UPDATE: IGN has posted up their review of the Xbox 360 version, in written and video form (see above). They give the game an 8/10. /UPDATE END
The first batch of reviews are in for the iPhone and PS3 versions of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 and they’re all pretty positive. We’ll focus on two of the reviews here and provide links to others at the bottom of this article.
AppTilt’s Dan Lee gave the iPhone version a 9/10, claiming SEGA has done well in bringing Sonic back to his roots, while still keeping him fresh.
Every level is bright, colourful, detailed and screams ‘Sonic’ at the top of its lungs. SEGA has done a fantastic job of bringing Sonic back to his roots, but also making him feel fresh and modern.
Lee says the game meets the classic Sonic level design of multiple routes, which encourage the various play styles of those who like to speed through a zone and those who like to be more adventurous and explore.
The good news is that the level design is classic Sonic. Each act has multiple routes depending on your play style – so those who enjoy the speed can simply put the hammer down and blast through, whilst the more adventurous can slow things down and eek out every ring there is on offer; just be wary of the ten minute level time limit!
The only complaint Lee had was with the controls. Lee didn’t find the touch or tilt controls to be as accurate as buttons and an analogue stick.
So now for the bad news – the iPod controls aren’t as slick as they could be, and occasionally ruin parts of a level. There are two ways to play the game – ‘Touch controls’ or ‘Tilt controls’. Touch gives you a faux analogue stick in the left hand corner, which controls movement, whilst a circle in the right corner simulates a jump button. This button is far too small and in the full flow of a level it’s very easy to miss – which usually results in death. Both the move and the jump buttons sometimes fail to register as well, which is beyond frustrating.
Tilt controls enables you to move left and right by tilting the iPod in that direction. Jumping is taken care of my tapping any part of the screen. I quite enjoyed the Tilt control as it removed the small jump button – however it lacked the precision of the analogue stick. Neither of these controls schemes are awful; they could have just done with a bit more tweaking. In terms of longevity Sonic 4 is as deep as you want it to be.
Lee finished up by highly recommending the game:
So there we have it – overall Sonics return is a rousing success. The occasional unresponsive controls are not enough to put a dampener on some top notch level design and good old fashioned fun. Highly recommended.
GamesRadar’s Justin Towell reviewed the PS3 version of the game and also gave it a 9/10, stating that like most fans, he noticed the physics differences in early footage and had doubts the game would live up to its name, but after playing the full game he says that it surprisingly does live up to the title Sonic 4.
The physics are different, the art design is different… perhaps it was just too different to be worthy of the name ‘Sonic 4′. How could anything possibly live up to that name? To my utmost surprise, it does.
Towell also wasn’t overly bothered by another factor often complained about in the game, the homing attack.
You get the lock-on attack from Sonic Adventure, which threatens to change the game too much, but is actually used sparingly and works well almost all of the time. There are a couple of occasions where you want to use the air dash to power over a spiked enemy’s head, but the game thinks you want to attack it, resulting in a cascade of lost rings.
Towell explains there are new speed tactics not found in the previous Mega Drive classics that he enjoyed playing with and improve Sonic’s speed without having to wait for the next steep hill to come along.
Going back to Sonic 1 after spending hours with its new sibling feels very strange. Sonic 4 handles very differently. It’s more… bold. Clinical, even. Every movement seems more deliberate, and while the finer nuances of low-speed control have arguably been lost, it’s at high speed that it reveals its true depths.
I mentioned that lock on attack can be used as a simple air boost. When running at speed, this has a noticeable acceleration effect, allowing you to reach speeds on open stretches that old Sonic simply wouldn’t be able to do without a hill to help him. Jumps on hills still react as you’d expect, and landing a jump on a decline results in a welcome burst of speed, just like those loop-jumps of Sonic 2.
Towell then goes into the games replayability through various modes like Time Attack and brings good news that Super Sonic’s times will be ranked separately to Sonic’s.
So how much game is there for Sonic experts? I was able to beat the entire game, collected all the emeralds and beat the secret zone in one evening. After that, there are separate score and time attack modes to try for every stage, complete with online leaderboards. These are split into all/friends categories, and scores attained with Super Sonic are categorised separately from regular Sonic.
Add in the countless hidden routes through levels and it’s clear there’s a truck-load of replayability. Finding the fastest routes and mastering them is going to take weeks, maybe months. Maybe years.
Towell finishes up the review with the following positive thoughts and verdict:
A friend on Facebook asked me to sum up the game in one word. It’s a tough thing to do. I wouldn’t say ‘magnificent’ – it’s still a little too unambitious for that. I certainly wouldn’t say ‘disappointing’, because Sonic Team and DIMPS have done the impossible and managed to make this most critical of Sonic fans love a new Sonic game.
So I’m going to plump for ‘deserving’. And I mean that in two ways. It’s deserving of your time and your money despite its length. But more importantly, it’s deserving of the name ‘Sonic The Hedgehog 4′. That was always going to be this game’s biggest challenge, but it’s succeeded with aplomb.
+ The purest Sonic game for ten years
+ Works on so many gameplay levels, like its predecessors
+ So much game to master, despite its diminutive size
+ You’ll hate
- Can be ‘completed’ in one evening
- Physics are different, not necessarily worse
- Visuals could have been even better
What do you think of the game’s positive critical reception so far? Share your thoughts in the comments.