Sonic The Hedgehog hasn’t been granted any easy rides in recent days. His 3D incarnations have received only lacklustre support from long-term fans. So maligned is the new Sonic in some quarters that SEGA has been playing the retro card an awful lot lately.
Sonic 4 and Sonic: Generations both hark back to the glory days in some way (with varying degrees of success), giving console owners something to either bemoan or celebrate.
But Xperia Play owners have been given the most authentic of backwards steps – a direct remake of Sonic CD, the well-received but commercially unsuccessful game originally released for the ill-fated Sega CD. The question is: does it still hold up to scrutiny 19 years later?
Past and future
Luckily for fans, it looks and feels exactly as the old Sonic CD did, and contains every streamlined, multi-layered level of the original game, from Quartz Quadrant - strewn with travelators - to that infuriatingly inescapable pinball section of Collision Chaos.
The physical controls of the Xperia Play mean that Sonic himself is much more flexible than when controlled on a touchscreen device – a godsend to all those who know how important responsiveness is in these games.
The simplicity of old skool platforming is in evidence, and as a result it’s much easier to work up the speed needed to enter the ‘Future’ versions of levels, which may increase or decrease the number of enemies and obstacles in a level depending on when you change time zones.
It’s such a faithful remake that the only major noticeable difference is the addition of Tails as an unlockable character. But the fact that the game is so well-preserved is both a boon and a hindrance.
It’s no surprise that in the 20 or so years since Sonic first zoomed into our lives platforming has moved on considerably. Those who have grown used to accessible rewind mechanics or one-touch running games are going to find the old blue mammal to be a little archaic.
No matter how much respect you have for Sonic historically, it’s impossible to deny that by platforming standards he’s a relic. His system of lives has gone out of fashion, as has that annoying enemy placement purposely designed to irritate you.
As long as you recognise that Sonic CD is a product of its time then you'll forgive its rusty foibles.
Much less forgivable are the game’s antics on the Android Market. As we reported upon its release, Sonic CD is having major download issues. In fact, it took me over three hours to finally download the whole game without receiving an error message and having to start all over again (for others it was significantly less). This isn’t a problem directly associated with the ‘game’ part of Sonic CD, but nor should it be ignored.
If you do decide to buy Sonic CD, prepare to be frustrated by the process. Once you manage it, you'll find a very faithful reproduction of a classic game that too few people got to play the first time around.