When most people think of Sonic the Hedgehog, one word comes immediately to mind: Speed. That’s why it’s so disappointing that Sonic’s iPhone debut is marred with frequent speed bumps. Framerate slowdowns consistently drag down the momentum of this fast-paced platformer. Sega should move quickly to fix this problem and a few others to fully optimize Sonic the Hedgehog for iPhone.
This brings back fond memories.
In this iPhone port of the very first Sonic game, you play as a brisk blue mammal who cuts a swath through seven multilayered stages to free his animal pals from a villain named Dr. Robotnik. When it first appeared on the Sega Genesis in 1991, Sonic the Hedgehog was famous for displaying detailed environments at a breakneck rate without ever slowing down. While the environments still look great, this iPhone version suffers from persistent slowdown.
The framerate isn’t the only problem with this port. As an emulated version of the Genesis game, Sonic doesn’t control naturally on the iPhone. You only have one option for the controls’”a virtual D-pad and one jump button’”and we would have liked to see Sega experiment with some different control schemes for Sonic. For example, we’d love to try controlling Sonic by tilting the iPhone.
The virtual D-pad is far from perfect, and Sonic seems much more likely to fall off cliffs or into lava without the precision of a real controller. Sonic also slides around a bit when he moves, and you’ll have to compensate by being very careful with the touchy D-pad. Gamers who know the original Sonic controls by feel will have to be patient with the iPhone’s new touch controls.
The uneven framerate and imprecise touch controls are unwelcome additions that can make the game much tougher. It’s easy to die quickly, and like in the original, when you lose all of your lives you’ll go right back to the beginning of Stage 1-1. While this is a holdover from the original Sonic, it doesn’t belong in a current mobile game. You can’t even use the original game’s stage select code to skip ahead.
Party like it’s 1991!
Because of the framerate and controls, you’ll probably have to replay the first few levels over and over again, attempting each time to make a little more progress. Players should at least have the option to restart from the beginning of the last world when they lose all their lives. Just because the original Sonic was meant to be played in one long stretch doesn’t mean it works well for the iPhone.
Sad to say for Sonic fans, but this iPhone port feels hastily thrown together. Sonic games deserve the royal treatment on iPhone, and that means a consistently fast framerate, natural-feeling controls and more options to ease the difficulty of playing on a portable system. Sonic the Hedgehog’s classic graphics and music will bring you back to the front lines of the 16-bit console war, but this iPhone version doesn’t play as well as it should. We can’t recommend paying $5.99 until Sega perfects this port.