Friday, 12 November 2010

Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 1

Sonic the Hedgehog has been going through a bit of a revival lately.  Parts of Sonic Unleashed were really good, Sonic and Sega Allstars Racing is an ace kart game that rivals (and copies) Mario Kart nicely, Sonic Colours looks promising and now Sonic 4 shows up.  This game has been officially confirmed as the continuation of the original game series on the Megadrive. I would like to say this game is a return to form for my favourite spiky rodent.  In way a way it is. It's a return to 2-d form.  Sadly though playing this game makes me want to go and play the Megadrive ones, instead of continuing woth this one.

I was excited at the prospect of this little fella.  I suspect I was hoping for a New Super Mario Bros Wii sort of return to form for Sonic.  Unfortunately, this falls very short indeed.  Don't get me wrong, it's not an horrifically bad game, like the recent spate of Sonic games, but it's not particularly good either.

There are plenty of homages in here that hearken back unto the days of 16 bit glory such as the flat 2-dness, the music is very reminiscent of the old MD days and the look of the levels are similar too.  It was nice to see the original Badnicks (enemy robots) in their sexy new updated 3d models and the levels look very pretty and vibrant.  Really the graphics are pretty darn good for the type of feeling they were trying to invoke.  Sonic himself hasn't had as much tweaking done to him as say, Mario has over the years.  Sonic still runs fast through loops and jump in a spiny ball, now though his homing attack that has been a staple in the 3-d Sonics since about Sonic Adventure has been included too.  Yes, I know he had a homing attack in Sonic 3-d on MD and Saturn, but you needed a shield power-up for that.

Sadly though all this doesn't quite make up for the multitude of other changes that have been included.  Sonic's physics have been changed and for the hard-core Sonic fan like me, this is not a good thing.  For a start, Sonic seems to reach top speed at a different time, I think it is a tad too fast and getting stuck on the inclines of low hills is no longer an option as he is now just able to run up them from a stop quite happily.  Change for the better gameplay aspect?  Maybe, but it isn't Sonic.  The point of Sonic games (back in the day) was to get the momentum up and keep it up by avoiding things.  Sure it was annoying when you got hit, but the feeling of making through a whole level without stopping or getting hit was really something.

That kind of leads on my next gripe. After playing it for a while, I realised that despite the speeds he got up to, I had never really cranked a good skid out of him.  Sonic 2 had some of the longest skids when you would have him barrelling along and then slam on the anchors!  It was awesome!  No such thing here I noticed.  That lead me onto the next major irritant.  racing along and having a hearty old jump, it felt like he slowed down a little.  Lo and behold, he does.  What?  Why?  I have since found out, that even at the highest speed, if you make Sonic jump and just let go of the controller, he drops straight down.  Where has the momentum all gone!?!?!????

Next up the music.  Although MD-esque and retro sounding, none of the tunes are half as catchy as the Chemical Plant zone music, or Green Hill zone.  In fact the Labyrinth Zone music in Sonic 4 is just repetitive and irritating.  For the first time in my life, I played a level of Sonic with the volume muted.  That is sad for a game where the main character is called 'Sonic.'

Finally and this would have to be my main gripe. The price. $20aus for 4 levels of a game on PSN.  Sure you get 4 acts and the boss (who range from ridiculously easy to irritatingly hard) per level, but that still makes up for 20 short levels. I would hate to have this on Wii for the cost of 1500 Wii points (=approx$25au on the premise that $30 get 2000 points) as that is too much by far and it's not even finished, but at least they are open about that...

Although the graphics look nice and the game is a decent platformer, it just doesn't carry the Sonic feel that a speedy hedgehog game needs.  People who haven't experienced the brilliance of MD Sonics might find it an enjoyable romp, but the changes in physics and price point are negative aspects that cant be outweighed by the pretty graphics.  I don't hate it greatly, but I don't love it either.  Hopefully Episode 2 is more refined.  luckily for me though, I won a free download for this game.  Otherwise I would be really annoyed!

If I had to give a score, probably 5.5/10

Pics thanks to Gamespot

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