Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 - review

  • 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
  • Can be 'completed' in one evening
  • Physics are different, not necessarily worse
  • Visuals could have been even better

When you've been regularly playing the same game for 19 years, you're going to notice any differences in a new sequel. And I'll be the first to admit that I threw all my toys out of the pram when I saw the first footage of 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.

Initial impressions from the first few seconds of play were exactly the same. Toys, pram... it wasn't pretty. The screen looks ultra-clean, Sonic's animation is better than it was in that early build but still not incredible, and the physics are... different. But after the shaking stopped and the fear of change subsided, I started to have fun. A lot of fun.

Above: Why is Sonic running in and out of the screen on a levitating pathway of playing cards? Cos he can

Sonic 4 is a joyous game. It has four main levels, set in familiarly-themed locations. There's the Emerald Hill-alike Splash Hill, Casino Night-alike Casino Street, Labyrinth throwback Lost Labyrinth and finally Mad Gear, which is like Metropolis zone from Sonic 2, only slightly more forgiving. It's no secret that there's a secret E.G.G. Station zone too, which contains one of the biggest fan-pleasing moments of recent years, but I'll let you discover that one for yourself.

Above: The map screen manages to make it look like day and night can co-exist. That's next-gen

The game plays like no other Sonic game. While it borrows the vast majority of its level furniture from the first three 16-bit classics, the feel is very different. You can immediately spot DIMPS' involvement, as there's a fair smattering of Sonic Rush's characteristics. The acceleration over flat land, the movement over hills… but that game's trick system has been almost completely stripped away, making this the purest Sonic game since Sonic Advance 1 on GBA.


Buzz-saw 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.

Above: The target lock is forgiving and lets you reach otherwise-inaccessible areas at the top of the levels

You'll want the rings too, as the familiar-looking bonus stages from Sonic 1 return. I've explained before about the way you have to rotate the maze (now not on Sixaxis tilt control, though the iPhone version retains it) and get enough rings to unlock gates within a strict time limit. I'm a big fan of the new special stages as they're absolutely hardcore, and getting all seven emeralds comes with a wonderful sense of achievement.

Above: The final special stage requires 99 rings in 90 seconds. You can get more time, but it's crazy hard

More Info

Release date: Oct 07 2010 - iPhone (US)
Oct 07 2010 - iPhone (UK)
Available Platforms: Wii, Xbox 360, PS3, iPhone
Genre: Action
Published by: Sega
Developed by: Sonic Team
Franchise: Sonic the Hedgehog
ESRB Rating:
Rating Pending
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending


  • Darkhawk - November 13, 2011 10:27 a.m.

    Permanent price drop with Generations' release. Finally picked it up. One thing: stop comparing to Sonic 1. Any game that doesn't have a speed-dash is not true Sonic. (Seriously: who knew Sonic 1 had no dash?)
  • HankVenture - May 14, 2011 6:02 p.m.

    just re-saw this score and I gotta say, I think justin might need a time machine..or a pair of anti sonic fanboy glasses because this game was not great at all. but personal opinion so maybe he still feels it deserved a 9
  • Spybreak8 - October 13, 2010 11:36 p.m.

    Yeah I got all excited for the demo but it only gives you one level, the starting level!? Wha? I really need to see more with the price tag to distinguish a buy (not gonna lie I'm not the biggest Sonic fan).
  • burdmayn - October 13, 2010 3:25 p.m.

    Holy amazing game, and according to GamesRadar it's better than Halo: Reach
  • AnthonyTony - October 12, 2010 7:24 p.m.

    I've just played the demo, and it's good to see Sonic almost back to his normal self. Sonic has been so mistreated over the years, and my healthy Sonic addiction from the Genesis/Mega Drive games has led me to give most Sonic games a chance. But most of the games just sucked, and it felt like Sonic Team didn't understand their own character. Rush brought back a lot of nostalgia for me, and I liked the speed of it, but some of the level design was so unforgiving. Unleashed just seemed to torture me... it was like they were so close to making the perfect 2.5D/3D Sonic game, and some suit said... don't bother finishing the speed levels, this game needs a werewolf... A BLOODY WEREWOLF!!! The speed levels needed to be twice that length, and the last stage needed to be slightly easier, AND the werewolf needed to be send to the recycle bin, and they would have had their perfect current gen Sonic game. I digress... rant over... Sonic 4 seems to feel a bit like "we don't really know what we did wrong after 3, so we'll just go back to the old formula and see if it works". That's not really a bad thing, but I hope that they do try to improve on the formula without werewolves, humans, and Sonic speaking.
  • Phoenix_Gamma - October 12, 2010 7 p.m.

    Really?! I beat it last night and thought the game was totally phoned in. There's almost zero creativity, the graphics are a little shoddy looking, the music sounds like a MIDI off of Jeffery's First Geocities Page, and overall there's just no charm. It's totally phoned in. Kinda like the New Mario Bros games for DS and Wii, except those games actually added at least one neat thing. I'm really disappointed. IMO this isn't deserving of the Sonic 4 title. More like Sonic 1: Bad Music and Iffy Graphics Edition, Cruise Control Jumping Remix.
  • bball42242442 - October 12, 2010 2:01 a.m.

    i'm loving all these remakes of games i loved growing up!
  • MightyMorphinPoltergeist - October 11, 2010 10:02 p.m.

    So, Sonic 4 is better than Halo: Reach. BIAS! j/k of course, can't wait to give it a try..
  • g4m3rk1dd - October 11, 2010 5:14 p.m.

    "can be 'completed' in one evening" well i do that with most games anyway...its a complex... im glad to see that sonic is back to his original self
  • NardPuppy - October 11, 2010 5:29 a.m.

    Glad to finally see Sonic in a game that doesn't suck the balls off of a donkey's sack.
  • nyef - October 11, 2010 1:25 a.m.

    FINALLY! After 10 years they've done it! ...most sonic games took only one short amount of time to complete... If anything that should make the game even better!
  • secretsearcher - October 10, 2010 6:18 p.m.

    I don't usually care for Sonic games, but this might be what changes my mind. I don't have anything new to play until the 3DS comes out anyway (WAITING FOR GOLDEN SUN IS KILLING ME)
  • Aletheon - October 10, 2010 7:08 a.m.

    Sonic fanatics always seem slightly deranged and lost, but I can appreciate their passion. Will probably check out Sonic 4, if only to appease the sonic cult.
  • PaperLampHoles - October 10, 2010 5:27 a.m.

    Yeah awesome review should have internet setup in my house just in time to download this
  • ACE-VAMP - October 10, 2010 1:36 a.m.

    sonic adv 2 will always be the best sonic game, cant stand 2D sonic now. where is sonic adv 3
  • hardcore_gamer1990 - October 9, 2010 11:22 p.m.

    The 126 lives sonic has are representative of the number of crap games he's been in AND the number of people who still loved him before this game. Iiiiithankyoouu.
  • Darkhawk - October 9, 2010 9:58 p.m.

    GR hated on Sonic 4 for so long, it's nice to see this review.
  • SouthTippBass - October 9, 2010 10:53 a.m.

    Yes yes, all very good. But does it still say "SEEEEEEEEGGGGAAAAAAAAA!!!!" when you load it up? Thats a game breaker for me! Ha! I joke, this is fantastic news, I cant wait to play this :-) welcome back Sonic!!!
  • bluscorp - October 9, 2010 9:14 a.m.

    To be honest I've never really got in to Sonic, always prefered Mario meself. But i might get this off PSN soon.
  • alexfruen - October 9, 2010 7:25 a.m.

    The thing that irritates me most about the physics is the fact that sonic stops dead in mid air if you're not pressing forward (how is that physically possible?!) Where is the inertia that we were so used to in the old games? It annoys me so much I actually don't want to play it!

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