Sonic 4 review – is this the best game franchise reboot in years?

Adam explains why the first ‘classic series’ Sonic release in sixteen years may have just reawakened his gaming identity. (PS3 version tested)

By Adam Doree, October 11, 2010


Throughout the game’s four ‘zones’ (each comprising three levels plus a boss stage… as well as one final boss zone, and Sonic 1-style ‘special stages’), it’s obvious that the designers have put a lot of thought into how to keep things feeling new, even though so much of what’s in Sonic 4 is (welcome) familiar territory. Fortunately – as was first introduced in Sonic CD – the visual and musical theme of each zone develops a little bit from act to act, making each new level interesting to play through. I also like the bosses which are ‘remixed’ from Sonic 1 and Sonic 2 in some interesting ways. 

The sound effects and enemies in Sonic 4 will bring back memories for series fans of all ages.

I thought that the Sonic 1-style rotating maze special zones – now played by rotating the maze itself rather than awkwardly bouncing Sonic around inside it – sounded a bit naff at first, but actually they’re more fun than in the original Sonic. (Pretty cool on iPhone too, as you tilt the device to move the level). 

The music’s a bit forgettable on the whole, although the title music is pretty much ‘on target’ and the Lost Labyrinth zone music is definitely worth writing home about. The sound effects are the same as in the original games, while front-end sounds are lifted from the more recent 3D titles. 

In the Casino themed zone, you can rack up a lot of easy extra lives which will serve you well in tougher spots... like the secret final boss zone.

Really though, it’s the visual presentation of Sonic 4 that steals the show. The game moves at great speed and an unbreakable sixty frames per second in full HD, and the bright colours and striking detail just look amazing. If it’s not the prettiest 2D platform game ever made, then I’d like to know what is. Playing the game properly like this really looks great, and I don’t think any of the still screenshots or web videos that have been doing the rounds over the last few months do the actual graphics justice. 

In terms of the lives/retries system, the difficulty’s been toned down compared to the originals – players can basically freely choose which zones and acts they want to play, and you’re never going to be forced to start from the beginning with nothing. That feels rather more appropriate these days really, for the same reasons I talked about earlier – I haven’t got the time or the patience to be made to start something from scratch, I just want to enjoy the levels without the game breaking my balls too much. So bravo on this design decision too. 

Mine cart level here - has there been a Sonic mine cart level before? I think there was one in Sonic 2 (8-BIT version). It's knowledge like this that will take me all the way in life.

To answer the question posed in our earlier article, has Sega finally got it right? The answer is yes, with Sonic 4 it finally has. Everyone involved in this project from green-light, to the cunning drip-feed PR strategy, to bravely naming the game Sonic 4, to the polished final product, should be immensely proud – and now, fans who’ve stuck with Sega and the Sonic series through thick and thin, can be too. 

I’m looking forward to seeing what Sega does with the next ‘episodes’ of Sonic 4, but in the meantime, maybe I’ll be tempted to play through that ominous pile of backlogged, factory-sealed blockbuster game releases sitting on my shelf. And if Sonic 4 has played a part in making me want to do that, then that’s a pretty big compliment. 

8 out of 10 

Read our score guide here.

Posted in Reviews, Top 5, and tagged with , , .

14 Responses to “Sonic 4 review – is this the best game franchise reboot in years?”

  1. Rupert Higham says:

    Yeah, they really pulled it off with this one. Now if they can just release a 40 player online Sega Racing Classic (That HD Daytona remake) and Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown then Sega and I can be friends again.

  2. S. Bains says:

    I think next on Segas remastered HD reboot list should include the following for SONY PS3:

    -House of the Dead 1-4 with DualShock 3 & Move Support
    -Power Drift (racing game)
    -Streets of Rage 1-3
    -ThunderBlade and Space Harrier

    • Edwin says:


      • MATT says:

        comix zone is probably the greatest most original title to grace any console. period.

        earthworm jim went the way of sonic the hedgehog and began making lackluster 3-d titles that looked horrible and played even worse… a trend a few 8 or 16 bit titles failed to avoid in the nintendo 64 days.
        if i had a say… you overhaul jim… speed him up a bit, fresh coat of paint, super hd comic renderings with animated sketch lines. i always dreamt of heading an earthworm jim project… maybe i’ll keep trying.
        and lastly, vectorman needs to put out another game. all 2d, beautiful works of classic video game art set to motion again. better bolder faster… but at their core, the same game and play mechanics that made it great.

      • JazzDemon says:

        From one Comix Zone lover to another, what do you think of Shank? I’m still not quite sure where I place my finger on that one yet.

  3. Snork says:

    Very nicely written. Great entertaining read. Cant wait to buy te game. :-)

  4. Jim says:

    I agree with Snork, nicely written article and a very good read.

    Purchased the game a couple of hours ago and i’m loving it so far. Brought back memories of the good old days as soon as it started up and I heard “SEEEEGAAA”.

    If I were to be anal and find a negative, i’d have to say i’m a bit concerned it may be a little short and easy (breezed through 1st levels).

    The way i’ll look at it is: cost of game = 2-3 pints… 2-3 pints = 90 mins in pub… 90 mins in pub or 90+(not much more mind)mins of Sonic? Easy!

  5. Tony says:

    Dimps did really nice work with this. It’s a masterstroke by Sonic Team to allow them to try their angle at rebooting the franchise. They did great work with the Sonic Rush series that they were the most logical choice. For once I’ve not been burned by Sega, great game.

  6. Fin says:

    Boooo……sonic unleashed day time stages where excellent,they should have stuck with it

    • Nick says:

      That’s why they are making Sonic Colors. They are keeping all fans (retro and otherwise) in mind, making several games to fit what the fans have wanted for so long.

  7. Pix says:

    After seeing all the negative posts about this game I am glad to see an open minded review giving credit where it is due. I went ahead and bought it from XBLA anyway because I have been waiting for this game for so long. At first I was only able to fire it up for about 2 mins and I thought the ‘uncurling’ and physics of Sonic were just wrong and was disappointed. When I actually started to play the game for real and use the homing attack properly I realised this was a brilliant evolution of the 2d titles. I haven’t finished the game, but my only complaint from a cursory glance is that 4 zones, albeit beautiful zones, seems a little on the stingy side compared to the older games.

    Perhaps it is just taste, but I think you were a little unfair on the music – Mad Gear also has a really great tune, which means that at least half the music is memorable!

    Every Sonic fan should buy this game!

  8. Mousse420 says:

    I love how all positive reviews of this game talk about nothing but the nostalgia factor. Never mind that the overall quality is in the toilet… You idiots are so easy to please. Have fun getting milked!

  9. TBONE says:

    Impressed! Havent played any sonic titles since the originals on genesis, and this was a breath of fresh air. Classic sonic style with visually striking graphics. A great bargain at $15. Would like to see this series continued. Brings back great memories!
    Thanks SEGA!!


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