This is pure, adrenaline-fuelled platform gaming. The basic aim is to get your spiky speed demon to the end of the level as fast as possible, and with this in mind the control scheme is neatly streamlined. As well as moving left, right, up and down, Sonic can jump, and perform his faithful Speed Dash to build up a head of steam and take out a group of enemies. New to the Sonic series is the Homing Attack, which lets Sonic hone in on a target when in mid-air.
With such an efficient method of control, a fast and furious adventure flows. Sonic must navigate his way through a series of hidden tunnels and roller coaster loops, make seemingly impossible leaps and take out the numerous Badniks deployed by Dr Eggman, all in the blink of an eye.
There is a change of pace courtesy of the special sections that are accessed at the end of each main level (or Acts). If you manage to complete an Act with at least 50 gold rings, you’ll be able to attempt a Special Stage. These take the form of mazes which you guide Sonic through, collecting rings to open gates to reach the all-important Chaos Emeralds. You can even tilt and turn the wireless controller to steer Sonic through these stages.
Challenging level design is backed up by Dr Eggman’s Badniks, robotic creatures designed to slow Sonic’s progress. These are based on the mechanical critters found in the very first Sonic games. Motobug, for instance, first used his metal claws in anger in the original Sonic The Hedgehog, while the locust-like Slicer, from Sonic The Hedgehog 2, returns to fire its own limbs at Sonic. One of the trickiest is Newtron, a robotic chameleon that blends into a level to surprise Sonic with a well timed rocket barrage.
It all makes for breathless action, in which timing, speed and reflexes are the keys to survival. SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 4 Episode 1 is available to download from the PlayStation Store right now, so pin back your ears and get ready for one of the fastest adventures on PlayStation 3.