When I was a kid, there were a few things I loved: baseball, my Walkman (woo), and video games. With video games, my Sega Genesis and Game Gear (which was way, way ahead of its time) were the best consoles. Of course, the games I loved the most were those in the Sonic franchise. Sonic 2 and 3 were golden for me, especially after my grandmother got me Sonic and Knuckles as a gift at the end of one school year.
Since moving on to to more advanced gaming consoles, I’ve missed the classic play of those old school video games. My hope was that Sonic 4 Episode 1 would take me back. Let’s see how it stacks up to my very fond childhood memories.
Upon visiting Sonic 4 Episode 1 in the Google Play store, you’ll read that it picks up right where Sonic and Knuckles left off. I hope so.
When you purchase the game from Google Play for a reasonable $3.99, it will take some time to download about 107MB of game files; then it’s off to the races. You’re presented with that familiar Sonic screen home screen pictured above, and starting the game off is just as familiar. The first level looks just like the first levels of old. So far, so good.
The controls are simple enough; in the bottom portion of the screen, you’ve got the joystick/D-pad on the left, and a single button on the right (let’s just call it A). Place your finger on the joystick and move it down to put Sonic in the crouch position, press A repeatedly and you’re off. Double-tap A when you’re in the air to do Sonic’s homing attack… just like the (rather more recent) old times.
My only real complaint about this game – and it’s kind of a big one – is that the joystick isn’t quite big enough, so controlling Sonic is a little difficult. A lot of times when I try to move forward or back, I find Sonic crouching instead. This gets really annoying and it doesn’t get much easier the more you play, though I did learn to rely a bit more on the honing attack than I did in games past. Hopefully they will fix this in Episode 2.
The zones, as I mentioned earlier, are reminiscent of the older Sonic games. There’s Green Zone, the Ancient Ruins Zone, and my personal favorite, the Casino Zone, among over.
The main difference is that once you beat the first level of the first zone, you’re brought to a map of worlds where you can select where you want to go next. The game is not so much linear as it is task-based. Complete all of the zones presented to move on.
….or Dr. Eggman, depending on your preference. Once you make it through all three levels of a particular world, you get to face the boss, Dr. Robotnik. Just like in old games, you hit him a certain number of times to break his machine and get him to fly off in a huff. It’s wonderful.
There are two ‘attack modes’ where you can try to best yourself: time and score. There’s a button below each list of levels where you can change it by pressing it. Switch between them to try to set new records in each.
Aside from the control issues, the gameplay isn’t all too bad. When you’re in the air, you will get cues as to when you should do a homing attack; a small bullseye or target will appear on what you will hit with the attack, which allows you, as you may remember from the newer games, to move through the level pretty quickly.
All of the great elements of the old Sonic games are there, from the loops to the robot animals (badniks). One note with the loops: because of the smaller screen we’re using, the scene actually rotates around Sonic; while this threw me off at first, it’s actually a very clever implementation of a classic Sonic move. The way they adapted this game to a mobile device all in all was pretty smart. That said…
How It Affected My Phone
I did notice that my phone was running a little hot while playing, and (as expected) the battery life was annihilated. I don’t play too many games like this on my phone so I can’t speak to previous experience or other apps, but Sega may want to look at employing some performance boosting in the next release. At its warmest the game started to lag a little bit.
All in all, I was not disappointed. I’ll attribute a little bit of that to the nostalgia high I was on from actually playing a cool Sonic game again, but the game isn’t bad. The graphics were improved in the right spots without taking away from the old game look and feel, the gameplay was fun and it had the classic feel every step of the way. If Sega can fix the control area, which I feel just needs to be bigger, and add some performance enhancements, I think they will have a really solid, really awesome game on their hands.