Well, Sonic certainly has been attacking the Android Market in numbers recently, with Sonic CD and now this, Sonic 4 Episode One. This game has been out for iPhone and Windows Phone for a while now, but it is still a welcome site on the Android platform, even if Episode 2 probably isn’t too far away.
The first in an episodic series, this is still a fully featured game in it’s own right with plenty of levels and bosses to keep the blue wonder busy. It is the new, 3D modern design of Sonic, not the chubby sprite that is found in Sonic CD, which is something of a shame as I feel the newer Sonic is really lacking in character.
That isn’t to say that that the newer Sonic isn’t capable of starring in some half decent games, although you would have to work hard to find many in recent years, and indeed many are of the persuasion that this game itself was the first sign that Sonic could be making a return to form.
I agree with that sentiment, as compared with some of the dross that Sonic has found himself in recently(the Advance games aside), this is a decent little game that is very nearly a really good Sonic game. There are a lot of smaller issues here that prevent this from reaching the level of Sonic CD, however and many of them are unfortunately inherited from the 3D adventure games and their followups.
The first big problem is that, while Sonic 4 is perfectly playable when speeding around levels and performing massive jumps and loops, when Sonic is moving at a slower pace, the game is an absolute trudge. It takes far too long to get him up to speed, and it feels like you are walking through treacle. It is painful to watch as well as play, as his walking animation is very stilted. Compare this to Sonic CD, which I have done, side by side on two handsets and the difference is massive. The feeling of momentum is just not there in this game.
Sega have never sorted this problem out in the modern era of Sonic games, and it is the same here.
Once you do get up to speed, the game is a very playable diversion. The levels are pretty well designed, with some scope for exploration, even if the rewards for this are limited and there are plenty of fun tools such as zip-lines and the like, which add a nice slice of variety as you are running through the levels. There are some good, if uninspired, bosses and I like the new game structure where you get to choose the order of stages and acts.
The graphics are really nice, with some gorgeous lighting effects to be found. There is the occasional bit of slowdown, but nothing too serious. The mine cart sections are absolutely horrendous, an atrocity that is best left forgotten. A mix of bad tilt based gameplay that makes little sense and feels like another remnant from recent games. The bonus stages are little better, based around the stages in the original Sonic, but with more control, they are let down by the ridiculous bouncers that spiral you out of control.
Overall, this is the Sonic game to get once you tire of Sonic CD, as it has some decent levels, nice graphics and quite a bit of challenge. If you hated the likes of Sonic Heroes then this won’t change your mind, but if you actually like those titles, then you will love this. The lack of a proper Sonic ‘feel’ is irritating, and the bonus levels are nonsense, but this isn’t really a bad game, just one that can’t quite let go of the recent past. Better than the majority of platform games on Android, this is solid stuff. Lets hope Episode 2 embraces the roots of Sonic in a far braver fashion.