It’s tough in showbusiness. Hard to make new friends – the more famous you become, the less trusting you can afford to be. Sonic the Hedgehog has made a multitude of acquaintances during his time in the limelight of video game stardom, but you get the sense that most of them are transient.
His relationships tend to be either fleeting, such as the uneasy alliance with Knuckles the Echidna, or tragic, like his short-lived romance with Amy Rose, as close as cutesy platform gaming has come to a Glenn Close-style bunny boiler.
One relationship, however, has outlasted all Sonic’s others – his bromance with Miles Prower, known to his friends as the lovably foxy Tails. Tails is the Digby to Sonic’s Dan Dare, the Algy to his Biggles, the Dec to his Ant. For Sonic 4 Episode 2, Tails returns from exile to assist in the adventure.
This enables both two-player co-operative play and a host of new collaborative moves. These include rolling together in a super spin and Sonic hitching a ride on Tail’s trusty helicopter appendage, adding a fresh twist to the expected running and jumping platform fare.
There’s familiarity everywhere – rings, checkpoint lamposts and their comforting ‘du-ding’ SFX, unchanged for two decades, loop the loops, Robotnik/Eggman, spin attacks, Flickies, jumping, TVs loaded with rings, protective bubbles or high speed sneakers – all assets Sega can just pull out of their plastic wrapping anytime they like to make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
But take the botched Mario Allstars release on the Wii a few years back; frequently nobody actually wants to go back and seriously play those games without added value. It’s not enough just for Sonic to have symbolically returned to his 2D roots to please either the nostalgia gamers, or newcomers to the series.
Despite unanimously positive notices, Sonic 4′s first installment was a little dull in this reviewer’s opinion. It is then surprising how much the return of Sonic’s canidae comrade reinvigorates the series. Super Mario Bros: Wii showed how an update of a classic formula can still be successful both critically and commercially on home console, and that you needn’t feel like you are paying for something you have already experienced.
Much of this game, you have already experienced of course. But never before in this finery.
In glorious high definition, the snow in White Park Zone crunches and powders around as you snowboard or rollercoaster at ludicrous speeds. There are atmospheric sandstorms and streams of the black gold itself to navigate in the Oil Desert Zone, and acrobatic airplane maneuvers to be had among the afterburners of the Sky Fortress.
Special stages appropriately reprise the iconic half-pipe tunnel runs from the original Sonic sequel, which are still some of the most exciting Sonic experiences available, and the new-lick-of-paint recreations here do not disappoint as you hunt down those Chaos Emeralds.
Boss battles are a mix of the good, the bad and the indifferent, but provide enough of a challenge to stop you clocking the game at completely supersonic speeds. With co-operative play, time and score attack leaderboards and promised DLC, there’s value to be had here even if the relatively few zones are conquered quickly.
Nobody expects ground-breaking stuff from this title – it’s clearly not from the development box marked ‘exciting new innovations in videogaming’. However, it does a decent job of continuing the classic-style Sonic gameplay, reminding of the joys of old while providing a new and enjoyable game to speed through.