The Episode 1 subtitle and single evening completion suggests it's a short game. But it's probably as long as Sonic 1, with more routes to find and just as many reasons to come back. Plus not everyone will want to blaze through it. You may still look at the score and the phrase 'single evening' and wonder how on Earth the two go together. But they do. Seeing the end sequence is only the beginning. The game's greatest achievement is making the levels fun both the first time you play them and the hundredth (yep, I was up gone midnight playing Time Attack). It's classic Sonic.
In fact, 'classic Sonic' sums up the game quite nicely. It's got everything the original stood for, from speed to careful platforming, varied routes to secret rooms. While it isn't as brazenly spectacular as I'd hoped it would be, some of the 3D backgrounds are really rather beautiful, and you soon appreciate the detail in the HD foregrounds. It's also rock solid – the extra development time has made this the slickest Sonic game I've seen since Sonic & Knuckles and Sonic's movement is reliable and measured. Perhaps too measured for some fans, but it's converted me.
Above: Sonic 4 may not make the most of the hardware's potential, but that background is beautiful, deep 3D
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.
08 Oct, 2010