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.
Some good news and possibly some bad news for Sonic fans this week. Sega have revealed that while Sonic 4 Episode 2 will discard the new physics that were so disliked by fans in Episode 1, reverting to those used in the Mega Drive/Genesis era Sonic games, it is also the last one in the series planned at this time. In an interview with Eurogamer, Sonic Team boss Takashi Iizuka explained:
“With Episode 1 we built the physics from the ground up. This time, rather than adding to it, we went back to the original Mega Drive Sonic games and we looked at the physics from them. We tried to make sure we replicated the things people were keen about for Episode 2. That’s the way we addressed it. I wanted to make sure people could play the game and it not feel unnatural. It should feel right. Rather than thinking of it as us trying to say, ‘okay, this is the way it should be,’ we looked at feedback where people were saying, ‘this feels unnatural.’ Those were the things we decided to eliminate, so it should feel natural when they play the game.”