It is fair to say that while I sit here in my Sonic the Hedgehog underwear, wearing a Sonic the Hedgehog t-shirt, while sat in my living room where a Sonic the Hedgehog poster is framed on the wall, that I may be a fan of the series. In fact, following the legends that are Sonic Spinball and Sonic R, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is my favourite game in the Sonic universe. Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 2 (henceforth known as Sonic 4.2) is a modern take on this classic game, continuing directly after Sonic 4.1.
If you know anything about the Sonic series, Sonic 2 was the game where Tails became a playable character. In single player mode, a second player could pick up the controller and control Tails, and in multiplayer mode the two players could compete against each other in 4 different stages. In Sonic 4.2, a second player cannot join at any time and the multiplayer is co-operative, but more on this later. However, when playing in single player mode Tails always follows Sonic around, and you can utilize his powers in the form of combos: Rolling Combo, Copter Combo & Submarine Combo. The Rolling Combo involves Sonic and Tails rolling into a large powerful ball, able to easily break through walls; the Copter Combo allows Tails to carry Sonic a short distance in the air; and the Submarine Combo allows Tails to carry Sonic underwater, allowing swifter movement in all directions.
Sonic 4.2 has four main zones, each with 3 acts and a boss: Sylvania Castle Zone, White Park Zone, Oil Desert Zone and Sky Fortress Zone. You may also be pleased to know that there is a return of Eggman’s Death Egg in this game, where the final battles take place. The final boss in the game is probably the best boss in any Sonic game so far, and is fantastically produced. My favourite zone in this game is the Sky Fortress Zone – a mash up of Sky Chase and Wing Fortress Zone from Sonic 2. These stages involve you riding Tornado, Tails’ airplane, and are a great change of game play from the ordinary platform levels.
The stages are well designed and help bring back the magic of Sonic 2. Eggman is the main boss in the game, but you also see the return of Metal Sonic. Also, if you own Sonic 4.1 and buy 4.2 on the same system, you will unlock some Metal Sonic levels that explain his movement from Sonic CD to this game, with levels based on Sonic 4.1.
Although it is a fun game to play, there are some niggles with the execution. If you ever played Sonic 4.1, you will know that there were some issues with the physics in the game. The controls can be unresponsive, and it can take a while for Sonic to get up to a decent speed. Unfortunately, these issues are still present in this game, and it can be extremely frustrating in parts.
Furthermore, the combos are a great addition, bringing something new to the table. But on the other hand, when activating a combo, you lose the flow of movement in the game, thus losing momentum and speed. Although this seems like a minor issue, the whole point of the modern Sonic games is to move through the levels swiftly.
I must also mention the issues with the level designs, particularly boss battles. In classic Sonic games, it seems obvious what you must do to defeat them – hit them X amount of times, don’t hit them while Y is happening and so on. Either I am getting to old to realise what must be done in order to be victorious, or the game is getting harder, as I couldn’t even work out how to defeat the first boss without looking it up on YouTube. Another level involved a race with Metal Sonic, but it wasn’t obvious at first that this was, in fact, a race until I reached the end. A further boss battle stumped me as I didn’t know where to hit it, and was actually on the level for 4 minutes before realising what I had to do.
It is not just boss levels that I have had issues with. One later level had a camera that moved with Sonic. This made me feel a bit dizzy and nauseous, and I struggled to do the level at speed because of it. Also, at the end of some levels there are some challenging parts that require near-perfect timing and movement. One of these sections made me lose nearly 20 lives, as I could not get the momentum right, which is extremely frustrating. It is also annoying as you lose all your rings from the level (often 200+) and therefore forfeit the special stage at the end.
Talking of special stages, they are absolutely brilliant in this game, with the same design of Sonic 2: running down 3D half-pipe and having to collect set amounts of rings. They take me back to playing that title with my sister, fighting over who was in front and, therefore, got the most rings. You activate these special stages by jumping into a large ring at the end of the level, and not by jumping in a ring of stars that appear over a checkpoint post, like in Sonic 2. Successfully completing a special stage gives you a chaos emerald, and collecting all of these allows you to activate Super Sonic.
Chaos emeralds are not the only collectable in the game, as there are red star rings found on each non-boss level. These are similar to the ones found in Sonic Generations and Sonic Colours. Although I am not entirely sure what affect they provide, they give you something to do and form part of an achievement.
The music in the game is similar to Sonic 4.1 – remixed and updated takes on the original soundtrack. It is catchy, albeit repetitive, but some tracks seemed a bit too remixed. The best way of describing it is a remix of a remix – too artificial and a little bit irritating.
The game has a lot of replay value depending on your degree of completion. As said before, there are chaos emeralds and star rings to collect, and with the multiplayer and the ability to set high scores and times, you can probably spend a good chunk of time playing after completing the campaign.
On the other hand, after playing some local multiplayer, I unfortunately must report that it feels very broken and clunky. Sonic is noticeably faster than Tails, and Tails doesn’t have the ability to perform homing attacks. With these in mind, Sonic will pretty much always have to lead, making it unfair on the other player. The other annoying part is that the camera pulls out only a certain distance, and if you “fall off the screen,” you will appear next to the other player and have to press a button to get back in the game. By doing this, though, you waste a few seconds. In moments where faster movement is required, you will keep getting reset over and over again, until the primary player slows down.
Overall Sonic 4.2 is an improvement from 4.1 but there are still issues. Playing the game is very nostalgic, but doesn’t bring much new to the table, and for 1200 points you may not feel like it is worth your money. I would recommend this game if you are a Sonic fan, but be wary that there is not much new with respect to the game design.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.