Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode I Review
A glorious return to form at a wallet-busting price. How worth it the game is depends on how much you care about Sonic.
When Sega announced that they were going back to the well and creating a brand new Sonic adventure that carried on the established track of the classic games, many fans groaned. It wasn't that they didn't believe Sega; it was that they didn't believe that Sega could go back to those early classics without destroying them. Mercifully, it seems that even Sega understand how great those early years are and the result is - finally! - a game that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the classics that many fans grew up on.
Continuing straight on from the events of Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Sonic has saved the Floating Island and destroyed the Death Egg. Now Sonic finds himself traveling alone through a new part of Planet Mobius, only to discover that the work of the evil Dr Robotnik (or Eggman, if you're a younger player) is still continuing.
It's not much of a story and it doesn't need to be. Sonic 4 is all about returning to the roots of the character and gameplay that once saw Sega dominate the videogame industry. And, by God, is it a happy return.
It's a devastatingly simple premise: you run left to right (and occasionally right to left) as fast as possible, collecting rings, jumping on enemies and that's about it. The fact that it's Sonic doing it and not some pale imitator is what makes it so enjoyable - it's like being falling down a well and discovering an endless supply of money.
This first episode is comprised of four zones - Splash Hill, Casino Street, Lost Labyrinth and Mad Gear - each of which is divided into three acts and a boss stage. Completing them all grants you access to the final level which, naturally, is as hard as nails. Finishing a level with fifty or more rings allows you to have a go at a Special Stage level and try and win a Chaos Emerald.
What's different this time around is that there is a main hub screen. Like the Game Boy Advance Sonic series, you can select which zones you want to return to. You can even replay the Special Stages from the main menu. This allows for much more replayability than any other Sonic game yet. It's simple to navigate and choose which level to go for and that helps massively in attempting to seek out the game's myriad of secrets and win those precious Chaos Emeralds.