Review: Sonic the Hedgehog 4. Episode 1.

Sonic the Hedgehog. The blue blur means different things to different people depending on your age group these days. For the older generation it means 2D side-scrolling fun, but the current generation of kids growing into gamers are learning about a different Sonic. One which has been thrown into multiple different gimmicks and been criticised by those who grew up with the original MegaDrive games. Now SEGA has tried to fix the gimmicky Sonic and reborn him as he used to be. Let’s see how it turned out. (Note: This review uses the iOS version as it’s reference and as such is a review of the version available for the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad NOT the other platforms)

Story

Back in the by-gone days of Sonic history, back when he appeared on his first of a long line of consoles, the humble MegaDrive, Sonic just whizzed along without a story. All you needed to know was that you controlled the blue hedgehog in front of you, the robots wanted to kill you, and the robots were controlled by a scientist called Dr. Robotnik. That’s all the story used to be, and SEGA have fixed that. Sonic 4 returns to these roots of no story and returns to having you just running around to defeat Robotnik, well Eggman, but only because his name got changed.

Now, as the title suggests, this is just the first of a series of parts with make up Sonic 4. And as a result, it’s not exactly a long game. The original Sonic trilogy for example each had between 6 and 10 different zones. Sonic 4 only has 4 zones, the final boss zone and special zones not included.

Controls

Sonic 4 goes back to basic controls, one button to jump and spindash along with the directions to move. It’s a blessing that there isn’t anything else to press in the iOS version as it’s a bit more awkward to play on. iOS systems are the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad. What do these lack compared to other gaming systems? Buttons. It’s a touch pad, and as such the controlling suffers. You focus that much on the screen behind your thumbs that you tend to not notice if your thumbs start to wander on the screen. Making it annoying when you get to a section where if you miss the jump you will die. I found quite often when playing through the game that my thumb had wandered along just enough for me to miss the jump button right when I needed it.

Other than this the controls are fine, they respond to perfect timing, so if your thumbs haven’t wandered you will get to do what you told Sonic to do.

Gameplay

Sonic 4 has the same gameplay as the original MegaDrive games, running through levels as fast as you possibly can. You collect rings and try to keep moving without getting hit by the Badniks that Dr Eggman has scattered through the levels. This time however you do have a new mechanic to help you. Gone are the special shields from Sonic 3 & Knuckles, in is the Homing Attack. The move that was brought in when Sonic went 3D has been fully utilised in Sonic 4 and greatly compliments the style of gameplay from the original trilogy. In fact it becomes second nature to use as you get used to playing Sonic 4 and it’ll become like trying to use Sonic 2’s Spindash in Sonic 1. You’ll be trying to do it and wonder why it wasn’t in. It just makes complete sense.

Graphics, Sound and Support

The graphics for Sonic 4 have been update from the sprite look the original trilogy had. They are now update 3D resembling graphics that work well for the Sonic art-style. The zones each resemble an update version of zones past in the previous games and the enemies have gained a much-needed graphical update. The sound is great and helps it to feel like a true sonic game.

I’m adding in Support to this section of the review because SEGA have promised some support to the iOS version of Sonic 4. The most significant being, back near release they promised that on 15th October they would update Sonic 4 to be compatible with Apple’s Game Center. Well, it’s nearly a month later and still no Game Center support. No updates what-so-ever in fact. It’s at this point that I wonder if SEGA changed their minds about it.

Pros:

  • Intuitive Gameplay
  • Great Graphics
  • The Sonic we know and love is back

Cons:

  • Annoying controls
  • Short game

Verdict: Avoid!

This verdict doesn’t go for the Sonic 4 game in general, strictly for the iOS version. Although its nice to be able to play Sonic on the go, practically it just doesn’t work as well as the Console versions. You need to be able to use a physical controller to get the most out of it.

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About Nick Duggan
I'm 19 an I study Computer Games Design at Staffordshire University. I'm a video gamer and also a Yu-Gi-Oh! collector/player. Twitter: @30DiedOnMars

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