Ever since the release of Sonic Colors, Sonic’s games have been gradually getting better and better culminating with the ultimate love letter to fans in Sonic Generations. However, the coming release of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 this May will be the true test of the series. Episode 1 only received modest reviews with many believing that the game was too short and had few original ideas of its own. Worst of all was that it failed to mimic the physics and momentum of the Genesis classics. With Episode 2, Sega is promising to address many of the complaints that fans have had and really make the game feel like a successor to Sonic 3.
It was with that in mind that I sat down to play the Sonic 4: Episode 2 demo at PAX East. Two levels were available to play: Sylvania Castle Zone Act 1 and White Park Zone Act 1. I chose Sylvania Castle and was immediately struck with memories of Aquatic Ruin Zone. It’s similar but not an exact copy. I didn’t worry about the level design though as I immediately took off to see how this new physics engine felt. In a word: better. It’s definitely not exactly like the old games, but it gives off the same general feeling. It was as if Classic Sonic from Generations had been given the homing attack. It’s different but certainly not bad and the momentum of the titular hedgehog feels as close as it’s been in years.
Sylvania Castle itself plays well enough with plenty of alternate routes for players to discover. Much like Aquatic Ruin there is water that fills the lowest path, but it is avoidable if players can manage to stay on the higher platforms. I personally failed and ended up trekking through the water. It never became too much of a problem though with bubbles placed a fair distance apart. I also spotted a few red rings in the level showing that the collectible will once again be making its return. This can only be a good thing to me as they encourage players to fully explore each level and provide a sense of replayability. The presence of Tails didn’t change too much gameplay-wise within Act 1, only providing a way for Sonic to reach higher platforms by flying him up. Avid Sonic fans should know that boost pads and homing attack areas were also present but were nowhere near as prevalent as in Episode 1. It felt like a balanced mix of the old and the new.
While Sylvania Castle was a nice introduction, White Park Zone was what really had me hooked. I’ve always enjoyed snow levels in Sonic games and this one might be one of the best. The style itself is simply gorgeous, blending the winter wonderland of Icecap Zone with an abandoned amusement park. Everything was covered in that soft glow that so often happens when light hits snow. The level also had more tricks up its sleeve with avalanches carrying Sonic this way and that as well as simple platforming above bottomless pits. Sonic’s snowboard came into play several times but only until I hit an obstacle making it more than just an automated sequence. Tails was also given a new ability in this level when I came to an area packed with snow. By curling up into a massive ball, Sonic and Tails were able to burrow through the snow but even this was not as simple as it seemed. The two are constantly moving forward in this form and the snow quickly reforms around them. If players take too long to get out of the obstacle they’ll end up dead. It was an indication that Episode 4 would not have as many automated sequences as in the first game.
Overall, I left the demo station with a good feeling. It may not be the same old school Sonic that fans want, but this is an amalgamation that I’m satisfied with. By using elements from the modern games with the classic physics, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 has crafted its own identity. If the level design stays as creative as it was in White Park Zone, then followers of the blue hedgehog should be more than happy when the game releases May 15.
Developer: Dimps Corporation,Sonic Team
Release: May 15, 2012
Available On: Android, Windows Phone, PlayStation Network (PS3), Xbox Live Marketplace, iPhone, PC
Soul Sacrifice Review
At this point, I don’t want to know what is going on in the mind of Keiji Inafune ...
Review - May 21, 2013
Behind the Scenes of Punch-Out!! LA
Once again I had the chance to meet with artist Michael Edward Miller, “Mikey,” and g...
Feature - May 20, 2013
Pikmin 3 - Gameplay Analysis (Nintendo Direct)
Join us as we try and uncover every secret the Pikmin 3 trailer from the latest Nintendo Direct i...
Feature - May 19, 2013
New Super Luigi U - Gameplay Analysis
We analyze the latest New Super Luigi U trailer from the most recent Nintendo Direct to uncover a...
Feature - May 18, 2013
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D - Video Review
In our review of Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D for the Nintendo 3DS, we explore how it stac...
Review - May 17, 2013
New Pikmin 3 Gameplay Footage
Check out the latest footage for Pikmin 3 from the recent Nintendo Direct, coming this year to th...
Feature - May 17, 2013
Pokemon X & Y Trailer & Map Analysis
Join us as we uncover the secrets of the latest gameplay trailer, screenshots, and the world map ...
Feature - May 15, 2013
Pokemon X & Y Screenshot, Artwork Slideshow
Check out the latest screenshots and artwork for Pokemon X & Y in our musical slideshow! ...
Feature - May 14, 2013
Cool Bits - Blast Corps' Shockingly Accurate Planet Orbits
In this Cool Bits, we check out some surprisingly accurate astronomy related details in Blast Cor...
Feature - May 11, 2013
Is Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D 30 or 60 fps?
Does Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D run at 60 frames per second like the Wii version, or a lowly ...
Feature - May 10, 2013