of Mario. This was, of course, during the 90s, and since then things have changed dramatically. Sonic has become something of a running joke amongst gamers, to the point where they have even created their own “cycle” of Sonic game releases, starting with much excitement and hope and ending with disappointment.

In 2010 Sega hoped to create a game that took Sonic back to his roots by crafting a 2D, side-scrolling adventure that got rid of all of the annoying sidekicks and gimmicks. Even though I enjoyed the game, it was not without its flaws, namely that of its physics system. Sonic didn’t seem to control how you would expect, and for some this was enough to ruin the game.

It’s now 2012, and Sega has released the second episode to Sonic the Hedgehog 4. Many people hoped that the extended time spent on the episode would result in a better game, perhaps the “perfect” Sonic experience since the original trilogy. Episode 2 is overall better than Episode 1, but I think those looking for the “perfect” experience are going to be let down.

Episode 2 picks up a couple months after the first, and this time features Tails. Out of all of Sonic’s “sidekicks,” Tails is among the most liked, and it’s reasonable to include him in this title as he was introduced in the second part of the original trilogy. Unfortunately, outside of some forced level design, Tails doesn’t seem to fit too well into the game. The levels include jumps and leaps that Sonic himself couldn’t hope to make, so Tails will help fly him across the gap.

While most are familiar with Tails copter ability, the game introduces two new moves as well. The first one allows you to swim through the water faster thanks to the tails of, uh, Tails. It works much like the copter, and helps avoid some of those dreadful water portions (I hate water levels in platformers on a personal level).

The third combo allows Sonic and Tails to team up to form one super spinning ball of pain, which allows for the duo to slam through otherwise impassable barricades. It’s a pretty cool looking visual, and there’s something insanely fun about smashing through things with the power of friendship.

The physics problems of the first episode have largely been fixed now. Sonic now feels like he’s running as fast as he should, and the game plays better for it. And while that’s nice, it seems like the game’s level design at times has taken a step back.

Some of the levels just feel…flat to me. There’s very little variation in the paths one can take throughout a particular level, which was one of the many reasons why I loved the franchise as a kid. There aren’t any tricky puzzles to figure out, there are no loops that take me through a different section of the level and there aren’t boosters to make me go even faster. It might seem like nitpicking, but it’s one of the things that made Sonic games great.

Another problem with the level design is that little of it truly feels new and fresh. The set pieces themselves are fun to play, but they lack that charm the original games shared. Most levels look generic, and there are some ridiculous difficulty spikes as you play throughout the game. For a platformer that strives to be like the original trilogy it truly ignores some of the great mechanics that made Sonic great in the first place.

The inclusion of Tails means that players can buddy up with a friend and play through the game together, though I wouldn’t recommend it. Most of my experience consisted of either slowing down (if you’re Sonic) or catching up (if you’re Tails). If one should get too far away from the other, one simply disappears and respawns near their partner. Granted, I never enjoyed Sonic’s co-op, but this one seems to be more pointless than the co-op featured in Sonic 3.

Finally, the game features a “lock-on” mode similar to if you owned Sonic and Knuckles and Sonic the Hedgehog 3. If you purchased Episode 1 you’ll be granted access to “Episode Metal,” which is a completely new set of stages to play in as Metal Sonic. These are fun levels that suffer from the pitfalls of the core game, but still a nice bonus.

Pros
-More Sonic the Hedgehog
-The “lock on” feature is a nice bonus
-Physics and speed is much better

Cons
-Bland level design
-Tails has no true purpose to be added
-Co-op is a waste of time

The 411
All that being said, the game is still Sonic at its core. It’s not the best, but certainly not the worst in the series. In a sense it is better than Episode 1, but also worse, largely thanks to the lack of innovation this time around. Sonic fans will get their money’s worth, but also probably wonder why they couldn’t take the best elements of Episode 1 (the level design with multiple paths) and Episode 2 (better physics and graphics) to create the authentic Sonic experience. Or maybe Sonic the Hedgehog is a lost cause – never to again have a truly great title. It’s hard for a life-long Sonic fan like myself to say that, but let’s be real. Sonic will never be the Sonic of the 90s, and more than anything Episode 2 proves that.

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Trace Aber

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