Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 1

In TV land, when a new show is born, the first episode is a pilot. If people like the show they make more, if not it is cancelled and forgotten. Unfortunately, Sonic 4: Episode 1 is a game that feels headed for the pile of the forgotten, and this makes me sad.

For the past decade, Sonic games have been in decline. There have been a few decent efforts, but nothing has quite matched the pleasure that the original games instil in most gamers of a certain age. When SEGA announced that they would make a game that restored the blue blur back to his basics, I was hopeful. Unfortunately, as always, my hopes have been dashed.

An obvious attempt to blend new mechanics with old nostalgia is present, and this is no more obvious than in the visuals. As far as feeling like a Sonic game, it delivers fond memories in spades. Enemies and level styles from previous games look glorious in HD, and Sonic himself looks good. The same can be said about the sound design, with all the sound effects you’d expect to hear from a Sonic game. However, a few notable exclusions suggest at the game’s major fault.

The problem with the game is that it doesn’t seem to know who it’s for. It doesn’t feel like it’s for the casual market who may be new to Sonic games, or for the hardcore fan. The mechanics of the game better resemble some of Sonic’s more recent outings and will frustrate some fans. Rolling into a ball doesn’t allow you to keep momentum, as it would in every other Sonic game, ever. The addition of a “double jump” style motion, which propels Sonic forward, isn’t exactly welcome. It’s fairly inconsistent as to whether or not it will auto target a spring or just send you falling into the abyss, with you wishing that it wasn’t an integral part of completing a section.

Speaking of which, the addition of odd “puzzle” style sections baffled me. There is one such puzzle in the third world that is easy to solve, but infuriating to pull off. It requires precise jumping the likes of which the floaty controls don’t allow for. It’s not often that I wish a game was still 16-bit and sprite based, but the precision allowed in the old games in the series is miles away from this.

The game is infuriating to me as someone who’s played and loved the original outings from Sonic and his friends. It is certainly not a complete wash out; your nostalgia glands will be flowing with goodness the first time you hear the “Oh hell I need an air bubble I’m drowning!” music or play the bonus levels. However, once you lift the veil of good times gone past, you’ll be greeted with an experience that has about as much focus as its surely ADHD riddled star.







4 responses to “Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 1”

  1. Redking avatar

    Good write up. Was secretly hoping you’d have nothing but amazing things to say about the game and that my 120 seconds of exposure to the game were just bad examples of what is otherwise a great game.

    My fears are confirmed however =(.

    Also, the homing jump thing, didn’t realise it forced you into horrible suicide situations, I did however at first glance think it made a lot of enemy killing sections FAR too easy.

  2. Ninja avatar

    I tried the demo and was also surprised at the targeting thing. Would it be too difficult to defeat the various enemies without it? I mean, we’re not talking about a game with complex gameplay here as it is! FFS…

    Still gonna buy it though. Because I have hope that I’ll overlook that, even if it’s integral, and enjoy the retroness 🙂

  3. Matt avatar

    Personally I felt quite elated by the experience. With the exception of a few physics anomalies is’s a welcome addition to the 16-bit series, with all of the new features you might expect nearly two decades later.

    The homing jump fits in well with Sonic’s traditional moveset and is entirely optional in it’s usage. Only on a few occasions will it cause frustration.

  4. Riki avatar

    I loved Sonic 4 Ep1. I really fail to see much of a difference from the old Sonic games, the homing jump aside. It looks great and about the only bad points are that it takes Sonic just a little too long to get running, the length and most of the price. If it was 800msp it’d be an essential purchase, at 1200msp its simply a worthy purchase.

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