The Sonic 4 Demo is Eighteen Seconds Long

You get to play one act of one stage. If you blink you will miss it. I like to think that the purpose of a game demo is to show off at least a little bit of everything that game is going to do. So if the Sonic the Hedgehog 4 demo is any indication, all this game does is let you run for fifteen feet until your momentum dies, run into lots of absurdly-placed monsters and traps, and doesn’t let you fight any bosses.

My main complaint is that Sonic is so huge in relation to the screen. Here you have a cartoon hedgehog whose super power is to run at blinding speeds… but he can only see ten feet in front of him. In the eighteen seconds I played, it seemed like every time I was stopped by some obstacle I could have easily jumped over if I had only seen it coming. And since the demo is just Boring Green Hills Zone again I have absolutely no reason to believe the entire game won’t be like that.

How dare Sonic 4 have this problem. Never mind the fact that the Genesis trilogy avoided the issue by drawing Sonic’s sprite relatively small in comparison to the rest of the screen — this is the HD era. The goddamn screen should automatically zoom and pan to keep pace with how fast I’m going. Zoomed-way-in is absolutely fine when I’m navigating tricksy platforms or bouncing off a chain of bad guys, but when I’m zipping through loops and corkscrews I want it pulled way back so I can see where I’m going. I don’t need to be right in the center of the screen; this is not Zelda. The screen should pan slightly in the direction I’m headed, to give me more room to maneuver.

Those fixes alone, even with the level design and momentum issues still in place, would have sold me on the game. As it is, I don’t feel like running into spikes and robots every couple of feet.

The sales blurb in the Xbox store proudly beams, “This is the game you’ve waited 16 years for!” No, Sega, it’s not. The Sonic Cycle is alive and well.

6 comments to The Sonic 4 Demo is Eighteen Seconds Long

  • Glad to hear I won’t be wasting any money on this.

  • Metal Man Master

    So Sonic still has crappy old camera problems to deal with. You’d think that a retro revival would try to fix some of the problems with the older games instead of making them worse, but this is Sonic we’re talking about here.

    And when I say “retro revival,” I don’t think this really counts. Just going by DiMPs releases, Sonic’s had at least five new installments using 2D gameplay in the past decade across the GBA and DS. Of course, this one’s not as talky or friend-havey, but jeez.

    At least you guys got a demo, though. The WiiWare pond isn’t so lucky to have demos, except for that one experiment last year.

  • Lys

    I like it pretty well, though I too wish the camera was pulled back more. Also, the sudden drop in forward momentum when you release the D-pad is going to cause a lot of unexpected deaths for anyone used to the original games. Aside from those two issues, the level design feels the way I remember it: there was always a lot of running, and stopping; running, and stopping; running, and stopping; at least, the way I used to play them. In fact, I’d say it was much worse in Sonic & Knuckles than in Sonic 4.

  • SpoonyBard

    This is the same problem I have with Mega Man 7 and 8. Other issues of those games aside, Mega Man was just too large on the screen. It made his jumping feel weaker, he ran slower, and you couldn’t fit as much ‘stuff’ on a single screen as you could in the NES days.

    The fact that Sonic 4 doesn’t zoom out when you start running at top speed is kind of baffling. That sounds like the obvious solution to an obvious problem.

  • Sonic 4 is (almost) as good as the Sonic Advanced games. It feels a lot more like those than the Genesis titles.

  • Tomm

    “run into lots of absurdly-placed monsters and traps,” I know we disagree, but this is how the original games feel to me. Now you understand why that would drive me insane.

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