Sonic The Hedgehog 4™ Episode I

Sonic The Hedgehog 4™ Episode I is a game from , originally released 31st December, 1969

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Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 Hands-On Preview and Video

You know that feeling you get when a long-lost friend makes a sudden, unexpected appearance? That’s how we felt to see Sonic again, more himself than he’s been in years. Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 is the first in an episodic resurgence that aims to pick up where Sonic the Hedgehog 3 left off. That is, when he was on top of the world.

The controls are pure, simple Sonic. Like in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic can perform a stationary spin-dash, but a new homing attack is added to the mix. By hitting the jump button again in mid-air, Sonic will execute a small boost. If you’re near certain items like a spring, rope, or enemy, Sonic will automatically target it. It’s been introduced in recent Sonic games, but it makes a lot of sense in these classic Sonic levels.

Even with the homing attack, this is pure Genesis-era Sonic. The new moves enhance, rather than detract, from the pure Sonic experience: racing through levels, skipping over rings and enemies if you don’t care to pick them up. The backgrounds are gorgeous, and though the frame rate may not be as speedy as the console versions, it’s still very impressive for an iPhone game. Let’s just say it already runs better than the ports of Sonic 1 and 2.

As much as we loved this return to form for Sonic, there were a few details that we couldn’t find out about yet. The bonus stages, which are notoriously ambitious in the first three Genesis Sonic games, were kept hidden from us in Sonic 4 (Literally– the Sega rep had to pry the iPhone out of our hands when we started one up).

Also, there are two bonus levels exclusive to the iPhone (each system gets its own two exclusive levels), but we couldn’t confirm whether these were the tilt-based mine-cart levels that have been rumored. And we could only play the first of four zones, a familiar grassy knoll that Sonic games tend to start in. We’d love to know if later zones take Sonic through more industrial environments.

Sega has signaled their commitment to the iPhone, bringing Sonic 4 to this system at the expense of the DS and PSP. We’re glad they made this choice, because it looks and plays great, and could become the top platformer on the iPhone. The first episode of Sonic 4 will be out later this year.

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Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 1 Review

The fourth installment of the classic Sonic the Hedgehog series has been a long time coming. Sure, there have been more spinoffs than we can count, but many have come out as uninspired. Just when gamers started to believe Sonic was dead, Sega announced the fourth installment, promising a return to the game’s roots.

As one would expect, hype went through the roof. Has the final product lived up to these outstanding expectations? In our opinion, not really, but that’s not to say that the game is bad.

Sonic platformers have one key element: speed. Most of the fun is in rushing through roller coaster-like levels set in wacky worlds at blazing fast speeds. In some of Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 1’s levels this is achieved, and it feels great when it happens. There isn’t anything like watching the blue blur that is Sonic whip around loops at breakneck speed.

However, there are some levels that slow down the pace too much. They offer an unsatisfying take on classic run-and-jump platforming, requiring you to use Sonic’s homing ability to climb up to new areas by smashing enemies or precisely aiming cannons. With only 17 levels, five of which are classic boss fights against Dr. Robotnik, these duds stick out like sore thumbs.

Reach for the sky!

Two exclusive iPhone-only levels are included in the game. One places you in a tilt-controlled minecart that you must navigate around the level. While videos of this level from a few months back showed the mechanic to be clunky, we are happy to say we found no issues with it. In fact, it was a highlight of the game for us.

The other exclusive level is a throwback to Sonic Spinball, where you need to simply score 100,000 points. This comes and goes pretty quickly, and considering there is no way for Sonic to die and that he practically sticks to paddles when he hits them, this level is far easier than it should be.

Returning from the classic Sonic platformers are the special stages. These trippy worlds are difficult, time-based mazes that award a Chaos Emerald at the end. You can control Sonic through these using tilt or swipes (we prefer the former) and they are just as fun and mind-bogglingly hard as we remember. In other words, this is a nostalgic blast from the past that we welcome back with open arms.

With 17 levels, plus seven special stages, Sonic The Hedgehog 4 Episode1 can easily be beaten in a little over an hour by expert players, and likely two to three hours by everybody else. Considering how long the development time for the game has been and the premium price attached to it, this is a little too short. A time attack mode adds a bit of replay value, but it doesn’t make up for the overall lack of content.

Sonic isn’t afraid to submit to his Minecraft addiction.

We have a few other gripes with Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 1 as well. One is that the “braking” physics are off; Sonic comes to a complete halt when stopping and takes too long to gain up his speed again. This can occasionally become frustrating. Also, the small analog stick controls are usable, but not optimal for Sonic gameplay. Tilt controls are also available, but for a platformer, we prefer something slightly twitchier.

It may seem that we’re giving Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 1 a bad rap, but in reality we actually enjoyed our time with the game quite a bit. Despite not being the next superb Sonic platformer, what it does do right, it does exceptionally well. For example, the great visuals really scream classic Sonic to us.

Sonic fans will undoubtedly have fun with this game. Heck, we’d recommend it to most platforming fans. If the downsides aren’t an issue for you, go download it and start collecting some rings. We just hope the next episode makes a few improvements as well.