Sonic 4: Episode 1 ReviewJeremy Madison
Remember the golden days of Sonic? Remember the exhilaration of running at break-neck speeds through loops, tunnels, and caves, on the way to battle the evil Dr. Eggman? Sonic the Hedgehog is back in Sonic 4, the first true addition to his namesake saga since 1994. Hes taking this one solo, harkening back to the original masterpiece. Even the game startup brings with it a deluge of good memories, with the unforgettable Segaa! that can never be replaced. Finally, the nostalgic hunger for the return of the blue hero has been appeasedor so it seemed.
From the onset, the game falls tragically short of expectations and dashes dreams as if it was the goal of the developers. The fluidity with which levels were navigated, Sonics stride seldom being broken, is rarely encountered in the new installment. Rather, enemies appear to congeal at all the wrong moments, halting progress much too often. They strike with no warning, making them virtually impossible to avoid. If a respectable amount of rings has been collected, expect to see them lost shortly after amassing them. Consequently, the satisfaction of blazing through levels in mere minutes has been forsaken. Sonic 4 is more frustrating than it is entertaining. The frustration compounds in areas where the next step in the completion of the level is unclear. Life after life is lost to nearly impassable obstacles. Sonic should usher in thoughts of speed and agility, not pinpoint precision in navigation. Normally, an unclear path is not a major conflict, as it adds a degree of strategy to a game. However, Sonic was not meant to be a puzzle. The game certainly does not boast superior level design. In addition to frustration, boredom sets in on some of the boss battles. Dr. Eggmans machines essentially put up no fight, and are easily conquered in approximately a minute. Fortunately, it does succeed in some areas.
True to the recipe for success developed almost two decades ago, Sonic returns to classic backdrops such as the Splash Hill Zone, the Casino Streets Zone, the Lost Labyrinth Zone, and Normally, an unclear path is Eggmans Secret Base. Furthermore, slicker graphics, offered in high definition, make the game visually appetizing. In some places, he even weaves in and out of the landscape, creating an almost 3-D effect. Sonics vertical running ability has been strengthened, which is especially helpful in areas of the Casino Streets Zone. The almost forgotten homing attack makes a triumphant return and is the only way to cross some perilous chasms. Three or four enemies stretched across what would be certain death create an entertaining obstacle as they all extrude spikes in a pattern that makes timing crucial. The game is also being released episodically, which will definitely add to the playability. This fosters a hope for the homecoming of Tails and Knuckles, Sonics faithful allies. The game is not a complete throwback, for it offers online leaderboards to compare performances with that of friends and foes alike.
Overall, the ability of the weekend gamer to pick up and beat the game has been forced obsolete, but with practice and patience, Sonic is still a game that is simple to master. It is agonizingly frustrating at times, but the mechanics of the game have been improved to counteract that. The enhanced graphics effectively sweeten its appeal and that only generates a desire to keep coming back. Unfortunately, the drawbacks overwhelm the positive aspects and make Sonic 4 a game that will inevitably only occupy space on the hard drive.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.