Sonic has been a household name in video games since its creation in 1991 (Kind of like me! No?). Since then the little blue flash has had a series of both fantastic and horrific recreations. Sonic Generations, released just this last November, was this first game since Sonic 2 (92”) to live up to all of what Sonic is. On May 15th Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 2 was released. Improving on its predecessor, Episode 2 sought to make a more lasting impression.
A continuation of Sonic 4, released in October of 2010, Episode 2 is a bit of a blast from the past. Nostalgic sounds, level design, and boss fights give the game a strong feeling of familiarity. Clocking in at a short 4.5 hours of single-player campaign, Episode 2 is short and sweet; only 4 full levels long. Each level consists of three acts and a final boss giving the game 16 total stages. Once you complete all 4 of those levels 5th final level appears with the 2 final boss fights.
The most memorable feature to any of the old Sonic titles was the half pipe shaped bonus levels that pitted the player against their own speed in pursuit of Chaos Emeralds. This installment holds true to form in that regard. The bonus levels are brilliantly entertaining.
Getting to these stages is exactly the same as in the last episode: Finish a level with 50 or more rings and a giant ring will appear at the end of each act. Jumping into the ring then takes you to the classic Sonic bonus level, shaped like a half pipe and littered with rings and obstacles alike. Pass the sequential ring quotas you are given and the emerald is yours for the taking.
After obtaining all of the Chaos Emeralds Sonic can then unleash his powerful Super Sonic form (I know, I thought “Super Saiyan too). Just like the giant ring at the end of the level, your ability to transform into Super Sonic is based on your ability to gather 50 rings.
The coolest thing about Episode 2 is the presence of Mile “Tails” Prower throughout the game. Together Sonic and Tails can team up to perform combination moves, the first of which is a tandem flying ability that doubles as a submarine when under water. These abilities make hard to reach places far more accessible and also gives the player a few new ways to take on bosses. The duo combines to make a fast and deadly spin attack for the third ability.
Episode 2 also offers both same-console and online multiplayer. In this mode players choose between playing as either Sonic or Tails and then play through the campaign with their buddy. Though multiplayer is an entertaining idea, Episode 2 fails to really deliver. I felt more tied to my partner than complimented by his presence, and the fast paced, collect your rings and blast through the level mentality is lost in the name of keeping up with one another. Though the combined abilities are great they can’t compensate for the sluggish feeling that playing with another human.
Overall, Episode 2, though good intentioned, fails to deliver on the level of any original Sonic game. Levels, though mildly creative, lack spark and fluidity. Several times my momentum was stopped, not by a step I misjudged but rather a wall that takes careful planning to master. Mixing fast paced with puzzled sounds great but more often than not just makes for head-scratching moments that interrupt spontaneity.
Boss fights were almost too easy to start, I even caught myself standing around a few times, waiting to get hurt by one of them. But as the game progresses they get distinctively harder and did so at a rate that felt comfortable. The last boss, as in any Sonic game, is painfully difficult. Restraining myself from throwing my controller across the room and rage-quitting (I’m a grown up I swear!) I finally finished the fight with the evil Dr. Robotnik and fled from his base.
As a whole, Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 2 is an interesting if not completely nostalgic endeavor that tries its best to take fans back to their roots. Though at times the presentation is a little shaky and the game play can get infuriating. For Sonic fans this addition is a must, even at its steep episodic price (1200 Microsoft Points).