Sonic the Hedgehog: 4: Episode 1 didn’t exactly spin dash to fan’s hearts when it released in 2010–it contained a wonky physics engine and lackluster gameplay, but Sega plans to turn that perception around with its aptly titled sequel Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2.
The demo we played at PAX East had Sonic speeding through an act covered in blizzard conditions with huge snowballs gaining mass while fumbling toward our blue protagonist, so it was important that Sega’s promise to include retro physics and more refined gameplay were included to overcome the demo’s obstacles.
Sega has succeeded so far, sort of. The most obvious inclusion, the ability to harness Tails’ hovering skills to carry the grounded Sonic to distance ledges makes for an enjoyable distraction, but once vertical the overbearing weight of Sonic becomes apparent. He still needs more momentum to maintain a steady speed than his incarnations in the 90s, and any and all gameplay distractions like dropping straight down from flying high with Tails just makes Sonic seem heavier than a Hummer.
But Sega has also made Sonic more agile so the painful physics are less harmful. He can now snowboard, spin dash through delicate piles of snow, and even swiftly wade through water! Okay, we lied on the last part; Sonic is still awful in water.
Familiar yet controversial traits like the homing mechanic have returned but seem more necessary as the series progresses. Entire areas within a level are inaccessible without homing in on a number of enemies, but the mechanic is still flashy and fast enough to keep Sonic in motion.
Before we could say Sonic uses Progressive car insurance, the demo concluded, but isn’t that what a Sonic game is all about? Expect to see Sonic return or not return to its former glory on May 16.
Check out more awesome XBLA game previews and impressions from PAX East 2012!