Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developer:
    • Sega
  • Publisher:
    • Sega
  • Released:
    Wii
    • US 10/11/2010
    • JP 10/12/2010
    • UK 10/15/2010
    PS3
    • JP 10/12/2010
    • US 10/12/2010
    • UK 10/13/2010
    360
    • 10/13/2010
    PC
    • 01/19/2012
Score: 75%

This review was published on 05/03/2012.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I is a 2-D side scrolling platform game that was designed for fans of the classic Sonic games from the Genesis and Mega Drive era. It was initially released for the online stores of the Wii, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. The game was later released on Steam and various other online stores. Sega sure wasn't shy about getting Sonic 4 on as many platforms as possible. What's with the "Episode I" in the title? Well, Sega planned to make Sonic 4 an episodic adventure. The idea, I suppose, is that all these episodes would combine to form a substantial adventure for the blue hedgehog. Even though this is Sonic 4, there have been countless Sonic games released between this and Sonic 3. Fans keep clamoring for Sega to go back to the good ol' days, and Sonic 4 is their answer to that. The drawback to this is that Sonic 4's first episode feels more like a remake rather than an entirely new game.

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Sonic 4 plays very similarly to the classic Sonic games with some differences. The blue hedgehog can run, jump, and perform his signature Spin Dash move for a sudden burst of speed. Sega decided to make the Spin Dash less useful this time around by slowing it down, which is something I didn't like. As per usual, Sonic requires rings to survive and will lose rings upon contact with enemies. The only real difference in game play from the classic Sonic games is the addition of the homing attack. Sonic finally has something else he can do besides the Spin Dash. The homing attack has been in the 3-D Sonic games for quite some time, but Sonic 4 is one of the first 2-D Sonic games to implement it. The homing attack works well, for the most part. There are times when its activation can be unwanted, like if the button is pressed accidentally. These accidents can be particularly devastating if a pit or hazard is nearby. Another problem that can arise is when the homing attack doesn't properly target a nearby enemy. All of these problems were also in the 3-D Sonic games, so it just comes with the territory. It's a decent enough move when used with caution.

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I hope you like the levels from Sonic 1 and 2, because every level in Sonic 4: Episode I is a carbon copy of those two games. It's not a one-for-one replica, but the level themes are all taken straight from Sonic's previous adventures. The game is 50% Sonic 1 and 50% Sonic 2, with four zones total, two for each game. First off is Splash Hill Zone, which is a green, grassy recreation of Green Hill Zone from Sonic 1. This is a fun zone that also incorporates a few bits from Sonic 2's Emerald Hill Zone. Most Sonic games start off with a level like this, so I'll let this one slide. The second zone is Casino Street Zone, which is a direct replica of Casino Night Zone from Sonic 2. This is where it becomes evident that Sonic 4 is a little too infatuated with past games of the series. It's another enjoyable zone, to be sure, but there are no surprises in store if you've played Sonic 2 before. Lost Labyrinth is the third zone, and it's obviously dedicated to the Labyrinth Zone from Sonic 1. I think this is the most original zone in the game, because its visual style is a bit different from its inspiration. It's still a treacherous underwater zone with the same types of enemies, but there's a little Indiana Jones here with large boulders that chase after you in some spots. The last zone is Mad Gear, which strongly resembles Metropolis Zone from Sonic 2. This is a nice looking level visually, and it has a lot going for it in terms of gadgets Sonic can interact with. While four zones might sound like a small number, there are three lengthy acts per zone, plus a boss at the end. The game still ends up on the short side, though. An oddity about the level progression in this game is how you immediately have access to all the other levels upon beating the first one. The levels are very clearly designed with a difficulty curve in mind, so being able to select them in any order is strange. I guess there's nothing wrong with that. It does give you more flexibility.

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Like the levels themselves, every boss in this game is a copy and paste from either Sonic 1 or 2. The levels were at least laid out differently from the original games, but the boss fights are literally identical recreations. That's not to say I don't like fighting these bosses, but I've seen it all before. As is typical for a Sonic game, Dr. Eggman is behind the misdeeds again. The mad scientist must be running out of ideas, because he rehashes a few of his previous creations. It would be unfair to not mention the twists added to these tried and true boss battles. Dr. Eggman will perform a special attack not seen in any previous Sonic games when he sustains enough damage. This is supposed to be a pleasant surprise to veterans of the Sonic series, but will probably annoy rather than delight. These special attacks are pretty gimmicky, and they kind of ruin the momentum these bosses originally had. I'll concede that it's a slight dose of originality, which is something this game is in dire need of. Since these bosses weren't originally designed with the homing attack in mind, they're a lot easier than before. I admit it's interesting to see how these fights play out with Sonic's new ability. If you haven't fought these bosses before or you don't mind fighting them again, then you are likely to enjoy the boss fights this game has to offer.

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Collecting 50 rings and keeping them until the end of a stage enables Sonic to try his luck in a bonus stage. This is exactly like Sonic 1. The bonus stage itself is also exactly like the ones from Sonic 1; Sonic slides around a trippy maze area in search of a Chaos Emerald. The core difference between these bonus stages and the ones in Sonic 1 is that you control the maze rather than Sonic himself. It's kind of like those toys from way back when, where you have a ball in a maze and you have to move the maze around to get the ball into a hole at the end. This is the same concept, but Sonic is the ball. Successfully collecting all 7 Chaos Emeralds allows Sonic to become Super Sonic. This is the first time in years since Sonic has been able to transform into Super Sonic during regular stages in the game. That was a mechanic that met its untimely demise with the classic Sonic games. It's nice to see it brought back. Just like in the older Sonic games, 50 rings must be collected in order for Sonic to be in his Super form. Sonic's rings will slowly count down when he's in Super form, and he returns to normal once the ring count hits zero. Super Sonic is super fun, because he's impervious to almost everything and runs much faster than normal. It's best to play through the entire game as normal Sonic the first time around, so as to not eliminate the challenge. The one annoying thing about Super Sonic is the music that plays whenever you use him. It loops too quickly and obnoxiously covers up the music of the stage you're currently playing.

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Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I has no real problems other than its lack of originality and short length. The unoriginality isn't going to bother everyone; some people will enjoy reliving the glory days in HD quality graphics. The 4 in the game's title can give people false expectations, as it implies this will be an all new experience. If you're a fan of the Sonic games of yore and you aren't bothered by the reuse of ideas, then you are likely to enjoy this game.

Word Count: 1,355

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