Review by hellstormi

"This Hedgehog is in for a Sloppy 4th Ride"

Sonic the Hedgehog was an innovative video game that was released in 1991 to compete with the Super Mario franchise. The game utilized both speed and platforming in order to complete it. After the 2d legacy of Sonic games on the Sega Genesis were made, 3d iterations of Sonic were recreated time and time again. None succeeded in besting the charm and creativity that existed in the classic titles. Now in 2010, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 is released… but does it dethrone or compare to the classic titles of S1, S2, and S3&K?

Gameplay:

Unfortunately this is where problems arise. You might have seen a trailer or gameplay video of Sonic 4: Episode 1 and thought it would play like a classic game with the homing attack added. Then you'd be surprised at how awkward the game was built after playing it. It begins with the physics which are haphazardly, half-assed into the game. Sonic accelerates at a snails pace, making it difficult to maneuver around stages when stopping or being forced into stopping after hitting a wall or hazard. The acceleration becomes even more a problem when you rush to the end of the stage to find a Special Stage ring above. Sonic begins to move so slow that you are likely to miss the ring over and over again just because you went too fast at the stage's end. Sonic also has a floaty jump that is terrifying near casino bumpers and in special stages. There will be moments when you stick to steep slopes but don't worry; a “quality” solution has been made for such. That solution would be the homing attack which immediately grants you top speed when exploited on long straight-aways. It renders the spindash useless as it is a faster alternative. There are many errors in the physics department that will boggle your mind such as in Casino Street Zone. There are half-pipes that cannot be conquered as they once were in the classic titles. Using gravity to push you back and forth through a half-pipe will only send you to a limited height no matter how much force you use. The solution has now become the homing attack which you use to burst your way to top speed and out of the pipe. Gimmicks are another haphazard placed in Sonic 4 Episode 1. Vines that you swing on don't boost you to the height you'd expect such as the vines in Angel Island Zone in Sonic 3. The game suffers from an insurmountable number of errors. In Mad Gear Zone, there is one gear that forces you into a bottomless pit if you do not abuse the homing attack. It is almost guaranteed that on your first playthrough, you will die repeatedly by the 2nd half of the game. There is too much reliance of memorization. The game will kill you over and over again at the last few stages due to awkward puzzles and gimmicks that will leave your head in a ditch. A game pace breaker lies in Lost Labyrinth Act 2 which forces you to light unavoidable torches in a specific order while being unfairly timed to get past them. This part took me minutes to pass only because it was unexpected and the only puzzle in the game that I've encountered. Special Stages become difficult only due to the floaty physics that will want to make you break your controller. Bosses are dull and uninspired from previous games leaving only one that is an original creation. Even with all of these flaws, the game begins pretty easy and you could probably breeze through the first two levels with 200 rings each act. Enemies are a minor annoyance and are easy to get by. (not including enemies in which you are forced to run into after hitting a speed booster.) Even the infamous Slicer (Green Mantis Badnik from Metropolis Zone in S2) can be bested when using the homing attack. There are a few high points in the game such as the innovative card mechanic in Casino Street Zone where you can gain rings and lives by running past cards which flip in a roulette-like fashion. In Lost Labyrinth Zone, there are a few instances where the game becomes nostalgic of Underground Zone in the GG Sonic 2 along with Indiana Jones-esque rolling boulders chasing after you. All in all, Sonic 4 doesn't deliver much in the gameplay department which is a shame because there is potential to be seen in the mechanics; it's only too bad they weren't well crafted into the game. Aside the actual gameplay, there are a few new twists but the game sacrifices two steps back for one step forward.

Design:

I hate to sound even more negative about this game but it does have piss-poor level design. There are many occurrences in which places and straight-aways are copy and pasted. Springs sometimes bounce Sonic into ceilings and walls for no apparent reason. There are bottomless pits at the end of some levels just ready to take all of your rings as you try to finish the act. There are beginners traps that will spook you and kill you like a crushing wall that changes the speed it's going to kill you. Speed Boosters are littered around many areas but not as many as fans may think. They do become an annoyance when you realize the game is basically playing itself and you can just spam the homing attack through and through. It has been the longest time since item monitors have returned to a console Sonic game and they look as retro as ever. It's too bad that the homing attack sometimes doesn't work on them though. Bosses will appear, c*ckteasing you to hit them when you blatantly go right through them as a result of half-ass programming. Some are even boring to fight like their original design in Lost Labyrinth Zone. The boss forces you to wait seconds and seconds for him to activate a trap. You can then hop on the trap and attack him but he does it so slow that it can become tedious and a chore to play through. Each boss has a second phase but depending if your spamming the homing attack hard enough, you may never witness these small little tweaks. Though the game may take only about an hour to complete, the final boss is a torture that you weren't prepared to encounter. Imagine fighting a boss which hurts you every time you attack, taking all of your rings away. (Or at least I've never found the solution but hitting and reclaiming my fallen rings.) On top of that takes a lot of hits to boot only to get an unrequited ending. On the bright side, stages look colorful and nice in contrast to the actual gameplay. The game runs at a perfect 60fps (not on Iphone) at all times. Only problem is that it seems DIMPS has played it safe, revisiting old classic zones such as Emerald Hill, Casino Night, Labyrinth, and Metropolis Zone. It is very much a nostalgia factor that has been repeated too many times over leaving nothing else fresh. Hopefully in the future, they will add more creativity and possibly have zones similar to the heavily anticipated Sonic Colors which completely overshadows this game's appearance.

Music:

I never understood how they screwed up the music in this game. There was so much that could have done from remixing classic tunes to rocking out with new, catchy tunes. Unfortunately, Jun Senoue has composed a mediocre soundtrack which haunts this game. Having that six second boss song repeat over and over in the Final Zone made me cringe. Even Casino Street Zone sounds like Casino Night with all of the melody and quality strangled out of it. There may be a few redeeming tracks but they don't excuse the mediocrity of the soundtrack in the game. People say that Sonic 06 was god-awful but at least it had some damn good tunes. It's ironic that a game that was advertised to be what the classic fans wanted ended up having music worse than its gameplay. I mean come on, there have been fan remixes that outright decimate Jun's “high-quality” songs. The music is different from system versions due to the Wii's lack of space. The Wii version uses MIDI while the 360/PS3 uses high quality versions of the tracks.

Conclusion:

It's a shame that even with 15 years, a gigantic fanbase, and talent, SEGA failed to release a competent sequel of a game made during the 16-bit era. For 15 dollars, 4 levels and one final boss is not going to be enough to cut it. I completed the game after luckily beating the last boss in an hour. It is way too short and unpolished for the average consumer to purchase and I advise to stay away and wait for Episode 2. For all of the people that are already getting it if already hadn't bought it, expect nostalgia but frustration and boredom along with it. All in all Sonic 4 Episode 1 is an average title that is extremely costly for little to no quality. This game was designed to be played multiple times but after my first time, I don't think I want to give this hedgehog a test drive again. Might as well pop in Sonic 2 and call it a better version of Sonic 4: Episode 1 because that is essentially what it is.

It gets a 5, not because it's an awful game but because it's an overpriced, average game.


Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 10/12/10


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