Classic Sonic sequel is a 16-bit masterpiece

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Full disclosure up front: I was a huge fan of the Sonic series back in the day. As a result, sitting down to play Sonic the Hedgehog 2 I was of two minds: one part of me happy to be replaying a game I had enjoyed so much in childhood; the other part worried that this would be a lazy cash-in on the part of Sega.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 by SEGA
Category: iOS Games
Works With: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
Price: $0.99

Was I right to be concerned? Yes, is the short answer. Ever since the late 1990s, Sonic games have been the model of inconsistency: good efforts at reviving Sega’s flagship character quickly brought back down to earth by frankly shocking attempts at new installments.

I didn’t play the first stab at bringing Sonic 2 to iOS, but reportedly it was pretty uninspiring stuff — featuring sound problems, rubbish virtual controls, a windowed play area and (perhaps worst of all for our speedy hedgehog friend) slowdown issues.

So how has the game fared this time for the re-release?

Classic Sonic sequel is a 16-bit masterpiece

Excellently, as it turns out.

The new Hidden Palace Zone levels fit surprisingly well.

For those who don’t know, the version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 currently available on iOS is the remastered edition. Rather than a straight port of the original 1992 title, Sega has rebuilt the game from the ground-up: not just remastering the graphics and audio, but adding all new game content. Gone is the boxy 4:3 aspect ratio gamers have known since the glory days of M.C. Hammer; replaced instead by a gorgeous widescreen display and a silky-smooth 60fps frame rate. Since one of the few criticisms of the Genesis original was its occasional jerkiness (particularly in two-player mode) this second point is extra welcome, and really helps the game feel fresh — as opposed to a relic from another age.

The new Hidden Palace Zone levels fit surprisingly well, feeling (and playing) like an organic part of the game, rather than an addition tacked on two decades after everything else. You get some new badniks, and a very fun Phantom of the Opera-inspired boss stage. Knuckles makes a welcome appearance one game early (he originally appeared in Sonic 3), while Tails features as expected — but with his full abilities set from the later Sonic 3 & Knuckles, which makes him far more fun to play as.

The new levels are fantastic, such as this added boss battle.

The new levels are fantastic, such as this added boss battle.

Bonus stages have also been re-imagined in a way that is far superior to the original Genesis version, while even seemingly perfect original levels have tinkered with in a way that will make them more challenging for Sonic vets — and balanced for the new influx of characters.

In all, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a joy to play, and should be the benchmark for all developers looking to bring classic console games to iOS.

The fact that it’s currently reduced to only 99¢ is just icing on an already delicious cake.

Well done, all involved!

Screen_Shot_2014-04-28_at_21Game Name: Sonic the Hedgehog 2
The Good: Everything about it.
The Bad: That all ports of classic games aren’t this good.
The Verdict: A loving restoration of a classic game. If you have any fondness at all for 16-bit platformers, you owe it to yourself to get this.
Buy from: App Store

Cult of Mac rating: 5/5

  • evilmonkey07

    Is this supposed to say Sonic the Hedgehog 2?

    Game Name: Jet Car Stunts 2

  • https://www.cedwardsmedia.com/ Corey Edwards

    Technically speaking, the Hidden Palace Zone was in the original game on Genesis , though it was inaccessible after the beta release as it was cut before final release. It’s nice to see that it was brought back to life since they weren’t strapped for time again.

About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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