Episode I: The Eggman Menace
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I (Wii/PS3/X360/iPhone)
Pub: Sega/Dev: Dimps, Sonic Team
ESRB: E/Players: 1
Note: This review is based on the Wii version.
Some evil scientists just can’t take a hint. Dr. Eggman (or Robotnik) is up to no-good once again, stealing Chaos Emeralds, kidnapping defenseless forest animals, and using them to power his badnik creations. And you know what that means: it’s up to Sonic the Hedgehog to save the day yet again.
As you’re probably aware, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I is a 2D side-scrolling platform game similar to the classic Genesis Sonic titles. Sonic runs, jumps, bounces, collects rings, fights enemies, and basically sticks to all of his trusty Eggman-beating techniques.
Is that corkscrew a natural phenomenon?
The game contains four main Zones, each split into three Acts plus one Boss stage. A fifth Zone contains a boss rush and the final confrontation against the persistent Dr. Robotnik (or Eggman). There are also seven Special Stages that you can enter by having at least 50 rings and jumping into the giant gold ring at the end of each level. These Special Stages are reminiscent of the rotating mazes from the original Sonic the Hedgehog, except that here you control the rotation of the maze instead of Sonic, himself. Each Special Stage contains a Chaos Emerald, and any Sonic fan knows what happens if you manage to collect all seven.
There is one element of Sonic 4.1 that seems to be a huge hang-up for a lot of fans, and there’s simply no ignoring it. The way Sonic handles in this new game is drastically different than in any of the original Genesis titles. That’s not to say it’s bad, but it requires a different set of skills and reflexes. If you begin playing Sonic 4.1 after having played the classic Sonic games, then the difference will be quite jarring. However, I suspect that after playing this game for a while, going back to Sonic 1 would feel just as awkward. Taken on its own merits, the control in Sonic 4.1 is actually quite good and well polished.
One “new” element added to Sonic’s repertoire for this outing is the homing attack (although it originated in Sonic 3D Blast). It factors pretty heavily into gameplay, with enemies and objects strategically placed within the levels so you can chain attacks together, reach new areas, or even use it as a stopping mechanism. There is a technique to using it, however, as it requires certain timing.
Sonic's really got the ball rolling now!
The level design strongly recalls that of the classic Sonic games, with a good balance between platforming, speedy sections, gimmicks, and the occasional awkward puzzle. The levels are huge, and there are multiple ways of getting through them. I found that learning the levels and maintaining my momentum as I hurtled through them gave me the same satisfaction and exhilaration that the classic games did.
Although the graphics are clear and detailed, there were a few parts late in the game where I had trouble discerning the difference between a platform Sonic could stand on and graphics that were simply environmental decoration. This led to a few “fall throughs.” However, it didn’t take long to learn which was which.
This wasn’t a game that grabbed me immediately. My first impression was that it was a solid platform game, yet a little lacking in the “wow” department. But after a while, I realized that I was compelled to keep playing it. And it wasn’t because I was trying to collect a bunch of arbitrary items, get 100%, or some other form of artificial replay value. Rather, I continued to replay Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I simply because it was a whole lot of fun. And really, that says it all.