Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 Review for Xbox 360

On: Xbox 360PS3iPhoneWii

2D Sonic platformer with modern visuals.

Review Verdict Read Review
7Out of 10
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Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 screenshot
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 screenshot

The title screen sets the precedent. Sonic poses behind a familiar looking emblem, waggling his finger expectantly at the screen as chirpy chip tune music plays in the background. Kids of the nineties will bask in the nostalgia radiating from the screen, fingers twitching as old cheat codes materialise in their minds. As he stands there, beckoning players to press the start button, we’re told exactly what Sonic 4 is all about. Its retro Sonic, on next-gen consoles, with HD visuals bringing to life new levels based on old environments. Everything about it is a contradiction, but therein lays the charm.

As I play the opening few acts, and the familiar chime of collected rings fills the office, an audience slowly gathers around me. They leer at the screen, squabbling with each other over every detail that doesn't fit the mental image they have of Sonic 4 in their heads. Few games this year have commanded the attentions of the staff with such authority, but after 16 years who can blame them? This is indicative of many gamers because, despite his descent into mediocrity in recent years, Sonic the Hedgehog is a character that is still held close to gamers' hearts. Subsequently, Sonic 4 will be the subject of endless scrutiny; even at preview stage the internet was ablaze with uncertainties about the game.

There's certainly no denying it looks great; clean, crisp and modern in all the right places. The jittering flowers, chequered marble of the platforms, vibrant blue skylines, fluffy white clouds - it's classic Sonic, and yet at the same time it's not. It's new and trendy, revamped for a 2010 audience with fancy HD visuals. Sonic himself looks pretty dapper, too; he's leaner, lankier, and spikier, bounding around each level with slick new animations. While the physics might be slightly different (a point I’ll address later on), Sonic handles with all his moves left as exactly as you remember them. Or near enough.

In a controversial move, developer Dimps has added a new ability to the blue blur’s repertoire or, to be more precise, a move that's never been used in a 2D Sonic game. Pressing the jump button whilst already in the air will launch a homing attack, and if there's a monitor or badnik in the vicinity, Sonic will make a beeline for it in his curled-up form. This mechanic is tied into the platforming well, allowing Sonic to dart from enemy to enemy, stringing together entire lines of foes to reach otherwise inaccessible locations. Far from ruining the classic formula (which was the fans' main concern), the addition of the homing attack adds another layer of depth to the platforming, which can only be considered a good thing.

It doesn’t take long to readopt the mentality required to play Sonic, and you’ll race through Splash Hill zone in no time at all. At this point, three other zones become available, all of which are selectable from a fancy new map screen. This offers players the chance to navigate the dark waterways of the Lost Labyrinth, enjoy the neon-lit nightlife of Casino Street, or explore the sprawling industrial utopia of the Mad Gear zone – but you do these in any order you want. Each environment harks back to a Sonic zone of old, with the design and atmosphere of Sonic 2 coming through the strongest. Each zone is also split into four acts, the fourth taking the form of a boss battle against the ever-persistent Dr Eggman.

The story isn’t worth delving into here – all you need know is that Sonic is rescuing poor furry animals from the clutches of the evil Dr Eggman. As with the levels themselves, each boss battle is intentionally reminiscent of that from a previous game, except on each occasion there's a twist. Your old-school logic will only take you so far, the twists aiming to keep veterans on their toes. The first boss sees Dr Eggman in his carrier, swinging a wrecking ball across the screen. You know the drill. Wait on the raised platforms, jump on his noggin whenever he gets close enough, rinse and repeat. It’s a routine burnt into the memories of a generation of gamers. This time, however, he’ll fling the ball 360 degrees over his head, putting the age old plan to pot. It’s the same, but it’s different – a sentiment at the very heart of Sonic 4.

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User Comments

Bloodstorm's Avatar


If it was so better where is episode 2?
Posted 04:04 on 17 July 2011
SexyJams's Avatar

SexyJams@ Alaric

You're insane.
Posted 21:49 on 16 July 2011
Alaric's Avatar


For all its flaws, Sonic 4 is better than anything they put out in the 3D format, barring the daytime levels in Sonic Unleashed.
Posted 10:34 on 11 July 2011
Endless's Avatar

Endless@ Woffls

Except Mario probably has more momentum than Sonic ever did, slippery little blighter :)
Posted 17:38 on 14 October 2010
IndoorHeroes's Avatar


That video is brill, I agree entirely. TU.
Posted 14:48 on 14 October 2010
Woffls's Avatar


I'm going to protest by playing Sonic 3 & Knuckles! Then I'm going to tweet about it for EVERYONE* to read. I didn't know what it was that bothered me until I watched that video, but they take away your momentum at every possible chance. It's like they looked at Mario - which they admitted to this week - and thought "hey, Mario stands still quite a bit; let's do that!".

*108 people
Posted 14:18 on 14 October 2010
Rogue_Soul's Avatar


^Im inclined to agree with Endless.

I gave the demo a go the other day and thought the basic mechanics of the game, particularly the physics, were completely wrong. Why change the basic mechanics of a classic that worked so well in Sonic1/2/3/Knuckles/CD (and more)?

The 'lock-on' I possibly could have lived with... but the lack of real momentum/physics and SPEED, just no.

A youtube vid to help demonstrate how it's broken (skip to about 2mins in):
YouTube Video

Not the 2D/HD Sonic game I've waited years for. Complete and utter fail. No sale.
Posted 12:44 on 14 October 2010
Endless's Avatar


Played the demo on XBLA last night. Hate is too strong a word, lets just say i'm moderately appalled.

All they've done really is take a 3D sonic game, flatten it, and remove all physics, momentum and subsequently enjoyment from it. What is WITH the having to constantly push the direction you want to go or STOP DEAD. EVEN IN MID AIR! You can't just hold 'down' to keep yourself balled up so you can smash through everything until you either die, reach the end of the level or hit a wall. In every single other Sonic game there's at least some sense of speed and momentum. Not in this game.

This is verging on an epic fail for me. I definitely will NOT being buying it, so much potential completely squandered.
Posted 12:33 on 14 October 2010
Bloodstorm's Avatar


Well, i wouldn't say it bothered me, just made me wonder where all the originality is in the world.
Posted 10:40 on 14 October 2010
Wido's Avatar

Wido@ Bloodstorm

Wouldn't bother me and probably not many other people. I'm just glad that there is a Sonic game back to its original roots.

After playing the trial version again. I got a feel to Sonic of Sonic 3D Blast in the character model for Sonic. Blast was good and I do like Sonic 4 from the trial I have played. This is a must for me. Totally love the older Sonic games and now Sonic 4.

Sonic 4 won me over straight the way to the opening scene and music.
Posted 10:34 on 14 October 2010
CheekyLee's Avatar

CheekyLee@ SexyJams

Ellie's review, to be fair, is absolute brilliance. I don't think she gets the actual score parts of reviews right most of the time, and she frequently goes off on completely unrelated tangents, but I do enjoy her style of writing.
Posted 09:13 on 14 October 2010
SexyJams's Avatar

SexyJams@ Karlius

Yeah, I heard that.
I started listening to their podcast again this week. I enjoy Tom Champion.
Thought the 9 out of 10 was a bit much for what it was.
I think that a game that does nothing new but reiterate an old formula can only, at best, get an 8. 9's and 10's are reserved for trend setters and must sees in my opinion...
Posted 07:17 on 14 October 2010
Bloodstorm's Avatar


Oh wow, i hate to think what everyones reaction to the final boss of the final episode is going to say (last level is a painful nostalgic finish with a reskin of the final boss from Sonic 2)

Sega have REALLY lost it this time.
Posted 21:50 on 13 October 2010
reynoldio's Avatar


Love Sonic, love Sega, really want to buy, but something holding me back...

It's in my 'cart' (hate that term) right now but I just can't bring myself to type in my password. I've even got the cash in my account! I so wanted this to be great.
Posted 21:28 on 13 October 2010
Wido's Avatar


Nice read Jamin. Very interesting and I do agree with what was said. I downloaded the trial version of Sonic 4, even though it was enjoyable. I will be giving this a download.

Regardless of the score for this game and worldwide, this game receives this game is barking right up my street, because its old school and being what Sonic use to be.
Posted 17:07 on 13 October 2010

Game Stats

Technical Specs
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1
Out of 10
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1
  • Challenging towards the end
  • Visually impressive
  • Rather sluggish, ironically
  • Poor soundtrack
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 13/10/2010
Platforms: Xbox 360 , PS3 , iPhone , Wii
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Genre: Platformer
Rating: PEGI 3+
Site Rank: 3,325 3283
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