Although I’ve never been the biggest fan of Sonic the Hedgehog, I have generally enjoyed the various Sonic games that have been released throughout the years. I absolutely loved the precursor to this game, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I, as it was a nice throwback to the original Sonic games, but with updated HD graphics, refined controls and a new mechanic to update the character’s moves. For better or for worse, I was hoping for more of the same from this new release, something which managed to capture the fun and spirit of the original Sonic games, without making the game too complicated. I was also excited at the prospect of seeing Tails back in the game, as I always enjoyed playing Sonic 2 just to see Sonic’s fox sidekick.
Unfortunately, the game didn’t end up being what I had hoped. This is a better/worse situation, however, because your personal view of this game will depend largely on what you were hoping to get out of it. For better or for worse, I was hoping for a game which was a sequel to Episode I without introducing any unnecessary tweaks, which would serve to complicate the enjoyable game play which was already pleasant. I didn’t get that game, but fans who were hoping for a game that would tweak the traditional Sonic formula will be a bit happier with the overall result.
The addition of Tails is definitely an important factor in this game, as he’s far more useful than I think he’s ever been in prior iterations of the Sonic series. Depending on the situation, there are combo moves that can be pulled off with Tails, and in some cases it’s crucial that these moves are executed in order to progress further in the levels. There are numerous parts in the game where Tails is necessary to do a particular act, and the game helpfully makes this easy to understand and follow. The levels look fantastic, as they are lush and memorable, although at times they verge on being overly complicated, instead of being complex. Similar to Sonic CD, there are multiple routes to completing each level, but the difficulty in some of the levels is a bit harsher than I would have expected. There are more traps and complex pathways to follow than ever before, but at times I found this to actually be a detriment to the overall game play. The boss battles are certainly more innovative than they have been in the past, but again I don’t think they were necessarily successful. For most Sonic games, the boss battles have been extremely straight-forward, as they adhere to a particular formula, tried tested and true. With this game, the developers have switched things up, making the boss battles a tad more innovative and complex; in theory they are still the same, at their core. Sonic is still trying to bounce up and hit Dr. Robotnik, but there’s more involved now in terms of figuring out just how to hit Dr. Robotnik in the first place. The difficulty of boss battles is much higher, not necessarily because it’s actually harder to defeat them; it’s just much harder to figure out the method in which the game wants you to do so. It’s not nearly as clear or concise as it could be, and it leads to frustrating periods of trial and error, detracting from the enjoyable flow of the game.
This game tries too hard to develop new game mechanics and level designs, which I personally found, at times, to be alienating and frustrating. Episode I was a love-letter to classic Sonic games of the past, whereas this game reminded me more of Sonic CD, which unsuccessfully tried to alter the traditional Sonic formula. Although I credit the developers with trying to do something more with this franchise in this game, the changes were to the detriment to the game play experience overall.