Before I start with this review I would like to inform you that while this review is strictly professional and unbiased, I’ve given myself freedom to express some personal opinions and preferences about the Sonic 4 Saga and the franchise itself to make it easier to see where I’m coming from. The point of this review is mostly to show that not all Sonic fans are whiny children who know nothing else than to complain without valid opinions.
I was born in 1993 and the first video game I ever played was the original Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Mega Drive. I’ve been a big fan ever since and I’ve experienced the most well-received games during this career of this beloved character. When Project Needlemouse was announced, promising a new 2D old school Sonic game, I got really excited. While I first was sceptical after seeing the first teaser for Sonic 4: Episode 1, because of the new 2.5D feel, I kept an open mind. And you know what, I loved it. Despise of all the changes made to the game from the 16-bit counterparts the general audience were complaining about, I still felt that the game was really enjoyable and it did really feel like playing an old school Sonic game again. It’s one of the most over criticised games of recently if you ask me. So now you know where I’m coming from, not let’s check out the second episode.
First off, the game looks outstanding. The lighting and all the different locations give the game an extremely unique look. One level you’re running from an avalanche with an amusement park in the background and the next, you could be soaring through the skies on top of an airplane. I also give the game huge props for including something a lot of developers are ignoring today, colour. The game is so colourful and bright which makes it a pleasure to look at. Surprisingly, I found the music to be pretty good as well. Not only do they fit very well with their respective level but some of them have really memorable melodies that I found myself humming through my daily life. I must admit, some tracks tend to loop over way too fast and become repetitive but some of them are already instant classics.
Now on to the most important part, the gameplay. One of the biggest requests in the making of Sonic 4: Episode 2 was to redo the physics from the first episode and making them more resemble to the ones found on the Mega Drive titles. While I personally had no problems with the physics found in Sonic 4: Episode 1, I must admit these changes are more than welcome. You now no longer lose momentum when using the spin dash off a ledge which is a nice addition. Honestly, other than that, I didn’t notice that much different in the physics. I just don’t really care about that so let’s move on.
The biggest change to the gameplay is obviously the addition of Sonic’s sidekick, Tails. Instead of making him useless like in Sonic The Hedgehog 2, they actually figured out how to integrate him effectively. Throughout the acts, you’ll encounter obstacles where Tail’s assistance is required to progress. His assist consists of two methods. One is that Sonic and Tails combines their power to create a devastating spin dash which increase their speed immensely. The second is the ability to control Tails in the air while holding onto Sonic, making it possible to fly over various obstacles. I’ve heard from a lot of people whom consider these obstacles forced and ultimately slow down the experience. I personally disagree. I think they give the gameplay way more variety and their all smartly located in the different acts, making it even more fun for people who want to speedrun and finding out the best paths when and where to use them. You can even latch onto Tails while underwater and he works as a submarine and it makes the somewhat tedious water levels way more enjoyable. These obstacles make even more sense in multiplayer where you have to cooperate to finish the level and trust me; I’ve already been through great memories of playing with other people online. So overall, I love the inclusion of Tails and his abilities.
Other than that, it’s your basic Sonic 2D platformer. You jump, you run, you spin dash and it’s just a blast. I think my favourite thing about the game is its level design. I totally adore the choices they made with the locations of the different levels and making many of them tributes to old levels from Sonic The Hedgehog 2. They all just seem to flow so well and they feel so massive in size. Using the homing attack and the mid-air dash once again feels so natural and really come in handy both during the fast paced parts and the platform parts. The bosses are fun as well, having way more variety compared to Sonic 4: Episode 1.
Except for the Single player, there’s also a multiplayer, both locally and online. One player plays as Sonic and the other as Tails. If one player gets left behind, he immediately gets transported to the other player and by pressing A-button or whatever it’s called on your preferred console, you’re back in the game. It can be annoying at times but I don’t see any other way around it. I was surprised to see how in-dept the online multiplayer really is. You can customise your own lobby and find other players after your own preferences. Such as switching characters every act, what act you want to play and if you want to play Score Attack or Time Attack. It’s actually quite addicting and both helping each other through the stage and racing to the end are equally fun. There’s also the usual things like online leader boards and achievements (duh) included in the game but other than that, there’s not that much replay value in this title to be honest. Sure, hardcore Sonic fans like myself will keep playing this for a long time but there isn’t much to do after completing the game if you’re just a casual player. You could find the hidden Red Star Rings hidden within the levels but it isn’t that much of a challenge. The Single player could be beaten under an hour and to complete the game 100% won’t be much of a stretch for long time fans. There’s also Episode Metal which is a nice bonus if you own both episodes but shouldn’t be deciding factor if you’re going to pick up Episode 2 or not.
So in conclusion, I really enjoyed Sonic 4: Episode 2. While I personally enjoyed the first episode as well, this game truly exceeded my expectations. With such great level designs, music, addicting multiplayer and new amazing gameplay twists makes this game worthy of the name, Sonic 4. Sure, they replay value may not be the richest but it’s a downloadable game so you can’t expect too much. If you’re a fan of Sonic, great platform games or just something quick and easy to pick up and play, I highly recommend Sonic 4: Episode 2. I’m sure you won’t regret it.
And my closing words concerning the franchise are the following. The quality of a Sonic game should not be decided by his eye colour, the lengths of his legs or that the game is not fast enough. Sonic games have never been just about speed, they’re all great imaginative platformers and should be treated as such. Then there are the people who complain about the games not being the same thing as the original trilogy on the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis). Well, here’s the hard truth, it never will be. Those games were a part of our childhoods, a part of our lives when everything was so much easier. If you think another Sonic game will give you that feeling again then you are wrong, no matter how good it is. If you have such high expectations, of course you’re going to be disappointed. I get it, it has the number four in the title and we want to associate it with the first games in the series. But to truly enjoy the Sonic 4 Saga and any other modern Sonic game that comes out nowadays, you have to appreciate it for what it is, not for what it used to be. If you can’t accept that, then I don’t see why you even care about this franchise anymore.
But I do, and I loved the Sonic 4 Saga and the recent Sonic games. Both Sega and Sonic Team has been on a winning streak lately and I’m looking forward to their future games in this amazing series. Hopefully we’ll one day see Episode 3 but whatever they decide to do with the blue hedgehog, you can count on that I will be right beside him, as he keeps running towards a successful future.