Sonic the Hedgehog 4 – Episode 1 (Review)

“A decent game, but a huge disappointment for Sonic fans.”

Before I get this review started, I feel the need to say that I’ve never been a huge Sonic fan. I’ve enjoyed the Sonic games, but I am anything but a nostalgic fan who looks back on the past with rose tinted glasses. I enjoyed the previous Sonic games and, oddly enough, Sonic 2 on the Game Gear was my favourite. All I want to say here is that my views on this game are not clouded by nostalgia. With that out of the way, let’s begin.

It’s been sixteen years since Sonic & Knuckles, which is an awfully long time for a series to go before getting a proper sequel. Sonic’s rival, Mario, even had a rocky return to 2D platform with New Super Mario Bros. on the DS, but the Wii version was significantly better and felt like a proper Mario game. It’s expected that Sonic 4 would be a little rough around the edges, just like Mario was on the DS, but that in no way justifies the quality of this hollow husk of a Sonic game. Sonic 4 suffers from many glaring problems that keep it from being a decent platformer. Pretty much all issues I have with this game are gameplay related, so let’s dive right into what’s wrong with it.

For starters, the graphics are not terribly impressive. I can tell that the graphic artists spent a fair amount of time on them, but the fact of the matter is that the graphics in Sonic 4 lack character, personality, and soul. The graphics look fine, but they evoke no emotions from me. They are remarkably generic looking, which isn’t good for a game that is supposed to be a triumphant return for Sonic the Hedgehog.

To accompany the fairly bland graphics are overly long levels that, honestly, go on longer than they should. I found several levels to be somewhat interesting at the start, but when they drag on for several minutes at a time with no interesting changes? Well, that just gets very dull and repetitive. Some levels made me want to turn the game off because they were so long and boring, but I forced myself to carry on.

What really makes these long levels unenjoyable is the poor level design. Everything just feels really uninspired and mashed together. There’s no coherent point or purpose to anything in every level, and the same obstacles are repeated over and over again. Poor pitfall placement hampers the levels even further, as it is difficult to tell when a hole will lead to another path or to Sonic’s death. There are far too many gigantic, open gaps. Once you are out of the tight corridors, the levels just feel really barren and lifeless.

The difficulty is a bit of an interesting subject. Overall, Sonic 4 is very easy most of the time. I would rack up tons of 1-UPs only to encounter one spot in almost every level (outside of the first zone) that made me lose several of the lives I had earned. I’ve breezed through a few levels only to get through about three quarters of each before I hit some kind of bizarrely difficult spot that kills me several times. It seems unusual to have these difficulty spikes.

Working hand in hand with the difficulty spikes are the game’s enemies. They enemy placement in Sonic 4 is positively dreadful. Many enemies are placed so that you will slam into them at high speeds and lose your rings. Taking into account how fast Sonic moves at times, it’s almost impossible to dodge a lot of enemies your first play through because they literally come out of nowhere. Sonic 4 does not make itself difficult by presenting you with legit challenges that require skill, no. Instead, Sonic 4 makes itself harder by placing enemies and obstacles in unfair locations. The fourth zone is the worst offender, constantly putting things in locations that makes Sonic getting hurt an inevitability.

A few other minor things bother me as well. First is the lack of Knuckles or Tails, which is very unusual. Tails, at the very least, should have been in this game. Instead, all we get is Sonic. Second, the non-linear level select makes Sonic 4 feel like an ordinary budget game by indie developers. You can essentially play any level whenever you want, rather than being forced to play through each level one at a time like in a regular platformer.

That’s a lot of strikes against Sonic 4, and it’s probably very evident that I don’t like this game much. There are a few good things worth mentioning, however!

Boss battles are very simplistic, but I found them to be pretty enjoyable. Last boss aside, they’re not horribly difficult and are somewhat based on older Sonic bosses, so you should have a basic idea as to how to defeat them.

Equally enjoyable are the Lost Labyrinth levels. I can’t say much against them and they were really quite fun, easily standing out against the rest of the zones. The second level of Lost Labyrinth was a little bit on the long side, but overall it was pretty well made. I enjoyed the wealth of puzzles, and it was nice being able to control Sonic more than 40% of the time, since in other zones it seems that Sonic is usually always being pushed, propelled, or shot in various directions. Lost Labyrinth gives the player lots of control and feels more like the classic Sonic games.

Several levels are very replayable for speed runners. In fact, it is encouraged since there is even an achievement that requires you beat the first level in under one minute. I’m not much of a speed runner, but the game has plenty for gamers of that sort to do. That’s definitely a plus for them.

Overall, I feel that this game suffers tremendously from several glaring issues, and I’m shocked at how few innovations there are between Sonic & Knuckles (1994) and Sonic the Hedgehog 4 (2010). If anything, it feels like Sonic 4 took a few steps back. However, there’s still a bit of fun to be hard here, and diehard Sonic fans from the 1990s should enjoy the game.

Final Score

6.6/10

Dead Rising 2/Sonic 4 First Impressions

So I’m playing two games at once right now, and they are Dead Rising 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1. These two games couldn’t be any more unlike one another, and this is reflected in my feelings towards them so far after clocking about two hours in Dead Rising 2, and about an hour and a half in Sonic 4.


I never played the original Dead Rising since I do not have a 360, so I wasn’t able to experience the exploits of Frank West. That did not stop me from wanting to check out the sequel, though.

Dead Rising 2 uses the Games for Windows or Windows Live sign-in crap, which plagues so many other PC games these days. I was a little upset to see that in here, but what really irked me was the lack of any sort of key configuration options, and apparently the only gamepads that this game has support for are 360 ones for the PC. I had to go into an ini file and remap the keys manually, which was fairly annoying. It took me about an hour before I was truly happy with the controls.

The gameplay so far has me hooked, and I can’t really fault it much. My only gripe is having to find Zombrex for Chuck’s daughter. I don’t even know where to start looking since I always have, literally, dozens of zombies lumbering after me at once. Taking the zombies down is a lot of fun, and is even downright gruesome in a few instances. If you have a fire axe, you can slice a zombie in half – and I mean VERTICALLY, so from the head and down. Ouch.

The characters are pretty good. Katey (Chuck’s daughter) isn’t too interesting, but the rest of the supporting cast is great so far. Rebecca is pretty much the most blatant use of sex appeal I’ve ever seen in a video game of this kind, but she’s also a well developed character personality-wise, so she has the looks and the character. Sullivan is cool too, I definitely like his no nonsense approach to things as he manages the safehouse/shelter. I’ve only talked to him a few times and he’s already changed his feelings towards Chuck twice. I like this guy.

I haven’t played the game enough to write a review, that’s for sure. Still coming to grips with a lot of things in Dead Rising 2, but I predict a pretty good score for it.


A new Sonic game in the original series, what’s not to like? Unfortunately, a lot. The game isn’t that bad, don’t be misled by what I just said. The problem with Sonic 4 is that it feels like the developers don’t know how to design Sonic levels anymore.

The Splash Hill levels were pretty decent, but they felt far too large and I never really knew how far into the stages I was. There are too many routes and secret passages, and it’s just far too overwhelming. Big levels are good in a lot of instances, but these levels are just too big.

I actually felt like the casino stages were really frustrating. Far too many stupid gimmicky props and such, and a few things, such as the cannons that shoot you around, really annoyed me. I felt that, in the casino stages, I was mostly just being pushed through the levels by the huge abundance of springs and other devices that would propel Sonic forward. Honestly, it’s a little questionable when you barely even have to press any buttons to progress through a level. In the casino levels, the game progressed Sonic for you.

The ruin levels seem promising so far, but I’ve only played the first one. It was a little Indiana Jones-esque, which I actually enjoyed. In a few instances, I had to flee from rolling boulders and then ride smaller boulders over bottomless pits. With the slower pace and the game not relying on springs and such to shoot me forward ALL THE DAMN TIME, the first ruin level was actually pretty enjoyable.

Aside from the weird level design and the game’s reliance on devices that constantly shoot you around the level, the other thing I did not like is the placement of enemies. A lot of them are positioned in places where, unless you’ve already played the level and know what’s coming, you’re going to get hit and lose all of your rings. A few enemies come out of absolutely nowhere and are positioned in spots where you are destined to hit them unless you are a remarkably fast thinker and can take them out in half a second. Unlikely.

It’s still early days for Sonic 4, so my feelings may change. At the moment, I’m going to say that this game is just fairly average overall. Despite it’s flaws, it is still fun. It’s just not memorable.


And that’s about it for these two games so far. I’ll be writing more detailed reviews on each later in the week. Sonic 4’s review should be Friday, and Dead Rising 2’s review will be over the weekend sometime.

Return to October 2010 Articles