Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II takes much of its inspiration from the original Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on Genesis. In both games you play as the speedy blue rodent, and you’re accompanied by his trusty buddy Tails. The question is, does the new game tap into the same magic that made Sonic 2 the classic it is today, or does it sputter into mediocrity like many other Sonic games?
Like the first episode in the Sonic 4 series (which sounds bizarre to say), Episode II contains four zones, each made up of three levels and a big boss battle. Much to the game’s credit, the zones are all nicely distinct, both in visual style and in the types of obstacles you’ll encounter. Oil slicks and dust storms appear in the Oil Desert zone, and you’ll have to deal with ski slopes and snow boulders in the White Park zone. As a result, the gameplay stays pretty fresh throughout.
To infinity and beyond!
The levels also sport dynamic environmental obstacles, like wheels you need to spin to open the way forward, or packed snow you need to roll through. Also, one of our complaints about Episode I was a dearth of speedy parts, so we’re glad to report that this episode made room for plenty of zipping, zooming fun.
However, controls are often a problem in iOS platformers, and this game is no exception. While last year’s port of Sonic CD brought us by far the best Sonic controls on iOS yet, Episode II represents a step backwards for the series. For whatever reason, they’ve eschewed the nimble Sonic of Sonic CD in favor of a more hefty-feeling hedgehog here. When he’s standing still, it takes him a while to get moving. When he’s underwater, it’s even worse, making those portions of the game a chore to play through. It’s like he’s an old cranky lawnmower that doesn’t want to start.
Once he builds up momentum he’s as speedy as ever, but the moment you hit a wall or need to turn around, he’s back to being sluggish again. It doesn’t help that the D-pad is tiny, making it difficult to hit the intended direction every time. Also, the music in the game is pretty awful. Sonic titles usually have memorable, hummable music, but here it’s usually downright annoying.
Loop that loop.
Despite all that, having Tails around opens up some new platforming opportunities for the spiny blue fur-ball. At the tap of a button, Tails can grab hold of Sonic and lift him up, letting you fly to previously unreachable areas. You can also use Tails’ dual appendages like a propellor to swim faster, or you can roll into a ball that has enough oomph to break through barriers.
And if you have also Episode I installed on your device, you can unlock an entire bonus zone that lets you play as Metal Sonic. The game does include a multiplayer mode, but unfortunately it’s local only, so don’t expect to play with a buddy online.
Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode II isn’t a bad game by any means, but it’s hampered by spotty controls and sluggish physics. For most fans, these issues won’t be deal breakers. But after the terrific experience of Sonic CD, we were hoping for more with Episode II.