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Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode II

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Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode II

It's probably unwise to read too much into the news that Sega isn't making any more episodes of Sonic 4 after this one - the reason could be anything from poor commercial performance to a desire to tackle new challenges.

However, after playing episode two of what many hoped would be a long-running series, it's hard not to conclude that apathy for the subject matter is the real reason for this premature conclusion.

Sonic 4 Episode I was a welcome release, breathing new life into Sega's spiky blue mascot, but it was far from perfect. This sequel was supposed to solve the problems that blighted its forerunner, but instead it adds some new ones of its own.

Road kill

For a franchise that's built on speed, Sonic 4 Episode II is far too preoccupied with throwing roadblocks in your path.

There's just too much going on in each level for you to get into anything resembling a groove when it comes to pace, and as a result Sonic is robbed of the one quality that made him stand out from rival Mario all those years ago.

The inclusion of sidekick Tails does mitigate this problem to a degree, and the ability to have a second player join in co-operatively calls to mind the classic two-player gameplay of Sonic 2 on the Mega Drive. Even so, this can't save Sonic 4 Episode II from mediocrity, because - even with another human along for the ride - it's not a great deal of fun.

While the Xperia Play can't possibly make this experience any more enjoyable, it should offer a more suitable interface than the standard touchscreen edition.

Maddeningly, that isn't the case. While directional control is mapped to the phone's 8-way D-pad, the 'jump' button remains on-screen - none of the Xperia Play's fascia buttons makes Sonic leap.

The Circle button is the only one that's active, and that simply brings up the menu. It's a bizarre choice, to say the least.

Feeling blue

It's such a shame that Sonic can't reach his previous heights with this new title, because there's a lot that feels right here. The 2.5D visuals are beautiful, and the music will have you tapping your toes whether you want to or not.

In terms of presentation, Sonic 4 Episode II can't be faulted, and we also approve of the return of the bonus stage from Sonic 2 - albeit in 3D this time around.

But Sonic 4 Episode II on the Xperia Play is ultimately an exercise in disappointment and frustration. Even if the physical control interface hadn't been botched, the core game is so devoid of magic that it almost makes you pity Sega’s once-proud figurehead. It would appear that Sonic's glory days are far behind him.

Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode II

Despite some sumptuous graphics and addictive tunes, Sonic 4: Episode II lacks the engaging gameplay which made his previous outings so much fun. The inclusion of Xperia Play controls is half-hearted, too
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