Review: Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 for iPhone

Sonic the Hedgehog is a character that I proudly grew up with, and I’m sure there are many others out there just like me. When I heard that Sonic 4 would be coming out. I knew I had to get my hands on it.

When the Genesis came out, I completely ignored my NES. When I got my first Sonic cartridge, Mario was simply a memory. I loved Sonic. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve Sonic games, like the time when I had my tonsils taken out and I spent all of my time eating ice cream and playing the first Sonic game.  Or how, as a little girl, I used to make up song lyrics to the MIDI tunes. There was also the time when I was at a neighbors house playing Sonic 2, and that was the first time I had heard Rage Against the Machine. Those are memories I will never forget.

This brings me to present day, where, after a string of unsuccessful Sonic games, many gamers had almost given up on Sonic. I know, sounds blasphemous, but it happens. A lot was riding on Sonic 4, and whether SEGA delivered or not is surely subject to debate. Last week Chris reviewed the XBLA version of Sonic 4, and while there are many things in the iPhone version that are the same, like the enemies and zones, there are some changes.

Like in the XBLA version, you start off in the first act of Splash Hill. The game does give you a nice tutorial on how you can either use the iPhone’s built in accelerometer (something I’d advise against), or utilizing the semi transparent controls that are on your screen. With the controls, you are given an analog stick and a button. Here is where things started to go a little sour for me: with the way the controls are set up, you don’t really get enough proper momentum to where you are dashing through each level at breaking speeds à la Sonic on the Genesis.

Also, one thing I noticed, and frustrated me to no end, is that, if you remember back in the day, Sonic would free fall still balled up. In this new version, Sonic doesn’t and leaves him open to attacks. There were many times where, if I was balled up properly, I could’ve avoided losing over half of my rings. I was still able to target enemies and objects like rocks and the blocks with power-ups, but there were times where I couldn’t always switch from free falling fast enough to save myself or get those items.

The final thing that was very off-putting for me was, when going through a major loop, the entire screen would move with it. As a person who gets some slight motion sickness, provided I’m in certain situations, I wasn’t a fan of that added feature at all. Sure, there are gamers out there who are bound to just go ga-ga over that, because not once was there a frame rate lag, but it wasn’t for me.

While it makes it seem as though I’m ripping this game to shreds, I haven’t even gotten to the part where I gush about the things I do like, such as how each zone reminded me of Sonic and Sonic 2. Or how Casino Street was an absolute blast to play. There were even two exclusive levels for me to play through. See? There are some great things in Sonic 4, I just had to get the bad parts out of the way first.

From the intro with the classic “SEEEGGGAAAAAA!” (which gave me chills, btw), to the music having such similarities to the originals, it was clear that the team behind this game wanted to pay homage to the glory days of the beloved Hedgehog. Do I think they hit the nail on the head in terms of that? Absolutely. Dr. Eggman (Robotnik for all you old-schoolers) was just like how I remembered him, but in each boss battle there was a twist. In the battle at the end of Splash Hill he would do this crazy spin that, at first, caught me off guard.

I am glad that we didn’t see any supporting characters like Tails or Knuckles because I think the main focus needs to be on Sonic for once. For years we’ve had him surrounded by a cast of characters, and it’s only fitting that Sonic get his day in the sun because he deserves it. Sonic is an icon, and whether you agree with me or not, he will probably go down as one of the greatest video game characters of all time. The guys at SEGA definitely are heading in the right direction, and with a bit more polish, the Episode 2 to Sonic the Hedgehog 4 will be brilliant.

I can’t wait.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 is available now through the iTunes App Store for iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad for $9.99, and is available for download here.

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