One of the biggest complaints in Episode One was the physics, and they’ve mostly been fixed. Sonic no longer stops on a dime in mid air if you take your thumb off the analog stick and you can no longer walk up walls like Spider-Man. The ball-rolling still seems to be slower than running when going downhill, making spin-dashing nearly useless, but hey, two out of three isn’t bad. The truth is this game controls pretty well, approaching levels folks might consider “good”.
Another problem in the first game was the level design. The new areas in Episode Two have come a long way from the rope swinging, card bridges and torch puzzles fans have suffered through before. In fact, there aren’t any weird gimmicks like that here. The few times something unique happens — a snowboard segment, for example — last mere moments. There’s less reliance on the homing attack and enemy bridges, opening things up for a bit more actual platforming. Strings of springs still propel you forward, but in a decreased quantity. There’s a bit too much underwater play in the first world, but you only head back under one more time throughout the entire game. It’s strangely paced in that regard, but at least you get it out of the way early.
One place the game could use a little improvement is during boss battles. The fights themselves are actually pretty creative and fun, but a couple of them have incredibly lengthy intros that bring back memories of Playstation-era Final Fantasy summoning spells. This should be toned down, should there be an Episode Three. The special stages, however, are light-years beyond those in Episode One. Like Sonic the Hedgehog 2, you’re put into a halfpipe and need to collect a certain amount of rings. The final few are pretty frustrating, but that’s exactly the way it should be.
In the end, Episode Two proves itself to be an improvement when compared to its predecessor. Sonic appears to be on the right path — hopefully Sega can push this series to even greater heights with more improvements in a third installment.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 is available now for $15 on Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network, the App Store, and PC.