Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 Review (XBLA)

Posted by Jim Cook, May 18, 2012 12:56

Extra Content: Owners of the previous release, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1, should be advised that having it installed on your system will unlock an extra set of stages to play as Metal Sonic. Strangely, just owning it is not sufficient; Episode 1 must be installed to get the new levels.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 (Xbox 360) In hindsight, I was a bit too generous with this game’s predecessor (emphasis on ’a bit’, Episode 1 is not some vile abomination). So when Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 is described as an improvement even though the rating numbers don’t match that, please understand that it’s done on the belief that issuing a second ’too high’ score seems like it would be compounding a mistake. With that said, what does the second installment in this highly touted return to Sonic’s 2D platforming roots have? A mix of good and bad, consisting of physics tweaks, the addition of Tails, some excellent stages contrasted by others with some annoying gimmicks, and yet in other ways it is ’more of the same’... but that is not specifically a bad thing when it comes to Sonic the Hedgehog.

Episode 2 is mostly a 2D run-and-jump affair like you would expect, and your job is still to collect rings to stay alive while reaching the end of each stage with the occasional boss fight thrown in for good measure. The most obvious difference is Tails’ return, with the twin-tailed fox able to do various combo moves with Sonic such as a double spin-dash, swimming, and limited flight. There are some sections where these moves are outright required, and others where it’s nice to have. Sometimes it might be too nice, as there are many segments in the first half of the game where having Tails fly you around makes things far too easy. It evens out later on, though.

Tails brings multiplayer aspects with him. Those playing alone will find the computer controls Tails when you don’t specifically need him, then turns over control to you when requested. Otherwise you can let a second person at the same system or over Xbox Live play Tails, which can be fun but also frustrating. There are several seconds where both players will need to have excellent timing, as even a single mistake could cause Sonic’s death and you won’t have long to make the right choice. This can be compounded with online play, which seems to work smoothly at first but can suffer animation de-syncs and other odd problems. It works, but not always particularly well. This leaves Episode 2 best played as either an offline co-op experience or, perhaps better overall, just by yourself.

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Our Rating for Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 Review (XBLA)
6.0 Replay
There are some hidden routes to explore, but few offer any great rewards. Score attack or time attack play along with some bonus stages may be the real reasons to come back.
7.0 Graphics
More or less on par with the previous episode, though it’s due to ’hit or miss’ visual design. Some stages look great, while others use too many drab colors compounded by obscuring weather effects.
6.5 Sound
Many classic sound effects are back, though the music is as mixed as the graphics. Some tracks are able to hold their own with the best in the series, while others are merely okay or become annoyingly repetitive.
7.5 Gameplay
The physics tweaks and attempts to improve level design are good ones, and Tails’ return adds some depth to certain areas. On the other hand, he also makes some of the early levels far too easy.
5.0 Multiplayer/Online Content
Online and local co-op are supported. The former basically works but has some trouble with animation sync, while both forms still require nearly perfect coordination with the other player. It’s probably best to play this alone.
7.5 Overall
A decent effort at improving on its predecessor’s shortcomings, Episode 2 should be fun for its target audience of 2D platforming fans. It won’t be the miracle that launches Sonic back into the spotlight, but it is still a fairly good game.

Rating: 0.0, votes: 0

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