Sonic 4: Episode 1 - PS3 Review
When I was a youngster I saved for week after week to buy an imported Sega Megadrive and one of the first games I ever got was Sonic The Hedgehog. It was, and remains, one of the most important games ever and the speed of the 2D title distinguished Sega from Nintendo's Mario and spawned a franchise that has sold millions of units. When 3D polygon based visuals hit Sega moved Sonic to the third dimension starting with Sonic Adventure, but they've never really got the dimensional shift right. So finally, after years of pleas from gamers Sega have delivered a 2D game once again, and Sonic 4: Episode 1 is that title.
|Sonic bounces off one of the springs...|
So this is a 2D platforming game and Sonic fans will be keen to learn about the playable characters. Well in this case there's only one - Sonic. Huzzah! Sega have listened to the fans, dumped all the excess baggage (aka other characters) and concentrated on the one.
|Sonic crashes through a wall in Sonic 4!|
Gameplay is simple, enter the level, and get to the end with Sonic simply having a spinning jump ability. Well, that's not quite true as new to this "sequel" is the ability to performing a homing attack. When you get close to an enemy or object of interest a red target will appear, hit jump again and Sonic will head straight for it. It's not in the true Sonic spirit, but it seems to work well enough and we had no issues with it. Also returning to the game are the power-up boxes which may include 10-rings, an extra life, sneakers for extra speed, a shield or invincibility.
The game includes 12 levels in total which are split up into four worlds - Splash Hill (Green Hill from Sonic 1), Casino Street (Casino Night from Sonic 2), Lost Labyrinth (Labyrinth Zone from Sonic 1), Mad Gear (Metropolis Zone from Sonic 2) and finally E.G.G. Station (Death Egg Zone from Sonic 2). The bonus levels make a return too when you finish a level with more than 50 rings. These bonus levels see you rotating a world which if successfully navigated rewards you with a gem. You can use the Dual Shock's tilting abilities to control these areas, but why would you with such precise analogue sticks? As per the original games each of the levels has lamp post checkpoints so, should you die, you won't need to restart from the beginning of the level.
|Sonic 4 is out now on the PlayStation Store.|
So let's talk about the issues we have with this game. For some reason Sega seem to have made Sonic a little more "floaty" in his movements which can make the game seem a little slower in pace at times. Next up is the game length. With only 12 missions to complete this game is over pretty quickly with only a couple of tricky sections - but these are levels where you will continue to return to beat your time, and collect all the gems. Still one can't help feeling that Sega have priced this a tad high for the amount of content.
|Collecting 10 rings and targeting an enemy!|
Perhaps our biggest disappointment is that Sega made the levels in this game too inspired by those in Sonic 1 and Sonic 2. Not only are they themed the same, but also have the same layouts on many occasions. Now I could live with that if Sega threw in plenty of new areas, but they haven't which almost makes this feel like a remixed version of the original 16-bit games, although there's probably just enough here to differentiate itself - but I struggle to justify the Sonic 4 title.
|Sonic's 1080p visuals are gorgeous.|
Visually Sonic 4: Episode 1 is pretty impressive with some gorgeous, vibrant 1080p visuals lighting up your screen. The game moves at a quick pace too, in fact perhaps too fast for its own good at times, but Sonic looks great, the enemies look great, the menus clean
While this is a bit of a retro game with levels and locations from the first two Sonic titles on Megadrive that isn't an excuse for the audio which just seems flat. It's not terrible, the effects such as that delightful ting when you pick up a ring are solid, but the music just lacks punch. This is a problem with several Sega titles in fact and its an issue they need to address.
|See the new lock-on targeting there...|
So is Sonic 4: Episode 1 the great game we hoped for or expected? Well there are certainly plenty of positives not least of which is a superb return to some fun gameplay but the biggest issues we have are the familiarity of the levels, and the lack of game length given the price. Still, if you loved 16-bit Sonic, we certainly recommend checking this downloadable title out.
Review By: Dave Warner
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|GRAPHICS||At last Sonic is back in 2D and it looks delightful and is super-slick.||90%|
|SOUND||While the effects are good the music is very much the disappointment.||65%|
|GAMEPLAY||The best Sonic title in years, but he's a little floaty and the levels are "been there, done that".||82%|
|VALUE||Given there are only a dozen levels the $19.95 price is a little steep.||60%|
|OVERALL||Sonic 4: Episode 1 is almost the Sonic game we were hoping for. A bit pricey for the length but if you love 2D Sonic you could do a lot worse then check this game out. Fun.||75%|