Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 Review

The meaning of Sonic is 42.

Sonic 4 Twwwoooo. You’d be forgiven for assuming that Capcom and its crazy naming committee had acquired Sonic with the release of Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 2, but you’d be wrong. Following 2010’s first episode, SEGA returns to its roots with a classic side-scrolling Sonic platformer. The dual-numbered title is the second episodic instalment in the Sonic 4 series, and could possibly be the last; Episode III and beyond are dependent on strong sales.

Sonic as he should be – I’ve been a longtime supporter of Sonic Adventure 2 (Battle). It mightn’t have aged that well, but at the time it was a solid transition to the 3D realm. It all went downhill from there, until Sonic returned to form with Generations. The grand return was signified a year earlier by a game with promise that disappointed many: Sonic 4: Episode 1.

While it wasn’t perfect, it returned Sonic to his side-scrolling ways with the glamour of modern visuals. The level design was suspect, but the theory was solid, and as a budget arcade title, frightened fans were encouraged to take a risk on their beloved blue hedgehog. After listening to gamers’ wants and desires, Sega is back, with a new and improved version.

Hi, Tails – Miles “Tails” Prower is the Slippy of the Sonic universe, and the biggest addition to Episode II. Despite his incessant banter and constant whining, he’s actually somewhat useful. Sonic and Tails can combine in numerous situations to take advantage of the sidekick’s unique abilities, to the point where one may even argue that he is the superior character in single-player (heavens to betsy); although, he’s more of a power-up than bonafide partner.

In the air, they can combine to make use of Tails’ flight abilities, and on the ground they latch onto each other’s ankles to perform a formidable Spin Dash and destroy obstacles that would otherwise halt a single character in his tracks. Using the same button to execute each can occasionally cause a spot of bother, but if you think before you act, everything runs smoothly.

The gameplay on the whole is much improved from the first attempt. Most noticeably, the controls are more intuitive, the music is enjoyable and the vibrant visuals are delightful. It combines the hectic pace of classic Sonic with some gripping puzzles that need to be solved in a timely fashion in the face of failure.

New levels – With three new acts and nine new levels, the overall game design is much improved on Episode I. Act 1 is still a variation of Green Hill Zone, as it nearly always is, but to their credit, each level actually feels new. They aren’t just polished cut and paste jobs from a previous game.

Anyone who powered through the first game will also be able to revisit some of its stages in Episode II, revised to be played as Metal Sonic. It’s no reason to buy Episode I unless you’re genuinely interested, but it’s a nice treat to Sonic fans who are still enthralled by the series.

Co-op sucks – The addition of Tails might give the elusion that Episode 2 is a multiplayer game, but it’s anything but. Sonic has never really excelled in multiplayer, in-large because players of varying skill levels are forced to share the same screen. Nothing’s changed in Sonic 4. While he’s useful as a power-up in the single-player adventure, co-op is just a frustrating mess unless you share an unspoken connection with your partner, and science seems pretty adamant that it’s a freak-of-nature thing.

Online is better, but there’s still little co-operation between the players. The dominate character — Sonic — is better off doing all the work and letting poor old slow Tails teleport back into the action when he inevitably falls behind.

Still doesn’t feel new – While it isn’t blatantly a mash-up of previous Sonic content, as was the case in Episode 1, Sonic 4: 2 is still too reliant on Sonic’s glory days. It’s one thing to effectively go back to side-scrolling, but there’s little I haven’t done before. Sega has tried and failed to innovate Sonic in his 3D mishaps, which is perhaps why it is apprehensive to do the same to the tried and tested 2D formula. Don’t get me wrong, Episode 2 feels like a new game, but it still reverts back to what it knows far too often for my liking.

Awful boss battles – Sonic boss battles have always been as enjoyable as washing your grandpa’s knee socks; it should come as no surprise that they’re the weak point of Sonic 4. You will be able to get through them when the time comes, but it’s certainly not an enticing reason to go back.

While it’s not the Sonic of old, Sonic 4: Episode 2 is fun, plain and simple. It’s best played as a single-player game, where the addition of Tales actually makes sense and the improved controls and somewhat new levels can be best enjoyed. The boss battles are still a weak point and it relies on overused conventions a little too much, but those aside, it’s a fun experience and something Sonic fans will enjoy.

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