A long time ago (18 years to be exact) in a land far far away (Japan) there lived a video game company called Sega. It suffered under the dominating rule of arch-rival Nintendo who, with the help of its champion mascot Mario, dominated the gaming scene of the time. In a move to counter its great nemesis, Sega came up with a mascot of its own: Sonic The Hedgehog.
Bold of colour, fleet of foot and supremely self-confident, Sonic and the games he starred in were unlike anything that had come before. They were cooler, better looking and way faster then anything else around at the time. Picking up any modern mobile action-platform game, it's pretty clear to see the influence the series has had.
And so it comes as no surprise to see those early Sonic games making their way over to our mobile phones. As the title suggests, this is the second Sonic game to have made the transition, the first having made it over in two parts to rave reviews from this very site. In the same way, Sonic The Hedgehog 2: Dash! is the first of two games which will add up to make the full Sonic 2 experience.
So how does it play? Very similar to its predecessor is the simple answer. For those unfamiliar with the premise, you steer Sonic – a bright blue anthropomorphic hedgehog – through several worlds split into multiple Acts. Along the way you collect golden rings and negotiate deadly traps, jumping into enemies to take them out.
As mentioned, what sets Sonic: Dash! apart is the sheer speed of the thing. Hold left or right on the thumbstick and within a matter of seconds you'll be hurtling along at a horrendous rate, the background becoming a mere blur as you whiz around loop-de-loops and launch off giant ramps.
Where Sonic: Dash! has moved on from the previous game(s) is in the intricacy of its levels. Many can be negotiated in the same brisk manner as before, but for those with the inclination to explore there are far more hidden nooks and crannies to be discovered. And you will be rewarded for doing so – there's no such thing as a dead end here, as you'll invariably encounter extra lives and bonus rings in abundance if you just take the time to look around a little.
Some may argue that this new emphasis on exploration detracts for the core principle of unbridled speed established in the original. But really this part of the game is entirely optional, and the levels are designed brilliantly to funnel you into breathtaking speed-run sections at key points. It never becomes a trudge or – even worse – just another platform game.
Sonic: Dash! looks fantastic, too, with a clean and colourful style that says faithful to the original Sega Mega Drive game. It does lose a noticeable amount of smoothness when Sonic gets moving at full pelt, however, and our poor little test N73 wasn't quite able to keep up with the hectic pace. Naturally, if you have a more powerful handset you're less likely to experience this symptom.
There's also the matter of the controls. We won't mince our words here – Sonic: Dash! is not best suited to the thumbstick or keypad of your average mobile phone. The game was designed to be played on a console joypad, and when things get a little busy (which they often do) it shows. After a while you will form an uneasy alliance with your phone and the game, resulting in you agreeing to take things a little more cautiously, only occasionally letting loose when the game practically signposts that it's safe to do so.
For a game all about uninhibited pace that's a bit of a problem. Fortunately, since it's so strong in other departments, we can't be too damning of such shortcomings. Even in second gear, Sonic: Dash! possesses more charm, more style and more ideas in its first level than most mobile action platform games offer in their entirety. Run along and buy it.