So, that level I was stuck on all yesterday evening?

Sonic The Hedgehog 4

Get in!

Yeah, I just did it this lunchtime. First time, too. (I lost a life or two, but I didn’t get the Game Over screen.) The trick with spikes seems to be just to wiggle gently. I’m still not entirely sure how it works.

Then it was on to the Boss stage and the first bit of genuinely rubbish design I’ve seen so far in this game. Let us count its failings.

1) There’s a fairly long level before the boss fight with no checkpoint before the fight itself. This level isn’t difficult, but it is underwater and has fairly tight time limits, so one missed jump can kill you. If the boss kills you, it’s back to the beginning to do the whole tedious sequence again. What’s the point in having boss stages at all if you pad them like this? And if you’re going to pad, why pad with an underwater stage? Why do they exist in the first place? They’ve never been much fun in Sonic games, serving only to illustrate how rubbish Sonic is when he can’t run really fast and zoom about.

Sonic The Hedgehog 4

I'm just about to die.

2) The boss fight itself has Robotnik or Eggman or whatever he’s fucking calling himself this week hovering near the ceiling. Stones come out of the walls, floor and ceiling and let you get near him, but if you get caught between them or against the edge of the level you will die. You won’t lose your rings, you’ll die… which means running through the whole level again.

3) The stone doesn’t come out of the edge of the level in predictable patterns. The first few times you won’t know where to jump and will die. Okay, so you can be sure that the boss won’t be in a crush-zone, but if you don’t know what’s coming it’s very hard to react in time. The patterns aren’t even the same each time, so you can’t learn it by rote.

The whole thing adds up to an immensely frustrating level, where you’re doing a long, boring underwater bit again and again just to spend ten seconds in a boss fight. Sure, it didn’t take me too long to finally beat the bastard – twenty minutes at the outside – but it felt much, much longer. I hope this isn’t an indication of things to come. The game so far has been excellent, I don’t want the end to be spoiled by artificial difficulty.