Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II Review

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II is a solid though unremarkable continuation of the long-running formula.

On the surface, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II gives you pretty much everything you'd want in a followup, and a lot more than you've probably come to expect. New modes, a new character, cooperative play, revamped graphics, and plenty of new levels to run through build on the original game. What they don't do, though, is fix the core issues that made Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I a rather lackluster experience. Gameplay is still slow-paced, level design is still too linear, and boss battles are just plain boring. To be sure, most of the time that you're playing Episode II you'll enjoy yourself--the game is thoroughly amusing, even if it isn't very exciting--but those folks hoping Episode II will transform Sonic 4 into the wild-ride action of yesteryear's Sonic games will be disappointed.

That robo-fish is blocking your sweet, sweet air bubble. KILL IT.

Case in point: the addition of Sonic’'s buddy/annoying hanger-on Tails. Having two characters means you can play co-operatively (both locally and online), and even when you play by yourself, the AI that controls Tails is good enough to make him a useful ally. But much of the time, Tails' role is relegated to combining with Sonic to form a super-powerful rolling ball (useful for breaking through large objects) or rescuing Sonic from a fall with his whirling appendages. He has no real part to play on his own, and aside from a few obvious puzzles here or there, no levels feature or even require his skills. Indeed, due to linear, unimaginative level design, even Sonic himself fails to feel Sonic-y. Levels lack boosters, loops, alternate pathways, and other series trademarks, which makes the game feel more like a traditional, unassuming platformer an honest-to-goodness Sonic game.

Nevertheless, jumping around, bounding off bumpers and walls, is a fun way to kill a few minutes. In addition to the redone graphics, which bear a much closer resemblance to early Sonic games than Episode I's did, Sonic's air slam ability (allowing him to dash at a target in midair, damaging and ricocheting off of it) returns in Episode II. The air slam allows for some nifty air combos and provides one of the game's two real chances to feel some momentum. The other comes in Episode II's "3D" stages, where Sonic and Tails run continuously along chutes and loops, collecting rings and dodging (or killing) bad guys. These bonus stages are far too few in Episode II, but when they do come around, they're a huge pleasure to dash through, especially if you've got a buddy along for the ride.

What isn't much of a pleasure, though, are Episode II's boss fights, which continue their predecessor's predilection for simplicity and repetition. Now, however, because there are two of you, and because rings (which double as Sonic's life meter) are so plentiful, it's almost impossible to die. This makes such encounters (especially the ones with Sonic's evil doppelganger, Metal Sonic) little more than time-wasting chores. It also allows clever players to cheese up their extra lives by collecting tons of rings and just not fighting the bosses at all. While some might chalk this up to meta-gaming, you quickly find yourself yawning and hoping against hope that after whatever boss fight you're engaged in is another segment.

These bonus stages are a nod to the similar stages in Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

Even though the console versions and the PC version are largely identical, you might have a great deal of difficulty finding partners to game with on PC, simply because no one seems to be playing Episode II. The best medicine for this is just to have a buddy come over and play locally, but it's disappointing--although not really the fault of the game itself--that PC gamers can't find anyone to jump in and out of games with at random. Other than that, though, the games play and look (and sound) identical across platforms. And while the look is now considerably easier on the eyes than it was in Episode I (ugly, prerendered backgrounds have been replaced with layered, moving ones, for example), the sound is still subpar. Sure, the trademark sound effects you've come to know and love are here, but the music is mostly forgettable and at times (like Dr. Robotnik's boss battles) is incredibly repetitive and annoying.

A good follow-up doesn't just add new content--it improves on the original. In that critical sense, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 disappoints. While the addition of cooperative play is a big step in the right direction, the core elements that made Episode 1 a tepid experience persist here: mediocre level design, slow pacing, and erratic levels of fun. Like its predecessor, this is a functional "time waster" of a game, but should you spend too long in its world, Episode 2 reveals its feet of clay.

The Good
Entertaining cooperative gameplay with Tails
Fun "3D" bonus levels
The Bad
Tails isn't a distinct character
Boss battles are boring
Many levels lack a sense of speed
6
Fair
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Discussion

71 comments
XxOskarxXTBXx51
XxOskarxXTBXx51

Sonic isn't JUST speed, sometimes he needs to slow down, PLATFORMING.

thom_maytees
thom_maytees

Just when we thought that Generations can help Sonic out of his downside, Episode II brings him down again.

LeahMyles
LeahMyles

Actually, the more I played it the BETTER it seemed to get, not worse.  If you're a sonic fan there are two words that should make you want this game-Metal Sonic.

earthshaker1213
earthshaker1213

You know, ever since the SU review by IGN,  IGN has been pretty good with sonic. At least they have better  Sonic Reviews than Gamespot. I think I'll go to IGN for my Sonic Reviews rather than Gamespot. Plus, I think the game should be scored by the general audience because you're just getting a review from one person rather than a whole group of people who played the game.

metalgeb90
metalgeb90

what sense of speed ?! , never really liked that in the new games where run so fast to the point you can't see whats in front of you  till you stupidly hit something, sonic 2, 3 and knuckles were the best and they were never about speed, still play them from time to time on my phone.

Did you even play it even once gameSpot ?  

franzito
franzito

The good Sonic series ended with Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic Adventure was just 3D entertainment.

DCSchark
DCSchark

Dang... either Sega still isn't getting it or GameSpot isn't doing this justice. :/

dkmac33
dkmac33

Are the jumping mechanics still screwy like they were in Episode I? (i.e. he stops moving in air when you let go of the stick)

BelmontWolf
BelmontWolf

how can they say the levels are linear? ive played through just the first level and found more than 6 different ways to traverse the level just to see how "linear" its claimed to be and later levels are even longer and split into even more paths. this reviewer clearly only played each level once

Starsailor_IT
Starsailor_IT

I feel like lately Gamespot bashes Japanese games harder than they deserve it. I havent played this one game, but I played Episode 1 and it wasnt the lackluster boring game they describe here. Also its not a €60 game, for what it costs it deserved a bit more than 6. I dont trust Gamespot much these days for Japanese game reviews.

 

LION-
LION-

Man, is GameSpot crazy? It's a great Sonic Game!

Kingofbluelions
Kingofbluelions

Who reviewed this? Episode II isn't that bad; it's definitely and improvement. It may not be as good as the old school awesomeness, but bad music & too easy is not an excuse for 6.0. The early Sonic games are easy & the music is corny, yet we love it for that. 

Zato_Hurricane
Zato_Hurricane

Unless they strap a Machine gun on Sonic, dress him up in Army clothes and make the game an FPS; Gamespot will never give another Sonic game anywhere near an 8.0-9.0

calvinsora
calvinsora

Seems I won't be playing a good 2D Sonic game for some while. Ah well, c'est la vie.

Also, the reviews should be by the target audience? Do people realize that that nulls the point of critical reviews entirely? It's supposed to be a description that is clear as to why a person with a broad experience in playing games thinks the product is good or bad.

WayneL23
WayneL23

i guess i will avoid this one as well as episode 1.....I was expecting a real turn around after generations....oh well

mtait01
mtait01

I played Episode 1 and I liked it... but it is way too expensive for the amount of content you get. $15 for a game that takes less than an hour to beat is far far too much.

randomrings
randomrings

Not to be a cheapskate but if it wasn't $15 I would totally go for it. I mean you can probably find a Sonic Advance game for like $6 at a local American game store that still sells any used GBA games and you get way more content. I'm a huge Sonic fan and I wasted $15 on Episode 1, I got a PS3 and downloaded a demo of Episode 2, and I'm not really impressed, especially since that level I played is probably about an eighth of the game. Judging from that demo, this review, and Sega's desperate attempts at keeping its fanbase, I'm going to have to pass here

blackskillz24
blackskillz24

Sonic games haven't been good since Sega Genesis...

Writteninblue12
Writteninblue12

This reviewer is obviously not an avid Sonic player. He can't even identify the 'Air-Dash' as the Homing Attack. Honestly, while Dimps has stepped on the formula a few times, this title is, from a physics and gameplay standpoint, "miles" above the first episode of Sonic 4. (See what I did there?) Yet somehow episode one has a higher score on your website. The boss fights are incredibly easy; well, people complained that the end boss of episode one was too hard, not to mention that as much as we'd hate to admit it, this series is now tailored for children, and sadly those being popped out in this generation have far than capable and less than coordinated surroundings or parents, so the difficulty is as follows. Nonetheless, the difficulty complaint is valid. The boss music is incredibly valid. However, you can give Sonic '06 a 4.4, touting "colorful backgrounds" as its best feature, when it has a subjectively better soundtrack than even this game, and now you decide to placate a 'forgettable soundtrack' as a detractor? Finally, Tails. He's a sidekick; he's always been a sidekick. The best games that have ever included Tails are the ones when he plays identical to Sonic. Why is this even an argument? On the whole, most people have tried to compare this title to a great modern platformer like Rayman: Origins. We can all see that Sonic is not where he used to be. And maybe the heavy constructive criticism is your way of telling Sega that you just want an excellent Sonic game, rather than an okay one, because his legacy deserves it. Just quit stepping on the toes of fans who know that you're just looking for ways to tell Sega it's not good enough. Tell them to stop rushing their products, like they have been for the last twenty years, and take their time to release a much more polished title. Give us an expanse of the magic that Generations had with a legitimate Modern Sonic sequel. Or if that formula is too sketchy, bring on the nostalgia goggles once again and give us a Classic Sonic prequel. Perhaps are you waiting for a Sonic Xtreme? Perhaps we might end up getting a Sonic Xtreme.

Rush_Gremlin
Rush_Gremlin

What was tails supposed to be? He is exaclty as I remember him.

Blastman6
Blastman6

WHY DOES GAMEPOT HATE SONIC SO MUCH???????????????

LiveandLedZep
LiveandLedZep

 @dkmac33 No, the physics are quite improved, well to put it better this game actually has physics. Momentum actually works so when you roll down a hill you actually gain speed, and Sonic's also lost the ability to stick to walls as well. 

TaranIsAllUpIns
TaranIsAllUpIns

 @Starsailor_IT I never trust Gamespots reviews on Japanese games, which I will always love above all others.  They have a special section for American made games in the Japanese video game stores.  They refer to it as the Westernized Dog Sh*t section.

Dragon_Nexus
Dragon_Nexus

 @Kingofbluelions Are the originals easy? Or are we just well practised?

 

I get stuck on Sonic 2 now and then because it's my second least played through Mega Drive Sonic game. Sonic 1 is my least played and I *suck* at that.

PSR8000
PSR8000

 @Zato_Hurricane Or the game just might not be any good?  Remeber, Gamespot gave 'Sonic Generations' a very respectable 8.0

PSR8000
PSR8000

 @Zato_Hurricane Or it might just be that this sonic game is not very good?  Remeber, Gamespot gave 'Sonic Genrations' a respectable 8.0.

FreezingSol62
FreezingSol62

 @calvinsora Don't let this review scare you away from a good game, man. From one gamer to another, you won't be disappointed. 

BlazeODU
BlazeODU

 @WayneL23 

trust me dude, it's a fun game. It plays a lot like the genesis games, and the boss battles were not boring.

icy1007
icy1007

 @Rush_Gremlin Exactly, Tails has always been the sidekick and never a "distinct character"

dkmac33
dkmac33

 @LiveandLedZep I see. I played Ep. 1 demo and that totally killed it for me. Didn't feel anything like the Sonic I grew up with.

Also, nice name :)

Starsailor_IT
Starsailor_IT

 @TaranIsAllUpIns I like both, and it is true that now Japanese games industry is in a pretty bad cycle. This is an American website so it makes sense they defend Microsoft and wink to Western games, but still I hoped for a fairer review for Sonic.

earthshaker1213
earthshaker1213

 @PSR8000 I think it should deserve more than a 8.0. At least an 8.2 to 8.5 would be fine for me.

iamacowboy
iamacowboy

 @HeadExploder  @Writteninblue12  No, he means the reviewer has to know what he's talking about. I mean, he doesn't even know what the special stages are, he just calls them "'3D' bonus stages" and wishes they were more frequent. People reviewing (and the younger folks playing) the Sonic 4 games don't seem to get that with the exception of wonky physics and a homing attack move that this is basically how the old Sonic games played. You people are fucking spoiled. If it doesn't have Battlefield graphics or isn't totally 3D or something it's a shitty game. I feel sorry for you. No one knows what a truly good game is anymore.

blackskillz24
blackskillz24

Let's be honest, the games are terrible. Have you played Sonic Unleashed? An hour in that game and I was ready to return it.

LiveandLedZep
LiveandLedZep

 @dkmac33 (on the PS3 anyway) There's a trial that you can download if you have an american acount, (its really easy to make one). It's stupidly timed (gives you two f***ing minutes!?) but it gives you an idea of how it plays, it isn't exactly like the classics but it works

Tebbit
Tebbit

 @icy1007 So what you're saying is... Sega doesn't make Sonic games for people who enjoy quality products? People like you are the reason Dynasty Warriors continues to exist.

icy1007
icy1007

 @HeadExploder  @Writteninblue12 Exactly, I disagree with every sonic review in the last 10 years...except for Sonic 2006... Sega doesn't make Sonic games for "the average gamer who has a passing interest in Sonic"

HeadExploder
HeadExploder

 @icy1007  @Writteninblue12 so if it was reviewed by avid sonic fanatics, and given 9.0's and 9.5's, then the average gamer who has a passing interest in sonic will be misled by the obviously biased score. that doesnt sound like a good honest review to me. 

 

besides, if you guys love sonic THAT much and no matter what, youre always going to disagree with how actual game reviewers rate the sonic games. 

earthshaker1213
earthshaker1213

 @blackskillz24 How was that bad? Did you suck at it at any chance? Because most of the people who don't like the game because of the gameplay suck at that game. That's what I see.

icy1007
icy1007

 @blackskillz24 I loved Sonic Unleashed. Probably one of my most favorite games of 2008. Despite what everyone says about Weresonic. I still enjoyed those levels, but the daytime Sonic levels were my favorite.

TaranIsAllUpIns
TaranIsAllUpIns

 @Blastman6 Damn right!  I'm a 27 year old female and Sonic will always be my favorite.  I was alive to play the very first Sonic games and it brings back such happy childhood memories for me.  Feel sorry for me all you like!

duron2
duron2

 @HeadExploder What is that supposed to mean? If your under the age of 9 and you love Call of Duty than I feel bad for you.

Blastman6
Blastman6

 @HeadExploder

 WOW!!! You are a sad person if you think it's wrong for adults to like Sonic games!

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II More Info

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  • First Released
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    Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode II will expand the Sonic 4 storyline with new areas to speed through and new challenges to face.
    7.3
    Average User RatingOut of 211 User Ratings
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    Developed by:
    Sonic Team, Sega, TOSE, Dimps Corporation
    Published by:
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    Genres:
    Platformer, 2D, Action
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
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