Sonic the Hedgehog is back. In the second downloadable homage to the classic 2D era games, Sonicâ€™s still battling with Eggman and Metal Sonic but, this time, his best bud Tails is there to help. So prepare for plenty of co-op running, flying, rolling, bouncing, andâ€¦ even more running.
So, what can be said about the new Sonic game? If youâ€™re a fan, you would have bought and played Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1. Developed by Dimps and Sonic Team, it was a pretty faithful attempt at producing an HD version of the original Mega Drive games. But, while it looked and sounded the part, Sonic felt wrong. He needed to be faster.
This time heâ€™s back, and for the most part, so is his speed. Whether heâ€™s crossing the water beneath Sylvania castle, running over the roller coaster in the White Park Zone, or battling the sandstorms in the Oil Desert, thereâ€™s plenty of room for Sonic to build up momentum and reach top speed. When Sonic gets moving, there is nothing in gaming that can compare. Itâ€™s easy to understand why so many games, from LittleBigPlanet to Trials Evolution, try to get a little bit of Sonic into their gameplay.
That said, if we have learnt anything over the years, itâ€™s that no matter how much you want Sonic the Hedgehog to be great, you usually end up being disappointed. With Sonic the Hedgehog: Episode 1 that certainly was the case, and unfortunately the same can be said for Episode 2.
Sonic the Hedgehog: Episode 2 is an uneven game. Yes, there are sections where Sonic goes really fast. In these sections he shoots across the water, hits bumpers, plows through walls and enemies, and trips checkpoints; all without breaking stride. In some areas, you can get to the end without doing any more then pressing the analog stick to the right. Good, clean, and very simple fun.
At other times the fun old-school Sonic turns into old and annoying platforming. In these sections you fight against unresponsive controls, clunky collision detection, and hidden deaths. Iâ€™m all for classic gaming, but whatâ€™s wrong with tightening up the controls a little; especially if youâ€™re fighting against momentum, getting knocked around by sandstorms, and getting chased by deadly robots and egg laying beetles.
To help get past the beetles, Sonic the Hedgehog: Episode 2 has included a co-op mode. Either locally or online, a friend can take control of Tails, so you can both take on Eggman together. Although the AI controlled Tails is there with Sonic in single player, in two-player mode, Tails is both a help and, unfortunately, a problem.
Together, Tails and Sonic can perform fairly powerful team attacks, like the rolls that are needed to break through walls and other obstacles. Also, Tailsâ€™ ability to fly can save Sonic a lot of time and trouble. This is really helpful when you fall into deep water (which slows you down, and is really annoying) or if youâ€™re trying to collect all the hidden objects scattered around the levels.
But, co-op Tails isnâ€™t all good. There is no split screen. So playing two-player means for half the time one player is always falling behind and dropping off screen.This happens so often it almost destroys the whole co-op experience entirely. In contrast, the bonus levels, where Sonic and Tails just run down a half-pipe collecting rings, are far more enjoyable than they have any right to be.
While I wasnâ€™t entirely sold on first Sonic the Hedgehog download, when it turned up at the end of 2010, I did appreciate the intent, and the potential. It wanted to be faithful to the original games, and it was. But, it wasnâ€™t an enjoyable enough game in its own right. What we all deserve is a solid, faithful, and fun Sonic the Hedgehog game. While Episode 2 is closer to this than Episode 1, there is still a way to go. Letâ€™s just hope that the Hedgehog still has the legs.