Sonic the Hedgehog is one of the most well-known video game characters throughout the world. His appearances in titles released over the last eighteen years shows how popular SEGA’s mascot has become. Unfortunately in more recent times, the blue hedgehog’s retail releases have been some-what disappointing. With this in mind, SEGA ported the original Sonic the Hedgehog titles to the Xbox LIVE Arcade and have completed the set with the release of Sonic & Knuckles on the service.
Sonic & Knuckles continues on from where Sonic the Hedgehog 3 left off, with our protagonists jumping off Dr Robotnik’s badly damaged Death Egg weapon into the Mushroom Hill zone. The game contains two single player campaigns, one of which is played out as Sonic and the other Knuckles. Surprisingly, there are major differences between the two with Knuckles able to access places more easily than Sonic due to his strength, gliding and ability to climb walls, though isn’t as fast as Sonic. Nevertheless, when it comes to boss battles and level layouts, the two single player campaigns are pretty much identical.
All of the game’s four zones are made up of two acts. At the end of each act, players come across a boss which must be defeated in order to progress. Once players identify how to defeat each boss, the bosses themselves aren’t that difficult to overcome. In fact, the same could be said for the game as a whole, with players likely to advance through acts with very few problems. This isn’t helped by the game’s length.
Each act will take players under ten minutes to complete and therefore one run through the single player story mode can be completed in less than two hours. Whilst this isn’t as disappointing as some of the previous Sonic the Hedgehog titles, it doesn’t seem enough playtime, even at the 400 Microsoft Points price tag.
SEGA have rewarded players for purchasing any of the other three Sonic titles available on the Xbox LIVE Arcade with the game's only other game mode titled Bonus Content, most of which are simple mini-games also present within the game’s single player story mode. Nevertheless, the content itself is pretty poor with players likely to only play it just the once.
Another poor feature of Sonic & Knuckles is the game’s graphics and audio. Graphically the game hasn’t seen many enhancements from the title released fifteen years previously and the looping soundtrack and repetitive sounds - known as the audio, aren’t particularly pleasant either.
Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom on the development side of Sonic & Knuckles. The game’s save system is particularly strong, with players able to save at any point and to pick up exactly where they left off… as long as players remember to save often, as there’s nothing worse than seeing the fatal: “Game Over” and having to start the story mode from scratch.
Overall, Sonic & Knuckles is one of those titles that players will complete and never come back to. The lack of replayability and the game’s poor features are just a few of the off-putting factors to new players, though returning Sonic fans will receive great enjoyment out of the title, especially at the 400 Microsoft Points price tag.