Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 Review
Posted May 16, 2012 by Adam Wind (533)
Sega took a risk with Sonic the Hedgehog 4 by turning it into an episodic series. Episode 1 stumbled out of the gate with its poor physics engine for a Sonic title and left a poor first impression. However, the episodic nature of Sonic 4 has now turned into something of a saving grace, at least for now. Episode 2 fixes the physics and feels like a Sonic the Hedgehog game again. Putting these two downloadable games into the same series just feels odd as they feel so different from one another. Thankfully, it is to Episode 2’s benefit.
Episode 2 naturally kicks off on the heels of Episode 1. Dr. Eggman is continuing to piece together his plan, this time with the help of Metal Sonic. Little Planet from Sonic CD is approaching Sonic’s world once again and Eggman plans to use the planet to power his new Death Egg. The story is nothing substantial, but it gets the job done for a Sonic the Hedgehog title.
Along with the improved physics engine, Episode 2 has some other tricks up its sleeve. Tails has made his return to the spotlight and he has never been better. He still follows Sonic around everywhere he goes (and he still can’t die), but this time he helps Sonic get around the stage in style. With the press of a button, you can activate combo moves. In the air, Tails will grab Sonic and can fly him around for a short time. In the water, Sonic’s big weakness, Tails grabs Sonic and turns into a highly mobile submarine. On the ground, the two combine to make a super spin dash.
These new powers are a great addition to the Sonic formula, but, except for the in-water combo, they aren’t used to their full potential. Sonic games have never been known for exploration, and expanding upon these powers could give a new dynamic to the series. The flying combo is only really used to get over a wall you run into and can’t jump over. The super spin dash is can break through certain obstacles, yet is mostly used to bowl through enemies. Adding more hidden areas that can only be accessed using these powers could really add some new flavor to Sonic. The main problem is that the game tells you when to use the powers all the time. It got to the point where I was telling the game, “Yeah, I know.” Let the player figure it out after the first few times. The handholding is a bit excessive. In the water, you should just let Tails take over all the time since Sonic has so little mobility in the water. That works quite well and can be used to great advantage. All that said, the powers are used well in some boss battles.
The next new gameplay mechanic isn’t quite as good. Later in the game, you take control of Sonic perched on top of Tail’s plane, the Tornado. Theses segments are self-scrolling so the player has no control over how fast (or slow) you advance. Unfortunately, they run very slow. The joy of Sonic is to go fast and these stages seem completely out of place, and are ultimately just not fun. Thankfully, you don’t spend much time with these lackluster moments.
The rest of the game’s stages are what you would come to expect from a Sonic title. Speed boosts, loops, robot enemies, and platforming. Episode 2 does a good job meshing the speed with good platforming segments. Its nothing you haven’t already seen before, but it is still fun. Each of the six zones offers unique challenges and obstacles. One zone you could be submerged in water and the next you could be floating around above turbines. Zones are set in a snowy carnival, ancient ruins, a floating airship, a desert, and a little more offering nice variety. Each zone looks great too. Everything comes alive with bright colors and some beautiful backdrops. Old school Sonic fans will also notice a few nice references to past titles. Keep a look out for them.
Sonic 4 features a decent soundtrack. The music is catchy, but nothing is really memorable like Sonic games of the past. Sound effects are spot on and sound like natural progressions of the Genesis sounds they are inspired by.
Getting through every zone and completing the game doesn’t take very long. Each zone consists of three acts and a boss battle. The game can easily be completed within a few hours. However, there are some good incentives to keep playing. There are some hidden Red Rings, one in each Act, to find to unlock an achievement. The game features co-op for two players either online or local. In that mode, one player takes control of Sonic and the other takes Tails. Leaderboards allow players to post up their best completion times to see how they stack up to the rest of the world. Finding all the Chaos Emeralds by competing Sonic 2-esque special stages also grant players a special surprise.
For those who bought both Episode 1 and 2, there is a special Metal Episode that adds a little more value to the overall package. In this episode, you play as Metal Sonic and see how he got from Little Planet at the end of Sonic CD to fighting Sonic once again in Episode 2. Players are granted four more additional acts going through the zones in Episode 1. The stages are inspired by the zones, but are not copies of stages in the first episode. These stages have a little more challenge than some of the standard Sonic stages, but they are still over in a short time. Still, it was a nice surprise for those who have invested into the total Sonic 4 package this far.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 fixes the major problems that plagued Episode 1, adds some great ideas that should be expanded upon in the future, yet adds a few problems of its own. Still, this Episode is quick fun. The sense of speed is there through most of the game and the zones are fun to run through. Trying to beat times to increase your rank on the leadoards might keep you coming back. Episode 2 is the episode we needed from the start and proves that the episodic nature of Sonic 4 may not be the worst idea for it. Still, it is over too quick as a result. Sonic fans will get a good, quick rush for a relatively low price. Recommended…even if you didn’t quite like Episode 1. Here is to hoping Episode 3 continues the ramp up in quality.
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