Sega’s latest release is a retro throwback to the good ol’ days of the Sonic series — Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2. Crafted for inexpensive play on almost any platform (XBLA, PSN, WiiWare, iOS, Android, and even Windows Phone 7!), Sonic 4: Episode 2 pits the dynamic duo of Sonic and Tails against the evil Metal Sonic and Dr. Eggman. As one might expect, you must spin, run, and crash your way to victory saving the day for cute animals everywhere.
Sonic 4: Episode 2 takes place on five main stages that are typically split into three levels and a boss battle. A special stage is set-up for players to pursue chaos emeralds to unlock deeper secrets within the game. These levels all generate a score and a time so that endless replay and record-keeping can be assured.
Unfortunately, the game suffers from a wide array of issues that will discourage everyone but the most hardcore to keep on revisiting the game. While at its core Sonic 4: Episode 2 is a throwback to the game we all loved as kids, this game runs into some peculiar challenges. The first of these challenges has to do with how gamers play these days. For the most part, mainstream gamers want to have fun while playing games. Either this means a passable challenge that frustrates in short bursts or an engaging story that provides dramatic intrigue after some complex problem solving. Sonic 4: Episode 2 provides neither of these forms of entertainment.
For one, the story is barebones and barely existent. There is no voiceover and even the tutorial is a set of pictographs. If I hadn’t read the wikipedia entry, I would have just assumed that the story was as follows: Sonic and Tails run from left to right… The End. I just did what I always did with a Sonic game and let the gameplay rule my relationship.
The other issue here is the game has some seriously tedious tasks to be completed. While I don’t mind a bit of repetition to encourage mastery, I expect that the controls will work as expected and that phony tricks aren’t at the root of wasting my time. In this case, neither expectations are met. The controls were often slow to respond and inexact in their results. I’m not sure how a game based on a Genesis-era concept can’t get the controls right, but Sonic 4: Episode 2 delivered just that.
As for the phony tricks, while there aren’t too many, I did get stuck on a trap level that had rising sand constantly abusing my hedgehog. I didn’t enjoy trying to beat the level 30-40 times in a row and I was furious that the puzzle involved was less challenging than it was tedious. When games drift into tediousness and chores, I start looking for better use of my time.
While these issues were major reasons for my dislike of this game, the biggest error with this title is its utter lack of whimsy. I understand that releasing throwback games is quintessentially de rigueur from the major developers. However, there is a stark difference that separates the greatness that is New Super Mario Bros. from Sonic 4: Episode 2. That, my friends, is the sense of whimsy at the core of those great Mario games. Mario is less about frustrating the gamer and more about empowering the gamer. All of that is covered in an adorable mustachioed shell that evokes smiles with its nostalgia.
Sonic 4: Episode 2 has none of that. This game is so old school it’s as if the developers don’t even know that two decades have come and gone since Sonic the Hedgehog was released. In fact, the music is so retro, it’s practically impossible to listen to. If I wanted to play games with chiptunes, I would just play the old Sonic games on the Marketplace.
After playing through the heart of the campaign, I just cannot recommend this game to most gamers. While it’s great to see the Sonic universe is still alive and well, this is just not my vision of how to keep this brand alive. Sonic should be fun and not an exercise in frustration and pettiness.
CraveOnline received 1 advanced copy of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 for the Xbox 360. We received the code on May 15, 2012. Before starting our review, we played 100% of the main storyline.