It has become apparent, to me at least, that Sega are followers of trends. Firstly they decide to release a new Sonic the Hedgehog game and take it back to it’s old school 2D roots. Secondly, they release it in episodic form. Well, I guess we should see if this first episode manages to mirror the success that can be found in the games that began the trends that Sega are following.
In this, the first episode, the player will get to play through four new zones of classic Sonic action. Dr. Robotnik is up to his old tricks again and the game continues on from the end of Sonic and Knuckles, with Sonic trying to prevent another of the evil doctor’s plans.
Both the gameplay and the level design are instantly recognisable as belonging to the Sonic games of old. The player travels from left to right, generally at high speed, jumping over obstacles, bouncing on enemies and collecting the now infamous gold rings. After a few levels of this the player will come up against Dr. Robotnik for a boss fight. They then move on to another zone and start all over again. Each of the four zones included in this episode are themed differently and offer different challenges for the player.
The gameplay is fairly straight forward and easy to pick up, just like the classic Sonic games. The visuals however, have been given a face lift to bring them up to date on the current gen consoles. They are still maintaining theÂ bright, colourful look of the originals, but now look so much crisper and smoother, making for a much more enjoyable experience. The themes for each of the zones are well done, with some obvious inspiration taken from classic Sonic games, whilst still offering some surprises. The same can be said about the sound work, with all of the recognisable sound-effects that you would expect, and some catchy background tunes that scream “Sonic”.
There is something wholesome and satisfying about launching Sonic full pelt at a level. The sense of speed and the quick reactions needed to deal with the various hazards along the way, all culminate into something that just feels right. But the problem is that the game does not maintain this feeling throughout, offering up some action slowing level designs and puzzles that do nothing to improve the experience, just impeded the sense of speed.
Which is another issue I have. Am I the only one who feels that Sonic is just not as quick as he used to be? Maybe he is wearing in a new pair of trainers? or maybe he has just got older and lost his edge? Or maybe it is just that everything seemed quicker when I was younger?
People always say that you can’t revisit the past, and it would appear that they are right. My memories of playing Sonic always seemed to revolve around hurtling through the levels at high speed. It was not until I played Sonic 4 Episode 1 that I realised that there were other memories, buried deep within my subconscious. These were memories of getting annoyed at the game whenever I got stuck, or couldn’t work out how to proceed. All of these negative feelings came flooding back in this game and I realised that I am not actually that keen on the blue hedgehog after all. But I am sure that this is just a personal thing and if you are a fan of old-school Sonic, and I mean really a fan, then you will likely get your kicks from this latest incarnation.
Sonic 4 Episode 1 looks, sounds and plays like a remake of the classic series, but I am not sure that is enough. There are a few issues, but it may well be that they are personal, some of them anyway. Sega have done a good job of trying to revisit the past with a modern twist,but I am just not sold that is enough. Sonic fans will no doubt love this title and it may well offer newcomers a taste of what made Sonic great. So far it is only a taste though, a glimpse if you like.