The sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog may be a perfect example of a follow up that takes the already impressive foundations and builds a more concrete structure over it. The original Sonic game had a few minor problems with level originality and variance but it still provided us with a solid platform adventure that is still enjoyable today. Sonic 2 takes up the similar speedy style that the first game brought forth and adds in shorter yet more creative levels, a spunky new sidekick and a handful of distinguishing features that differed from the blue blur's original adventure.

It opens up with a rather plain looking Emerald Hill zone, which bares certain resemblances to the Green Hill Zone. You'll notice that the three long stage system has been broken down into two smaller ones. Sonic and his new foxy friend, Tails will speed through this rather basic opening stage, collecting rings, bursting open T.V monitors for their sweet contents and smashing up robotic menaces. You'll be somewhat content with what's on offer but you'll find little that will blow you away. UNTIL:

· You enter the twisting mechanical factory dubbed the Chemical Plant Zone, filled with pools of poisonous purple Mega Mack, twisting networks of pipes and, waiting to rapidly transport you from one end of the facility to the other. Pathways arch up and down in a metallic spiral, robotic spiders loom overhead, and wait to swoop down and constrict you, and blue blobs of toxic filth are shot around over your head.

· Behold the bright lights and glamour of the Casino Night Zone! Will you gamble your ring collection in the slot machine? An extra life could be yours! How about playing some pinball? You'll be thrown around the pinball field, knocked around by bumpers and springs and be surrounded by enormous blue blocks. One misstep forward may be your doom!

· Take to the skies in hot pursuit of a fleeing airship belonging to one Dr. Robotnik. Tail's will control your Tornado plane as you avoid a robotic air force of speeding birds, floating turtles that puke out fireballs at you and orb like creatures fly over you and drop spike balls on your spiny blue head.

This is just a select choice of what Sonic 2 has to offer. Other levels see you in an oil refinery, a mountain range and a huge robotic city, each laden with it's own tricks and traps. Gigantic corkscrews wait to be turned by your speed, primitive lifts carry you over boiling pools of lava and you'll writhe and panic as a lake of oil engulfs you.

Sonic 2's most distinguishing feature is the inclusion of Sonic's new pal, Tails the fox. This two-tailed friend will trail you wherever you go and even give you a little help here and there. He'll occasionally collect any missed rings or smash any of those badniks that you jumped over. Luckily, if Tails collects any rings it goes straight into your collection and if he is hit, he will lose no rings and, thankfully, neither will you. If Tails somehow dies or gets lost on your journey, he will use his twin tails as a propeller and fly to catch up with you. With the inclusion of Tails, a two-player mode is now accessible which involves two players racing through different zones or you can play the cleverly disguised game where the second player can control Tails in the main game. However, the dominance of player one will leave Tails behind that will leave player two feeling rather left out.

Sonic plays with the same basic formula but with one key difference. You'll notice that all three of the Mega Drive's action buttons are dedicated to Sonic's jumping ability but if you press down and jump, a small miracle occurs. In a flash of blue and a screeching rev, Sonic will roll up and keep on revving until you release the action button. Then, with the speed of a bullet, Sonic will shoot across the ground, taking out any item monitors, unfortunate badniks or any loose walls.

Collecting rings is the key factor for gaining access to the special stages, which differ somewhat from the original. If you have fifty of these and hit a star post, a level checkpoint, then you can leap into the stars it creates. You are then teleported to a chute like special stage where you have to collect a certain number of rings in a certain time limit. If you fail to collect the desired amount before you reach the end of the chute, you'll be booted out of the stage.

However, if you succeed you will continue through to the next part, which will ask you to collect a larger amount. If you succeed to clear all three points, you will be rewarded with chaos emeralds. Collecting these emeralds will allow Sonic to transform into the golden warrior known as super Sonic. With all emeralds in tact and fifty rings in hand, Sonic will undergo a fantastic transformation. His spikes turn yellow, his speed increases and he becomes impervious to most obstacles. Collecting all those emeralds may take a while but it's all worth it to see the magical transformation as Sonic bursts into gold and wrecks havoc.

Robotnik's array of machines lie waiting for you and the end of act two of every level. He comes out in a truck in the first stage and attempts to run you down. His other memorable contraptions include a drilling machine that causes tremors, dropping rocks all over the place. He'll also come back with a ship surrounded by balls that pop every time you hit them and then he'll unleash a horrible laser beam from his flying fortress. However, his space station holds the final horrors of his armoury. Waiting in space is a deadly metallic version of Sonic, which you will have to fight, dodging his version of the spin attack. Then, Robotnik will battle you in his enormous robot that is equipped with razor sharp hands, homing missiles and bombs bearing resemblance to our overweight antagonist.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 boasts some great additions to the series and to the platform genre. It takes the already solid Sonic formula and mixes it with a handful of welcoming extras such as the spin dash attack, the inclusion of a buddy and some cleverly designed levels and bosses. The way it takes what Sonic the Hedgehog handed out and improves it with creative concepts and fast paced action. These elements take Sonic 2 and separate it from the lot (expect for the slightly superior Sonic CD) and make it not just a Mega Drive classic but a gaming treasure that serves as one of Sega's greatest masterpieces.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 11/02/05

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