Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Sonic dies on his arse again!

Sonic the Hedgehog 4 (2010 / 2012)

There area lot of things out there which aren’t worthy of their name, you know. It’s like when you see a tabloid newspaper headline about a footballer involved in underage spitroasting and they mention an “England ace”. You’ve never even heard of this guy, much less seen him have an “ace” performance. But this description generates hate and bile which ultimately is what sells papers.

Or used to sell them, when newspapers had their day in the Sun. Now, thankfully, they are an irrelevance. I’ve bought one newspaper in the last ten years, and that was just to put down on the floor before painting the bedroom. Even if Page 3 still existed, there wouldn’t be much incentive anymore – I’ve got better smut in my front pocket.

Even if the pages contained EXCLUSIVE details about steamy romps and that type of language that only newspapers talk in, it wouldn’t encourage me to part with a quid. Why pay money for some newspaper that’s telling you to think a certain way politically, left or right depending on what the front and back pages say? I’m also bitter, because I once gave an interview to a local paper (disappointingly not about a pornstar career that I might have moonlighted as) which never even appeared. That could have been my fifteen inches… of fame.

Here’s a news story hot off the presses though: it turns out that Sonic the Hedgehog is worse at physics than I was in school when I couldn’t even get my paper planes to fly. You knew 3D Sonic was this bad, but here’s afully 2D game that they’ve had teh sheer gall to call Sonic the Hedgehog 4. Oh, interesting, it’s always fun and never an embarrassment when they make sequels 15 years later, right?

Anyone would be curious to play the 4th Sonic game, especially if it gives them a chance to forget all the claptrap that had been coming out bearing Sonic’s name and grin. You might get 30 seconds into the very first level before gravely regretting your curiosity. Put it this way: if at any point your left thumb gets a bit tired and you no longer elect to hold right, then Sonic stops dead in his tracks.

He could be bundling along at 500 miles an hour, stopping for nobody and nothing except by the brickest of all walls, or maybe a ginormous stack of unsold newspapers. But all it takes is for you to lift your finger off the D-Pad, and Sonic’s not interested anymore. You could try jumping, but that won’t sustain his momentum either, he’ll simply drop to earth like a blue bowling ball. It is a nonsense of physics, the sort of thing that makes people laugh at Sonic to this day. It certainly wasn’t a good couple of years for the guy, was it?

They tried to sell this rubbish in an episodic format as well, although they only got as far as two episodes. I like to hope that at this stage, the developers drew the wrath of the nearest suit who’d seen the sales figures, and told them to pull the plug with as much suddenty and swiftness as Sonic stopping in mid-air.

They really made a desperate attempt at bringing you back to the past with the soundtrack in this game too. It’s got a few very bad, sometimes downright bizarre melodies, and it puts them through the Sega Mega Drive blender – the idea is that the game’s music font sounds like something that you might get out of the old Sega, with it’s tinny snare and distorted guitar that sounds like the machine’s about to up and die. It sounds like an absolute stinker, a very bad creative decision.

The mini boss music, retooled from Sonic 3D Blast, might just be one of the worst video game songs I’ve ever heard. OK, there’s been worse in mainstream games – Yoshi’s New Island comes to mind. There was a really weird trumpety one in Resident Evil Driector’s Cut. But this is Sonic, for God’s sake. Sonic brought us Hydro City, Star Light. Old Sonic had Michael Jackson involved, for God sake, and as if all that wasn’t enough, I haven’t even mentioned the Chemical Plant theme. So that’s another potential selling point, gone at the speed of light.

Of course, with the music as with most other aspects, Sonic Mania came along and blew this brain boobery out of the water. And it’s telling that, of all the references to previous Sonic titles they packed into Mania, even stuff from Knuckles Chaotix, nothing from Sonic 4 made it in there. Not a single callback. And why would they have? This is, at the heart of it, a really awful, fangame-ish re-interpretation of Sonic 1. They tried to do Sonic 1 again on Game Boy Advance, and it was a war crime. I wouldn’t call Sonic 4 a war crime, but it isn’t too far off – let’s call it an atrocity, or a international incident.

Just look at all of the resources that Sega have. Well, OK, obviously a lot of this has been considerably eroded by repeated braindead decisions in the console hardware market, plus the fact that they beat their dead hedgehog as hard as possible while letting winners like Golden Axe and Streets of Rage go to waste. Anyway, I’m sure they’ll have a few, I don’t know, pachinko machines keeping them going.

But I was like Niki Lauda in Rush playing this game. All of those facilities and resources, and you make a piece of crap like this. You don’t even sell the full game in one, but you have the balls to try and make it episodic. This isn’t some grandiose, epic tale you’re delivering here. And don’t think you’re trying to be cute either, doing the same thing as Sonic 3 & Knuckles by splitting the games in two – at least S3&K had a funky cartridge setup. And the split there was necessary due to constraints imposed by the cartridge format, and the time window they had when Sonic was at the peak of his powers. 

The graphics are drab and uappealing, a 2.5D that even Sonic Generations made to look a lot better. It’s still the modern Sonic design, with his long arms and green eyes. That should be a relatively minor detail, but I need to politely remind you at this time that a particularly insane fan once Maced a Gamestop employee over the colour of Sonic’s arms not being correct, so think on. It’s true that Sonic only works in 2D, but if you ask me, it needs to have 2D spritework as well.

I’ve been trying for years to interpret Sonic’s model in Sonic 4 for when he’s running at full whack, and I still can’t do it – the whole physics engine is all over the place, but I won’t try to give you a physics lecture. I tried that once in college when I walked into the wrong lecture hall, and let’s just say that the security teams in colleges never pass up a chance to batter effete arseholes.

I really can’t believe how bad the level design is in this. I already mentioned how Sonic hates being curled up into a ball , and takes any opportunity he can to jump out of that state with all the irritation of a cat that you’ve tried to coax into cuddling with you. He comes to a brick-wall halt if you don’t hold right on that D-pad, and even when you do hold right, there’s not much more for you to do. It’s not about building up momentum or being rewarded for daring play in Sonic 4, oh no. You run through dash plates every three seconds to get you back up to speed. It’s not far off those rubbish Super Mario Maker levels tha p lay themselves.

Even if you do find yourself airborne with something to do, the key is to use the Homing Attack to strike enemies, which should strictly be a 3D Sonic mechanic. By this I mean it’s a tedious pain to do in the bad 3D games and even more of an affront to see Homing Attack play in what should be the next big title in the Sonic series. And with that, it’s official – this game does not have a single selling point.

We were all wating for Sonic 4, you know, and we would have waited an even longer time yet. You had us in the palm of your hands, Sega, and you delivered a turd sandwich into each and every one of our mouths, with not even a nice glass of nice graphics or a cup of excellent tunes to wash it down with.

Actually, calling it a sandwich is, rather like the game itself, not befitting of the name – this is just a brown mess which I’m certain would have been sold to you through even more episodes if the fans hadn’t hated the first two so much. Acquire a copy for yourself, don’t pay any money for it by the way, and feel the hate for yourself – I like you, but I hope this makes you as sick as it made me. Get this out of my sight.

21 September 2021

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