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Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 2 Review: Tails, We Win!

Has it really been more than 18 months since Sega released Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 1? Yes, it has. Apparently, a lot of redevelopment went into Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 2 . The result is a better overall game than Episode 1, albeit one that still has some flaws to work out.

I will admit that Episode 1 coasted a bit on the strength of its nostalgia, such that some flaws didn’t become annoying until after prolonged play: the strange, sluggish way Sonic moved from standing, the super-skinny redesign for our blue hero, even the disconcerting way the screen rotated whenever Sonic did a loop de loop. I don’t enjoy playing that game as much today as I did in 2010.

Happily, Episode 2 dispenses with the nostalgia and settles for being a better game than Episode 1. Sonic looks more like his classic self, for one (and I hope Episode 1 eventually gets a facelift to bring the visuals in line). He also moves better — still feels a bit off from Sonic CD, but it’s a step in the right direction (again, hoping for an Ep 1 update). The loop de loop screen twist? Also gone (ditto on that Episode 1 update). Yes, they’ve definitely refined things.

In Episode 2 we get 12 new boards, each with a fresher feeling then their nostalgia-laden counterparts in Episode 1, built into the same basic framework. The opening levels offer a sunken temple with plenty of underwater moments; the second set — my favorite — presents a Christmas-esque winter wonderland; the third is a oil-themed desert area; and the final stage is Dr. Eggman’s base, which was to be expected. I tended to find the boards more interesting than some of the Episode 1 boards (like that awful, awful pinball slots level, which I refuse to play anymore). There’s also a way to unlock a hidden level by “locking” Episode 2 and Episode 1 together; it’s a neat little Easter egg for those of us who bought the first game.

Oh, and did I mention Tails? This is my favorite addition to Episode 2. I always loved the novelty of having Tails following me around, and the added utility of his helicopter ability cannot be overstated. Episode 2 also introduces a Sonic and Tails Double Spin Dash move that is very cool and very useful. And unlike his old Genesis incarnation, this Tails doesn’t get stuck or die nearly as often. Hooray for better AI!

There are still things that bug me about the “new” Sonic design philosophy. I still don’t like the controls as much as I should. Really, Sega, you have the excellent Sonic CD port sitting right there; could you provide a d-pad option like that game has? This joystick just doesn’t have enough play. And I’m still not a fan of unlocking all boards after completion of the first zone; I like a nice progression in a game. And, despite improving, there are still some physics issues to work out (why is Sonic so slow to get moving?!). Let’s hope updates address some of these issues.

So, Sonic the Hedgehog Episode 2 earns points for being better than Episode 1 in some crucial areas, but loses a few points because it’s been almost two years since Episode 1 and Sonic CD was ported and there are lessons they should have learned from both experiences. It’s still a great game, and anyone who’s been enjoying the reemergence of Sonic on iOS will definitely want to get it.

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5

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