Review: Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Sonic the Hedgehog has had a presence on the iPod since before everything "app" lived on the iPhone / iPod touch. Even today, old-school iPods like the 3rd- and 4th-gen Nanos, the iPod classic and the 5th-gen iPod can enjoy the original Sonic the Hedgehog game with some scrollwheel fun. The newly released sequel to the original game, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 [US$5.99], was just released for the iPhone and it's kind of like having a Genesis in your pocket. This is a good thing if you have fond memories of that 16-bit system, but if you're looking for a smooth, modern game with the little blue bomber, it's not. For you, we recommend keeping an eye out for Sonic 4.
We're guilty of falling into the former camp, so we're kind of pleased with the same Sega emulator the company uses in its other iPhone games (e.g., Golden Axe). This means that anyone who played the first Sonic game on the iPhone will be instantly at home with this sequel. Read on to see if it's worth investigating if you don't have any sort of history with the game.
Without a doubt, the Sonic 2 iPhone app is exactly what would result from you squeezing the original cartridge into your iPhone. Thus, the extra short version of this review is that, if you enjoyed Sonic 2 then, you'll probably like it now. If you didn't play Sonic 2 back in the day (or on any of the many, many platforms this wildly popular game has been released on since 1992), you might not enjoy what's being offered. Here's what you missed.
Sonic and his friend Tails zip through a lot of 2D side scrolling levels at high speeds, collecting rings and taking out bad guys. There are a lot of slopes and ramps and ways to use Sonic's ability to turn into a ball and roll around the gorgeous (for 1992) world. The plot of the game involves freeing cute little animals and trying to stop the evil Dr. Robotnik from stealing the Chaos Emeralds. The levels are well thought out and there are just the right amount of places to explore in each 2D level that they're not simple left-to-right barragefests. Instead, there are multiple levels and a some sneaky hidden corners. Do well enough in each one (collect 50 rings before triggering the save points), and you can access bonus levels where you collect even more rings. If this doesn't sound all that engaging to today's gamers, maybe it's true that Sega is counting on people to feel all nostalgic when they see the app in iTunes and fork over the six bucks.
For people who totally loved the original, there are a few differences on the iPhone. There's no way to connect two iPhones and have one player take control of Tails, the way you could in the original Genesis/Mega Drive version, for example. Also no Knuckles (that we know of).
The graphics in the iPhone port are nearly identical to the console version, with a few hiccups to remind us how flicker-filled games used to be (the waves of the pink water in Chemical Plant Zone 2, for example). We were only able to test the game on a first-gen iPod touch and were happy enough with the results. The game operates even better on a faster, newer machine. There is a touch menu to access a few options built over the emulated ROM. For example, you can choose to play in either in full screen or what Sega calls classic "arcade" mode (pictured below). In each case, the controls are the same limited virtual inputs.
This is really the crux of the problem with Sonic 2. We have yet to really enjoy on-screen d-pads in any game (we manage to struggle with them in the Simpsons Arcade game because, hey, its the Simpsons), but Sonic 2 is easily playable, at least the early levels. We have to agree with TouchArcade that the later levels get a little hard to manage. Unless that iControlPad / Apple "Smart Covers" patent thing ever becomes a reality, this is as good as it's going to get. Sega's emulator isn't the perfect translation of some of our old and favorite games, but it's nice to take a trip down memory lane in spinning blue ball form.
Here's a three-minute video review from AppSpy:
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