The Sonic the Hedgehog series has always been something of a mixed bag in my eyes. Despite a very strong debut on the coveted Genesis console and a number of decent-to-well made games in the nineties, Sonic fell far behind in the early 2000s and never really recovered. Whether it was slamming in poorly thought out characters and stories or crudely implementing some under-baked gameplay gimmick, Sega has tried everything in recent times except give the fans of the series exactly what they want. Well thought out platforming mechanics with a speed twist. That’s it, plain and simple. It seems after a few failed experiments (Sonic Unleashed, Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)) Sonic Team caved and created what was intended to be a definitive throw back. A true sequel to those great Genesis games that started it all so many years ago.
Depends on who you ask, but the general consensus seems to be “No”.
It’s not to say it didn’t try and come close though! When this was released originally in 2010 it was released to a slew of platforms, from iOS to 360 and everything in between. The versions varied slightly depending on the system, but here we’re focusing mainly on the iOS port (specifically the 2016 updated version with improved visuals and controls).
The presentation of the game is actually pretty spot-on. Everything has a very modern look and feel (think New Super Mario Bros. Wii) while maintaining that classic 2D angle and action. 2.5D wouldn’t be an incorrect way to describe the experience, but the game only ever makes use of the mechanics on a strictly 2D plane.
For the most part everything plays and chugs along exactly like the titles of old with a few notable improvements and drawbacks. For starters the homing attack from newer games rears its head here and it mostly works. At times it makes it seem the action is on auto-pilot, but maybe this was more of a personal experience. Something about being able to plan and time my jumps in the olden days felt right and challenging, as this new system makes the proceedings a bit too simple. The controls (while improved from earlier versions) feel a bit touchy and too slippery; it’s way too easy to stop dead in mid-dash from accidentally moving your thumb a smidge.
But what about the levels?
This is what makes or breaks most platforming games for me. It’s a difficult balance to hit when you’re trying to blend challenge with subtly and grace, an area this franchise has a gross habit of crashing and burning with. For the most part, STH4 holds it own with its competition. (To be fair, it’s not a crowded market anymore really). My only real problem with the stage design is the lack of originality with these levels. It pulls one too many tried and true Sonic tropes and sometimes feels like more of a retread than it should. And those casino levels?
Despite it’s flaws the game still holds up some six years later (at least episode 1, avoid the more frustrating 2 with Tails) which is a testament to how much fun is still possible to be had with this concept. Sonic Mania (what seems to be a true sequel to the classics) is just on the horizon and looking pretty spectacular, so a good game to burn through to get yourself prepped for its release is right here. It mostly goes for five bucks or less depending on the platform you’re going for, so you really can’t lose here. Keep your expectations moderate.
This isn’t the second coming of that once badass blue blur. It is, however, a solid platformer that feels like it would be right at home in the early nineties, and that’s better than most of what Sega seems to offer lately.