It was 1993 when everyone’s favourite blue hedgehog made it to compact disc, but it wasn’t until 1996 that his foray into optical media launched him onto the personal computer. Regardless of the platform he appeared on, Sonic was renowned for speed – and skill. I sunk countless hours into this title as a kid, perfecting my runs through the various levels, and when the news reached us of a remake I leapt at the opportunity to rediscover my blue pal.
Sonic CD 2011 features everything the original release did – quite literally, as the only changes are cosmetic: it now runs in 16:9 widescreen, with updated textures to match; it’s got a bunch of achievements for completing various tasks; and it’s available on every modern system under the sun. Seriously. Whether you’ve got a PC, Xbox 360, PS3, Android phone, Windows Phone 7, er, phone, or an iDevice of any description, Sonic CD 2011 is available to purchase for just under five bucks. So what do you get for the asking price?
In true style of platformers in the nineties, Sonic CD begins with a short video introducing the character – omitting origins or any of those back-story things that modern games like to include – and dumps you straight into the first of seven ‘zones’. Each zone has a different theme, from the starting tropical jungle to golden racetracks in the sky, and more inbetween. Each zone features three chapters, and each chapter takes roughly five minutes to complete the first time through. Needless to say, we managed to complete Sonic CD 2011 in just under four hours, owing to many deaths and suffocation-induced panic in the underwater chapters.
The title’s charm has stayed on and passes the test of time relatively gracefully, though many times it can feel as if the game has ‘cheated’ due to irritating enemy placement which would normally prove to be no problem – except that at the haphazard speeds Sonic is wont to travel at, you really have no time to see them coming. Even with the additional real estate granted by the wider viewpoint there’s no good way to be prepared for what’s up ahead.
One of the slightly endearing quirks of the game remains, in the time travel mechanic that is never explained; by activating signposts marked ‘Past’ or ‘Future’, and travelling at speed for a sufficient time, Sonic is able to leap through time between the Past, Present and Future. Each of these is visually distinct, though based on the same basic level design, and chapters can begin in any of the three choices. The usefulness of time travel really only presents itself when travelling to the Past, destroying Dr Robotnik’s evil robot-making machine (the reason for fighting him is never explained, HE’S JUST BAD OKAY), and then making it into the Future to see that all the enemies have been destroyed. And that there are cute bunnies jumping around. Aww.
There are other mechanics that still feel weird as hell, such as finishing chapters with over 50 rings to unlock a bonus stage in pseudo 3D that involves running through a maze and destroying UFOs for extra time and coins. It’s still awfully hard to control Sonic in these parts, and just as confusing.
Speaking of controls, well, they’re as tight as ever. And the graphics, while updated to not look horrible on a high-resolution screen, manage to look decent without being spectacular. The soundtrack is the same, though there’s a toggle to flip over into Japanese mode, and once the main campaign is completed there’s an extra character to unlock (that annoyingly can’t unlock achievements, as we frustratingly found out). We think it’s worth the cash for nostalgia’s sake, but is it worth the purchase for those who have never played Sonic CD?