Sonic the Hedgehog 2 iPhone Review

Isn’t it great when developers figure out what they did wrong the first time, and do everything they can to improve the sequel? Yeah, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is only a port. It’s only a game we’ve all played before. But when Sega brought the first Sonic to the iPhone, it turned out to be a nice, inexpensive download that was missing something. The controls were a little off, and the speed/frame rate wasn’t quite right.

In Sonic the Hedgehog 2, that latter issue is no longer a problem. The game runs great, looks as it did on the Genesis, and contains that same classic feel you remember experiencing as a kid (or as an adult, as the case may be). The fake touch screen D-pad is still an issue when hopping across skinny platforms, but you can thank Apple for that, since it was Steve Jobs’ choice to exclude buttons from the iPhone and as many devices as he possibly can. Fortunately, that’s an issue most players will be able to deal with, especially hardcore iPhone players who are used to DBTS: Death By Touch Screen.

For those who have been living under a rock (or maybe a giant Mario-sized turtle shell) for the past 20 years, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is the game that introduced the world to Tails, the furry friend with a helicopter tail. In the future, Sega plans to offer a free update that will allow users to play a co-op version of the game, provided that they have an iPhone or iPod Touch that supports Bluetooth. For now, individual players can enjoy some of the best levels Sega has ever developed.

Musically, this sequel is perhaps the best chapter in the Sonic saga, offering up a dose of remarkable (and often quirky) themes that are as creative as they are contagious. I, for one, felt deeply nostalgic as I heard the familiar jingles – jingles that I had not heard for more than eight years. I haven’t touched this sequel for a long time, so needless to say, my return has been a very moving experience.

Those who are now playing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the first time might not get it – they might not see the beauty in it compared to, say, the awesome 2D Sonic games developed for the Game Boy Advance and the Nintendo DS. But what this game lacks in visual variety and complexity it more than makes up for in true level depth. While the first Sonic may have been the innovative and most groundbreaking platformer since Mario, this sequel marked the first and only time the hedgehog formula was perfected.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 comes with two screen types: one that stretches the game to fill the iPhone’s wide screen, and another that shrinks the gameplay image to retain the original 4:3 aspect ratio. The latter is the default setting, and with good reason: It looks gorgeous. The game moves flawlessly; every part is picture-perfect. The colors are just right, the animations are silky smooth, and the characters are crammed with detail. It may be from the 16-bit days of gaming, but the graphical achievements cannot be denied. And when those achievements are lost in a port or any alternate version (such as the spin-offs developed for Game Gear), the whole series is damaged. That’s one of the reasons why Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is so impressive on the iPhone.

Whether plowing through breakable walls, spinning along a corkscrew tunnel, or frantically running toward the finish line after grabbing Sonic’s trademark power-up (his running shoes), Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is all but a non-stop thrill-ride.