Review by 28undermyspell
"Sonic the Hedgehog 4? Yes and no. (note that 7 means GOOD)"
Sonic has been on the fritz for a while now. The process began back on the Dreamcast; while Sonic Adventure 1 was an enjoyable game on some levels, it was a deeply flawed one. It was, well, "okay." On a narrative level, it completely failed. In terms of gameplay, the original characters that were enjoyable to play (Sonic, Knuckles, Tails) were still quite flawed in terms of gameplay mechanics, while the new ones were hit and miss (Gamma was, admittedly, good enough to get some enjoyment out of.) Adventure 2 came along and was, well, slightly better. The game played decently, and the Sonic and Shadow levels felt like what Sonic should for the most part; the Knuckles/Amy and Tails/Robotnik levels were entertaining enough. The story was, also, for the first and last time in a Sonic platforming title, almost good. Sonic Heroes was similarly decent, though tedious and slightly more flawed at times. Then... Shadow. The game was in the land of "mediocre" in terms of quality, not even really okay... Then Sonic 2006 came along and put the series in a coffin. Then Sonic Unleashed came and made you believe that the series was at least okay again at first with those daytime levels. Sonic sat up inside the coffin, then the nighttime/Werehog levels started, and the coffin's door was blown shut, smacking Sonic in the face as it closed. The coffin has been closed and buried ever since... until now.
Sonic 4 Episode 1 is a GOOD game again... as enjoyable as Sonic Adventure 2 was for me, even. It also feels much more like a real SONIC game than that title did. But, like that title, there is good and bad to be had here...
On the side of good, this is the most consistently enjoyable level design and gameplay we have seen since the days of Sonic 3 and Knuckles. We can thank that game's senior level designer for that. The graphics also look beautiful, essentially what old-school Sonic would have looked like with 3-D graphics. The choice not to include pointless characters is VERY refreshing. The series has also been taken back, to the most part, to it's roots.
One of my three main concerns is that the games roots have been taken TOO far back. This feels more like a regression to the days of Sonic 2 or Sonic CD than a flat out continuation. And though I dislike all the new characters the series has added as main characters since after Sonic 3 and Knuckles, Tails and Knuckles are both PERFECTLY FINE. But then again, perhaps one or two of these characters can be played in Sonic 4 Episode 2 or 3 or however farther this goes.
The controls do also feel... well... off. Playing the old Sonic games feel natural. This feels like an imitation of that old control scheme and gravity system; close but no cigar. But the developers will hopefully change this in future releases. And the wonderful level design and the fact that it still does play well enough, saves the experience.
I would have even enjoyed just a LITTLE gameplay expansion. Each new Sonic game back in the day brought something new... This game just brings the bare minimum. The game is still good, don't get me wrong, but it's not getting an A.
But I wouldn't be surprised to see a future episode growing up to A quality...
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 10/21/10
Game Release: Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I (US, 10/11/10)
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