Before I begin, I have to admit that I have a love-hate relationship with gaming on mobile devices. Smartphones and tablets have great potential to be a powerful gaming platform but that potential is rarely realized. Touch controls and sloppy ports of console titles are typically the norm and make mobile devices second-class citizens in the gaming world. When I first purchased Sonic the Hedgehog for iOS over three years ago, it fit this stereotype perfectly and saw a little less than 5 minutes of play time. To my surprise, a v2.0 update appeared in the App Store recently and what awaited me was nothing short of astonishing.
The word “update” doesn’t do this release justice. The original slow and sloppy port was replaced by a completely new release by Christian Whitehead built on his Retro Engine. This is the same engine that was used to rebuild Sonic CD a few years back. Like that release, Sonic the Hedgehog received a massive upgrade including full widescreen support and solid 60 frames-per-second performance. The enhancements don’t stop there though, the game also features a great save system with multiple slots and integration with the iOS Game Center.
The great thing about this release is that it goes a step beyond simply presenting the original game in a modern format with enhancements. In addition to simply being the best mobile release this game has seen, it also features added content such as the ability to unlock Tails and Knuckles as playable characters. There are also a ton of other goodies and easter eggs to discover, but suffice it to say completing the game is sure to give you more than just a single-screen taunt from Robotnik if you didn’t collect all of the Chaos Emeralds or Sonic jumping out at the screen.
Touch controls are still the biggest downside to this release but unfortunately they are a necessary evil on iOS as Apple hasn’t provided any type of game controller standard. Even the touch controls have been made more tolerable though with the ability to adjust the size of the buttons as well as the opacity so they don’t block out the action. The mapping of the d-pad also feels much more natural and responsive than other console ports I’ve played and it seems difficult to trigger accidental directional presses.
Aside from the game itself, I really have to give Mr. Whitehead credit for the presentation. The time and care that was put into this release is obvious as soon as the App is opened when the player is greeted with a virtual box and cartridge before starting the game. This can even be customized to be the box and cartridge from the Japanese or European releases. Small touches like this really give the game a polished feel and bring back that sense of nostalgia for all of us that actually remember playing the original releases of these classics.
After just playing it for the short time that I have, I can say without a doubt this is the first console game I’ve actually wanted to play on my iPhone. For those of us that bought the original disappointment, this game was provided as a free update through the App Store. For those of you that don’t already own it, it’s only $2.99 and is optimized for both the iPad and iPhone form-factors. This release is also available for Android devices in the Google Play store and with any luck, will find it’s way to the PC and game consoles in the future.
Feel free to check out gameplay footage of the new release below: