Sonic the Hedgehog is still alive on iOS!
I have to admit that my recollection of Sonic the Hedgehog games is mostly attributed to nostalgia. Usually when the subject of a Sonic game is brought up, there is always mention of graphics and speed. However, speed is not what comes to mind when I think of early Sonic games. I always felt that Sonic games were ruined by what I considered to be bad platforming. Compared to Mario, Sonic always seemed to have very floaty, loose controls that made him difficult to maneuver. Occasionally there were sections of a stage that broke up the platforming with loop de loops that were fun to run through, but having to lose all of the gold rings you just banked by hitting a wall of spikes or crashing into an enemy nearing the end of a run felt very cheap and frustrating. I particularly hated anything to do with under water levels. I appreciate when a game allows you to master it by developing skills and learning the nuances of the game play, and I suppose that my issue with Sonic comes down to not allowing myself enough time to master these abilities. I’m not putting Sonic games down. I just accept that the games were always made up of both good and bad parts. I personally love Sonic CD and it’s time travel mechanic aspects, and I also enjoyed the 2D Nintendo DS versions of Sonic that used both top and bottom screens to show off giant loop de loops. However, I haven’t enjoyed the control integration of recent iOS ports of 2D Sonic games. Now Sonic has a new game on iPhone, bringing along with it both the good and the bad, the familiar and the new, but mostly the fun aspects of Sonic games.
Long time SEGA mascot Sonic the Hedgehog graces the iOS App store once again with a brand new mobile based title and bringing a new style of game play for the franchise, well sort of new game play style. Sonic has experimented with this new style in the past. This time it’s in the form of an endless runner style game titled Sonic Dash. Allow me to provide a rundown of game play and controls, game manual style. Developed by SEGA’s UK based Hardlight Studio (HL Games), as the title implies in Sonic Dash, upon starting up a new game, Sonic takes off running and is in a constant forward motion throughout the stage dashing along a three lane track collecting gold rings and power ups while trying to avoid obstacles. The player guides sonic by swiping their finger across the touch screen. Switching between the three lanes requires left and right finger sliding motions on the touch screen, while swiping up enables jumping for hurdling over objects and down swipes enable dodging and spin attack moves. There is also a meter on the right of the screen that fills up by collecting rings allowing Sonic to become invincible for a short period of time, and an occasional use of tapping required for homing attacks during certain jumps.
Infinite runner games like Temple Run are pretty fun and I always felt that Sonic would make a good transition to this style of game play. From the time I spent playing Sonic Dash, several hours actually, I started getting better at the game and banking a lot of gold rings to buy upgrades. You can bank the gold rings you’ve collected in-game if you manage to reach the end of a track and hit a bumper with a gold ring icon on it. There are really only a couple of themed tracks available during my game play time so far. Some are familiar green and grassy tracks including loop de loops reminiscent of Green Hill Zone from the early Sonic the Hedgehog games, and a second aquatic zone style tracks which are made up of what resemble to be white stone or marble, which is more likely a level from Sonic Generations called Seaside Hill. Visually, the graphics are impressive. The game runs smoothly and has a bright color palette giving it a very cartoon-like feel while at the same time, the design of the tracks, enemies and overall sensation of speed together resemble something running on a current generation console. There’s also an upbeat electronic music soundtrack playing in the background to keep you on edge.
The infinite runner style of game play requires a lot of replay since you can expect to fail multiple times until you master the swiping motions and get a feel for the timing of jumping and dodging. The game also has a leader board for comparing your score against other players and an online store for purchasing upgrades and unlocking new characters like Amy, Knuckles, etc. The game does offer red star coins after completing mission objectives which can be used for unlocking new characters, however these red coins are rare as the game only offers a few of them as a reward for completing missions. If you want to unlock new characters, it’s best to purchase them in-app. However, I’m enjoying the game with Sonic alone. There is one minor annoyance. The game persistently prompts you to buy items and upgrades from the in-app store every time you lose, which is going to be happen a lot.
I don’t know what the long-term appeal is for this game, since it only offers a couple of themes for the available tracks and it’s very challenging to unlock new characters unless you decide to pay. This game has a high appeal factor for fans of Sonic games in particular or gamers that are nostalgic for Sonic and want to give it a try on iPhone or iPad. The price for the App is $2.00. In the short-term, I find it to be a little addictive and enjoyable.