DLC review: Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode Metal

For anyone who purchased Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I and Episode II on the same console, SEGA provided a bonus game, titled Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode Metal. It puts players in control of Metal Sonic, exploring just how he came to be revived by Dr. Robotnik as well as how he managed to track down Sonic and Tails. The story begins with Metal Sonic lying broken and battered on the Stardust Speedway from Sonic CD, a stage which has been gorgeously rendered in the Sonic 4 engine. Robotnik swiftly fixes up his creation, then sends him off to find a new source of power.

The game's introductory sequence is simple enough, but it does a great job of drawing you into the story of Metal Sonic. Unfortunately, nearly everything that follows is borderline-disastrous. Episode Metal, though accessible from the menu of Sonic 4: Episode II, is run entirely on the engine that was used for Sonic 4: Episode I. Whereas Sonic controlled less smoothly in the first episode, Metal Sonic does not slow down as quickly as one would hope and manages to crash into just about everything in his path.

Each level that Metal Sonic traverses only lasts a single act. However, each of these levels is recycled from Sonic 4: Episode I. He will revisit Splash Hill Zone, Casino Street Zone, Lost Labyrinth Zone, and Mad Gear Zone, albeit in a somewhat reverse order. Lost Labyrinth Zone proves the most enjoyable of the bunch, as the rolling boulder puzzle element has been kept intact. Any puzzle elements from the other stages have been removed in favor of more linear pathways. While this does move Metal Sonic through each stage more quickly, it does not allow for much freedom in choosing alternate routes and effectively removes the entire challenge factor.

It's a good thing that SEGA included Sonic 4: Episode Metal as a free bonus, because no one should ever have to fork over money to play this mess of a Sonic title. It is true that Episode Metal was never intended to be as full and fleshed out a product as either Sonic 4: Episode I or Episode II. But it seems like SEGA put forth as little effort as possible into Episode Metal. Metal Sonic's controls are very clunky, the same levels are recycled in a lazy manner, and there are no boss fights. Episode Metal's one saving grace is that it takes than a half an hour to complete.

My rating: 5.5 (out of 10)

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