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    Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I

    Game » consists of 8 releases. Released Oct 07, 2010

    A Sonic Team and Dimps co-production, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I is the first part of the next numeric chapter (though really the twenty-sixth entry) in the adventures of Sega's longtime mascot.

    iburningstar's Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

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    Press Y to be mediocre!

    It us no big secret that the Sonic franchise has fallen from the graces of the gaming community and has become some sort of blue, fast running joke. What use to be universal acclaim and applause has become disinterested eye-rolls and dismissive wanking motions. So, after over a decade of dropping the ball, Sega came up with an enlightened idea. The same idea that fans have been yelling at them all along. "Say, why don't we make another 2-D platformer and just give it better graphics?" It makes sense for them to try to breath air into the franchise's lungs by taking it back to the style of it's glory days. So how did it turn out? Well, uh...How about we just say it isn't as bad as Big the Cat.
    This entry in the series has the player assuming the title role of Sonic the Hedgehog, as he tries to put a stop to Dr. Eggman's evil plan to turn the world into Eggmanland. Somehow this plan didn't sound nearly as stupid when the antagonist was known as Dr.Robotnick and his planned utopia was referred to as Robotnickland. Anyway, it is up to the player to help Sonic navigate through four areas, each consisting of three zones, known as acts, and an additional boss level at the end. The zones all differ in their aesthetic style and gameplay elements. Each of the zones are all allusions to levels from previous entries in the series. The first two games, to be more specific. 
    Now, before I start digging in to the meat of the game, I want to give a quick mention to the games audio and visuals. The sound is fine. It is crystal clear and comes out just as you would expect from any other marketplace title. That being said, the music is somewhat generic and none of the tracks really stand out. It feels like Sonic music and nothing more. The graphics are colorful and all sprites look good, for the most part. I did find myself feeling let down by how little the enemy design has changed, with most of them looking identical to their early 90's counterparts.
    OK. Now comes the important part. How the game plays. How the levels are designed. How it all comes together, and is that final combination any fun. Part of me wants to go ahead and tell you yes, it does. The other part of my knows it is wrong to lie, so I'm not going to do that. While most of what we have here is classic Sonic, there are a few new elements that need to be mentioned. Sonic now has weight to him, and his jumps don't have the same wild flightiness that they use to.  It also takes him a bit longer to gain momentum with a noticeable delay in the charge up of his roll.  This isn't much of an issue, though, as you quickly get use to how the game feels. 
    Besides his handling, Sonic also has a dash move added to his repertoire. The mechanics of it are simple enough to understand, you jump and if there is an object close enough for you to lock on to a red targeting reticle will appear above it. Quickly pressing the jump button again will cause Sonic to dash in it's direction. This is used constantly throughout the game. It is required to do everything between attacking enemies to traversing levels. Nearly ever level requires you to use it to repeatedly dash at a line of enemies in front of you to cross massive chasms and other death traps. I can not emphasize enough how much this happens. It being so prevalent gives you plenty of opportunity to notice how finicky it can be, and how at several points it can easily throw you into danger as opposed to away from it. Having access to this dash maneuver has a dramatic effect on Sonic 4's gameplay and takes the place of the old jump on their head attack.
    Another large change is how the games level progression is set up. Past entries in the series were linear in stage progression with you playing through each zone in a determined order. This time around you are given a world map that allows you to pick what zone and what act in that zone you want to play.  It should be noted that you can only face the Dr. Eggman encounter.  After completing a stage you are told to "Press Y to play next act." Not doing so takes you back to the world map where you can pick another level of your choice. Completing a level while holding more than 50 rings takes you to a bonus stage that gives you a shot at collecting one of the seven chaos emeralds.
    I'm going to throw a SPOILER WARNING up here just in case, as I am about to start addressing the different areas of the game. If you want to journey into Sonic 4 spoiler free then allow me to suggest you stop reading now. If that doesn't bother you...Abandon all hope ye who enter here.
    It is obvious from the start that this area is calling back to where the adventure began all those years ago. I'm talking about none other than Green Hill Zone. We have all the familiar things here: green striped grass on top of brown checkered dirt, long stretches of land for you to build up speed, loops that have you defying gravity with speed, and annoying lady bug robots for you to suddenly collide into and lose all your rings. I consider this portion of the game to be it's best, and it is very light on something that plagues the latter half: gimmicks. In the case of Act 2 you spend a lot of time swinging back and forth and jumping between vines. Something that brings back memories of the SNES classic Donkey Kong Country. Act 3 brings back the zip lines that appeared in the final levels of Sonic 3 and has you alternating between riding them everywhere and enemy hopping with your new best friends the dash command. After clearing Act 3 you face the doctor (No, not the one from Gallifrey!) in a reincarnation of his ball and chain machine from Sonic 1. The fight isn't exactly the same, though, as he does have a couple of new tricks up his sleeve. This holds true for rest of the Eggman encounters. 
    Casino Night 2.0. The look, feel, and mechanics here are exactly like the famous casino level of Sonic 2. There isn't much more to say about this section's first act, because it offers nothing new. It might actually be a direct copy and paste of one of the older levels. I really wouldn't be surprised if it turns out to be. Act 2 on the other hand offers up a new way for Sonic to gamble as he bounces around in annoying never ending loops. Cards. Touching them causes them to flip over and show pictures of rings, an extra life, etc. Getting three of a kind grants you the appropriate reward. The cards also serve as platforms that alternate from being face down and a something you can stand on, to face up and a one way ticket to whatever is below. Most the time this is a bottomless pit. In between card jumping you get to do some more enemy hopping. Act 3 puts the canons from Sonic 3 to heavy use and gave me flashbacks of Aero the Acrobat for some reason. This isn't a strike against the game because I loved Aero the Acrobat. Eggman uses a supped up version of his Sonic 2 machine during your second confrontation with him. The fight plays out much like the original, but I think it is important to note that there is a dead zone spot on the pinball bumpers. You can flick them all you want, but Sonic is just going to roll in place and calmly wait for Eggman to saunter over and punch him in the dick.
    I get that one of the main themes here is nostalgia, but why of all the zones to call back to you would you pick the Labyrinth Zone? Maybe it is just me, but I don't remember this one being iconic in any way. When I think back on my childhood Sonic experiences I think of places like Marble Zone, Chemical Plant Zone, Mystic Cave Zone, and Icecap Zone. Very odd choice, indeed. This is also the point in the game where things start to get gimmicky. Act 1 has you interacting with boulders a lot. Not in the Chris Redfield I'm-going-to-punch-the-shit-out-of-this way, either. Instead, you will be timing you jumps so you don't get hit by them as they fall from the sky. Later on you will find yourself running away from them as they chase you down a hill. Trust me, it sounds more exciting than it is. This is mostly in part to the fact that you are really fast long before the boulders even bother to show up. Finally, you will try to keep your balance on them as they roll on rails across endless expanses of nothing. This is done by tapping backwards a lot.  

    Act 2 presents with the worst part of the game. In this level Sonic is carrying a torch and has a very limited range of view. These are the kind of levels that make you want to take your time and not rush through. You know, the very thing that shouldn't be in a game that is known for it's main character running really, really fast everywhere he goes. As you lightly jog through the bitch black tedium you will notice torches on the wall that you can light simply by coming in contact with them. This rarely accomplished much, seeing as how the areas you reveal are large, empty chambers that don't contain traps or anything that could cause you harm. I guess being able to see the upper left hand corner of the screen is kind of cool, but it does really help me in any way. The torches serve another purpose later on, though. Lighting them in a certain order at certain intervals apart will cause a series of blocks to appear that you can jump on to progress. Stopping to do some trial and error problem solving is another thing I find to be somewhat out of place. The high point of this level comes toward the end when it rips off the mine cart parts from Donkey Kong Country. Literally. You land in a mine cart, it goes forward, you jump over gaps. I might think more highly of this section if it had an entire dedicated to it, but the time you spend in the actual cart add up to be only a couple of seconds. If you blink, you miss the entire sequence. 

    Act 3 has you spending a lot of time in what can only be described as water. If you have played one Sonic water level then you have played them all, this one doesn't shake things up in the slightest. There were many points in this level that showed some problems with the lock on targeting of the dash and how missing it's small window of opportunity can have catastrophic results. This issue pops up again during the first half of your next encounter with Eggman. The second half of this fight has a major flaw in it that makes it sure to cause a lot of frustration for a lot of people. It has to do with the fact that pillars come crashing across the screen in all directions. In order to survive the instant kill of being crushed by them you have to get to the safe area. Doing so can require you to jump back and forth from pillars on the left and right and quickly run to the upper right corner before getting crushed by pillars from the ceiling. The problem arises because you can't see the left and right side of the room at the same time. And all the pillars don't make their locations known all at once. Creating several occasions where you decide to move left, only to discover that safety was on the right and a pillar from the right is now blocking your way there. If the camera panned out more I could see this being a very fun and frantic fight.
    This is another zone that I find questionable to re-imagine. Metropolis Zone from Sonic 2 was my least favorite part of that game, so getting to relive those memories isn't necessarily something I find myself eager to do. The worst part about it is that it is all here exactly as I remember it. Conveyor belts, pistons that smash you against the ceiling, transportation tubes, moving platforms, enemies with obnoxious attacks, running in place to make objects move, all of it. Besides more enemy hopping and a part where you are chased by a giant machine trying to crush you against  the wall, there is nothing new here. Nothing. Perhaps I shouldn't complain too much. We could have gotten another level or two of fumbling around in the dark. 
    At the end of the day, Sonic the Hedgehog 4 is an entertaining game that lacks any heart. All the classic components are there and most of the experience is just as you remember it. It is too bad that the nostalgia trip is tainted by an over used dash mechanic and a lot of poor level design. It is also extremely short and a large portion of it doesn't offer much in the way of challenge. There are a few tricky parts here and there, but they are hard in more of a frustrating way than a fun and challenging one. With this in mind, the game isn't worth recommending with the price tag being ($15)1200 pts. If you are a die hard Sonic fan then you will likely enjoy this stroll down memory lane, but it isn't likely to win over new fans and won't reclaim the hearts of those who lost interested in the little blue guy a long time ago. 
    Final Score: 4/10

    Other reviews for Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 (Xbox 360 Games Store)

      A Flawed Return To Form For The Blue Blur 0

      Even the promotional material oozes nostalgia In a lot of ways, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 reminds me of Mirror's Edge. Not the most obvious comparison to draw, you might think, but after a couple of hours playing the latest iteration in the Sonic franchise, the similarities were strikingly clear to me. Both games seem to offer the promise of free-flowing, momentum-driven platforming - the latter through acrobatic parkour, and the former through sheer sense of speed. Both games deliver ...

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      A Fan's Perspective. 0

      It’s easy to get caught up in the zeitgeist surrounding Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1. For close to a decade now, there has been a dedicated segment of the gaming community who has pounded their fists in demand for a game that plays just like the early-90′s Sega Genesis classics. By all means, Sonic the Hedgehog 4 should have been the game everybody has waited so long for. Excitement was replaced by embarrassment, however, as many discovered the game was less “sequel to Sonic 3” and had ...

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