Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode One piles on the nostalgia from the moment you load up the game. If act one's Splash Hill zone is an homage to the likes of Green Hill and Emerald Hill from the originals, then act two's Lost Labyrinth is akin to the classic Labyrinth and Aquatic Ruin zones. We went hands-on with the new zone and found tons of instantly recognizable touches throughout it. However, a number of new gameplay elements have been introduced to keep things fresh and prevent it from feeling like a rehashing of previous ideas.
The Lost Labyrinth zone was set in an underground temple full of waterfalls, golden sand blocks, and deadly spikes. Because the temple was underground, there was no light, so Sonic had to navigate the labyrinth using a flame torch. This only lit up a small area around him, giving us limited visibility. We found we had to use much more caution when speeding through the level; otherwise, we'd run into a set of spikes or into a bottomless pit. The lack of light was used for several puzzles in the zone. In one area, there were lanterns on the wall, which we could ignite using the torch. Each lantern extended a platform, which we needed to climb up to escape the room. However, the lanterns had to be lit in a certain order and at a particular time; otherwise, the platforms would disappear before we could make it all the way to the top.
Later in the level, we found another use for our fire torch: igniting dynamite. Some large stones blocked our path, which rather handily had dynamite attached to them, along with a fuse. By igniting the fuse, we could blow up the blocks and clear the path. Another area had several explosive blocks in it. We had to carefully choose which blocks to ignite and which to leave in place so we could jump up to a secret area at the top of the screen. The dynamite section was swiftly followed by one involving boulders, which dropped down into a pit below. We had to time our jumps just right to make it across the pit without falling into it. Later, a boulder was released from behind us Indiana Jones-style. Rather than just run away, Sonic jumped on it and we had to maintain our balance by pressing left or right while it rolled down a long track.
The final section of the level featured a mine cart sequence, which required some quick reflexes. After jumping into a cart, we sped off down a long track where we had to jump over obstacles and avoid falling down bottomless pits. The lack of light made it difficult to see upcoming hazards, so we had to be especially alert to make it out alive. While these sections added something new to the series, we found there was still plenty of classic Sonic action. All the loops, springs, and insane speed from the original games were there, along with plenty of tricky water hazards and spikes to avoid. Sonic handled just as we remembered him, though we did find him a tad easier to control using the PlayStation 3 D pad rather than the Xbox 360's.
Though we weren't able to try it out, we spotted a casino-themed level on the world map screen, which indicates there is still plenty more to be revealed about Sonic's HD outing. Keep reading GameSpot for more on the game in the run-up to its release later this year on Xbox Live, the PlayStation Network, and WiiWare.