Another year, another Sonic game that aims to recapture the youthful bliss of an earlier time in gaming. Speeding through vibrant, varying worlds, beating down Dr. Eggman/Dr. Robotnik to save Sonic the Hedgehog’s little animal friends from being captured by the evil genius’ mechanical fiends. With almost a decade of steering the world’s fastest hedgehog down three dimensional paths, Sonic Team has recently been adamant to bring Sonic back to what sparked so much popularity in the first place.
Sonic 4: Episode 2 is the direct sequel to 2010′s Episode 1 with an overhaul of the previous game’s mechanics. Episode 2′s Sonic certainly feels better than the first – and that’s because Sonic Team took into account the criticism Episode 1 received for the lack of momentum in the Blue Blur’s speedy dash. No longer can we change direction in mid-air, nor will Sonic come to an abrupt halt that doesn’t make sense. Sonic feels like Sonic.
Here’s what we liked:
The updated engine - The mechanics of Episode 2 received a drastic change over 1, but so did the visual design. The outdoor environments are lush and the art direction is familiar and pristine… it’s exactly what Sonic Team promised the new engine would bring.
New gameplay mechanics that don’t completely derail the game - The inclusion of Tails has fans divided. In my experience, Tails makes sense. He was first introduced in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 back in the day, so it’s a no-brainer that he then be included in Episode 2. In this game, Tails is more than just a tag-along; he and Sonic can work together using new abilities that overcome (often tedious) obstacles, and they work just fine. The only problem is that these new abilities sometimes break the flow/sense of speed that Sonic is, you know, supposed to be all about.
Here’s what we didn’t like:
Platforming - The most important aspect of any platformer is running and jumping. While those two mechanics work fine this time around, using them to navigate these environments is often a frustrating feat. Though cheap death chasm drops have been reduced this time around, we’re still stuck with annoying enemy placements and unforeseeable spikes. It’s a problem that’s plagued the Sonic games for two decades. In a modern age where sidescrolling platformers are being constantly refined despite the base formula being almost perfect, it’s practically unforgivable for a game with such history to consistently fail to satisfy.
The sense of speed is inconsistent - The world’s fastest hedgehog sure does have to slow down a whole bunch. Spontaneous danger stops. Tails and Sonic helicopter rides. Underwater segments. The incredibly slow stage where Sonic rides Tails’ biplane, avoiding enemy rocket fire. A lot of the time these just feel placed for the sake of creating challenge where it’s hardly warranted, and can often force the player to ragequitting.
The magic just isn’t there - A lot of hype went into the announcement of Episode 2, and for good reason: it was a promise to bring back the Sonic we’ve all known and loved since our younger days. And in that regard, the developers succeeded. However, this game fails to stand out as a wholly enjoyable experience.
Sonic 4: Episode 2 was the Sonic game Episode 1 was supposed to be, but the same problems holding the series back just keep cropping up. The efforts Sonic Team made to improve Episode 2 are evident in the look and feel of Sonic, however level design flaws and a constantly broken sense of speed leave so much more to be desired.
Score: Try it.
Sonic 4: Episode 2 was developed by Sonic Team and published by SEGA. It was released from May 15th, 2012, for £9.99/€12.99/$14.99US/$19.95AU. A copy was provided for review purposes.