Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode One Hands-On

We ride mine carts, balance on boulders, and journey into the darkness during our look at the Lost Labyrinth zone.

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 fiery flame torch gives Lost Labyrinth an Indiana Jones-like vibe.

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.

Outta my way evildoers!

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.

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Discussion

44 comments
Oni_Taedo
Oni_Taedo

@ GunGriffin Unfortunately, the only good game of those that you listed was Dead Rising Case 0. Also, there's no way that the 360 has more exclusives than the Wii, it doesn't even have half as many.

RX-78MajiGundam
RX-78MajiGundam

i still say sonic was fine before. i mean, look at sonic colors for god sakes. that has more side-scrolling any sonic game ive seen for awhile. sonic team didnt have to go this far back......still 10-15$ download. im in

lion2447
lion2447

"how the heck does he hold the torch when he rolls up into a ball?!" Gargaglio5tatus LOL. Good One.

wondernova
wondernova

Fantastic, sonic is back! the REAL sonic that is!

Blackcloud288
Blackcloud288

@ali-009: One can only hope, eh? I think Sonic Unleashed (meh as it may have been [night stages I mean of course]) did as well on PS3 and 360 as well as on the Wii, so a multiplat version of Sonic Colors could be a possibility, so long as it turns out to be a hit revival!

corycas
corycas

rojobear24 i hated that show ewww bad memorys lol

Gargaglio5tatus
Gargaglio5tatus

how the heck does he hold the torch when he rolls up into a ball?!

VenkmanPHD
VenkmanPHD

Oh, and Sonic 4 looks awesome! I want a release date already though!!!

VenkmanPHD
VenkmanPHD

GunGriffn, don't get me wrong I prefer X360 to ps3 for various reasons... but seriously STFU dude, no one cares THAT much, and if you do? Get a life!

DeadSarow
DeadSarow

I really hope they don't ruin this by adding things that aren't needed. K.I.S.S.!!!!!

Units420
Units420

GunGriffin, Please quit with the annoying fanboism. Seriously dude. Grow the f*** up!

HiroArka
HiroArka

@GunGriffin What .. are you getting at actually. Not sure what your saying has anything to do with Sonic. I love my 360 for the Exclusives and buy everything else on PS3 and Wii, but seriously .. What point are you trying to make again.

jeffyjasta
jeffyjasta

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

GunGriffin
GunGriffin

Looks great, I know that me and many others on Live wait with batted breath for this title. Plus Live has better exclusive downloadable games and more for the hardcore gamer and classic gamer love alike then PSN any how. IE fanboys will argue with me but the fallowing are XBL only: Dead Rising2 Case Zero Hydrothunder Hurricane Banjo Kazooie Banjo Tooie Monday Night Combat LIMBO Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 Plus if you add in all of the first party, and third party exclusives based on ratings, and sales we also beat out PS3, and Wii in that department as well for disc games: Already released titles: Halo 3 Halo ODST Gears of War Gears of War 2 Mass Effect (No PS3 onwers do not get the first game, and will not have the save functions of Xbox360, already confirmed by Bioware) Alan Wake Crackdown Crackdown 2 Banjo Kazooie Nuts and Bolts (I'll be getting this game soon myself I loved the demo) Viva Pinatia Viva Pinatia 2 Trouble in Paradise The Last Remnant To be released titles: Gears of War 3 Codename Kingdoms XCOM Kinect adventures Kinectanimals KinectJoyRide KinectBrainTraining Kinect PAC MAN Xbox360 has all the bases covered and even the hardcore will be pleased with Gears of War 3, Halo reach, and XCOM.

sabrewulf786
sabrewulf786

jus read the part about d pad will be easier..i downloaed sonic 2 XBLA.i use the analogue to control sonic.dont feel it to be difficult..

KBABZ
KBABZ

I shall now channel in the soul of a classic Sonic fan... "OMG THIS PREVIEW GUY SUCKS ASS HE DOESN'T REMEMBER THE ACTUAL LEVELS OF A GAME ALMOST A DECADE OLD AND OMGOMGOMG SONIC CONTROLS LIKE HOW HE USED TO YEA RIGHT HE CONTROLS LIKE ****" Now, as for my own opinion, I'm definately gonna pick this up. Was a big fan of the Sonic Advance games (particularly 2), so this one will be quite the game. Sidescrollers are a lost art.

dhedarkhcustard
dhedarkhcustard

For the love of God can they please change that round smoke. A little bit of smoke is good but seriously, Sonic is not a steam train.

ali-009
ali-009

FINALLY, both Sonic Colors and Sonic 4 will rock, because Sonic Colors is the right way to bring Sonic to 3D (not that silly glasses thing), and I'm not hating the fact that it is a Wii exclusive, because if Sonic Colors had good scores and saled well, we will have a PS3/360 version.

Slick-Fingerz
Slick-Fingerz

With "Sonic the Warewolf" I thought Sonic Team had for sure put the nail in the coffin for Sonic. Well, let's resurrect him again!

Denji
Denji

I don't know, Sonic Team FAILS at forcing the new into the old. I cringed at "homing attack" and it seems they're sticking to it's "hip, teenage SA2 look". I just pray and hope they won't try to force a poorly thought out story down our throats, forced to sort through meaningless text and pointless extra characters and cliches when all is really needed are Chaos Emeralds, Classic Robotnik (not "hip eggman"), his super weapon and freeing robotic animals. Of coarse, with the occasional obscurely named level level like Collision Light Clash Garden Zone or something lol BTW, (in my opinion) Nothing outside of jump and spin dash is needed and Super Sonic *during levels* (50 rings) should be brought back.

markypants
markypants moderator

@burgeg "Marble Hill" was a typo, but as you've all pointed out, Labyrinth is a better comparison. So thanks for the feedback guys :-)

Muteki_X
Muteki_X

:\ ...and I thought Star Trek fans were rabid over details...they got nothin' on you guys. LOL.

burgeg
burgeg

LOL they edited the preview to say Labyrinth instead of Marble Hill. I think the guy that wrote this read the comments and realised how much of an idiot he made himself out to be.

scyldschefing
scyldschefing

Not only is there no Marble Hills Zone, as others have pointed out, but it is NOTHING like the Marble or Marble Gardens Zone. In fact, ironically enough, Marble Gardens was the only zone in SH3 to NOT feature water AT ALL, and as other previews have pointed out, Lost Labyrinth is going to feature some underwater portions. I suppose this is partially from where this reviewer drew the analogy to Aquatic Ruins, even though it is clearly Labyrinth inspired...

scyldschefing
scyldschefing

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Muteki_X
Muteki_X

I'm loving how dev's are starting to give retro feels to games and are finally returning to some side-scroll gaming. Mario and Metroid are prime examples. I can't wait to see what this (Sonic) and the upcoming Mega Man have to offer. I would love to see an full-length epic current-gen side scrolling Castlevania as well. The new 3D one looks cool, and I'm not connected to the net for the download only one, so for the time being I'm playing the hell out of the DS versions.

scyldschefing
scyldschefing

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Bad_Medicine
Bad_Medicine

Guys and girls, this previewer obviously hasn't got a clue. No need to bite. Just enjoy the game when it comes out. Only one thing matters with a game like this... your own opinion.

Bad_Medicine
Bad_Medicine

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Burning_Typhoon
Burning_Typhoon

There was no such stage as marble hill. Marble Zone, and Marble Garden Zone aren't even the same stage... I'm not even keeping my eye on this game anymore... it's following too closely to the older games... SEGA screwed up, yes, we want things the same (the way sonic and others play) we want other things different (the stages).. SEGA got it backwards, Sonic plays different with old stages.... It's not the way Sonic 4 would have been had it been released on Saturn as a 2D (because 3D models on that system would have been a nightmare on a 2D plain) sprite game... I love Sonic 1, 2 and 3k, and still play them.. However, this?... Hahahahaa.. right.... I wouldn't even mind the 3D graphics should the game play the same, so, that's a non-issue for me.

ElectroTH
ElectroTH

EPIC PREVIEW Fail quote "Lost Labyrinth is akin to the classic Marble Hill and Aquatic Ruin zones." AND THE Labyrinth Zone DUHH

burgeg
burgeg

Also, this preview fails when it says Sonic handles just as we remember him. This person obviously hasn't played the originals in a long time, unless this build is significantly different from the E3 build. The E3 build was full of terrible physics. Jumping inertia, rolling inertia and general momentum based gameplay isn't like it was before, especially with the homing attack based level designs. But hey, this game does at least look pretty good on its own merits. It just doesn't deserve the name Sonic 4. As Sonic 4 it should have everything Sonic 3/Sonic & Knuckles had and more. The basic gameplay should be just as good if not better as well. But still, on its own merits it looks like a good game. I'll just have to try and pretend they didn't call it Sonic 4.

burgeg
burgeg

This preview kind of fails. I mean, Lost Labyrinth is a homage to Marble Hill and Aquatic Ruin Zones? Firstly, there's no such thing as Marble Hill. It's Marble Zone or Marble Garden Zone. Secondly, I think it's fairly obvious a Zone called Lost Labyrinth is a homage to Labyrinth Zone more than anything else.

Blank2k2
Blank2k2

Sonic 1/2/3 for me as well, Certainly interested in this one. 2D Sonic is the way it's men't to be! (and mario imo.)

YamaBushi13
YamaBushi13

I only liked Sonic 1, 2 & 3. I will give this one a try and it is a blast from the past and I do like the way the graphics for 2d games have improved so much. Just hope my attention span is what it used to be.

Jearoon
Jearoon

Looks promising. I sorta hoped, with this being a sequel to the megadrive games, that they would give Sonic himself his old-style 'classic' look (which I prefer). But seems that's one thing Sega aren't willing to ever go back to.