HIGH: The feeling of being almost out of control when being flung through a level.
LOW: The slow-paced underground stage.
WTF: Every stage is a re-hashed version of a stage from Sonic 1 or Sonic 2.
"Falling from grace" is putting it lightly when it comes to Sonic The Hedgehog.
After a glorious run in the 90s, the blue blur's gaming expeditions have ranged from mediocre to downright awful—they were sort of like the San Francisco 49ers of video games. The industry-wide shift from 2D to 3D hurt Sonic perhaps more than any other established gaming franchise, as its trademark brand of super-fast platforming could never quite find a home in the 3D universe. In the face of such failures, one could hardly blame Sega for taking Sonic back to his 2D roots with Sonic the Hedgehog 4. However, instead of a grand rebirth of a franchise a la Knights of the Old Republic, Sonic 4 comes off as a dated platformer with nothing more than a graphical overhaul.
Almost every single stage, obstacle, enemy, and sound effect is a straight port from something that was in either Sonic 1 or Sonic 2. The bosses are especially glaring, as they emulate their 16-bit counterparts almost perfectly save for a few new attacks. I was able to beat just about everything the game threw at me using knowledge from almost 20 years ago. Hell, I even knew what the final boss was going to be a full six levels before I got there. Something like that shouldn't be happening in what is supposed to be the defibrillator shocking new life into a dying hedgehog. Sonic 4 doesn't feel like a new game, but rather like a remake of the older titles—and even when considered as a remake, it still manages to come up short.
As his name implies, Sonic's game has always been about speed. There were times in the old Sonic games when things were moving so fast that my eyes had trouble keeping up, and I almost felt out of control. Almost. To Sonic 4's credit, the rush of rocketing through a stage at blazing speed has been captured fairly effectively. Unfortunately, the spiky devil apparently hasn't aged too well, as moving when not running is even more sluggish and difficult to control than in the old days. This sluggishness becomes a big problem in the slower-paced levels involving any kind of precision jumping. Sonic's collision detection also feels a bit off, especially on the pinball flippers in the casino stage.
I was expecting to like Sonic 4 a lot more than I did. I spent many, many hours getting those stupid chaos emeralds back when I still had summers to fritter away playing games, but the copy/paste feeling of the content and the physics problems combine to make Sonic 4 a nostalgia trip that invokes no sense of nostalgia. Rather than representing a revitalization of the Sonic brand, Sonic 4 is a failed, desperate grasp at recapturing its former glory.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS3. Approximately 2.5 hours of play was spent completing the game once. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains cartoon violence. Everything is essentially the same as it was in the old games, so there's nothing for kids/parents to be afraid of. However, if you get motion-sick you may have to look away occasionally when things start moving faster.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: You should be fine. There are no spoken lines and audio isn't a significant factor in gameplay.