What isn't much of a pleasure, though, are Episode II's boss fights, which continue their predecessor's predilection for simplicity and repetition. Now, however, because there are two of you, and because rings (which double as Sonic's life meter) are so plentiful, it's almost impossible to die. This makes such encounters (especially the ones with Sonic's evil doppelganger, Metal Sonic) little more than time-wasting chores. It also allows clever players to cheese up their extra lives by collecting tons of rings and just not fighting the bosses at all. While some might chalk this up to meta-gaming, you quickly find yourself yawning and hoping against hope that after whatever boss fight you're engaged in is another segment.
Hedgehogs usually thrive in the desert, but years of being pampered have made Sonic soft.
Even though the console versions and the PC version are largely identical, you might have a great deal of difficulty finding partners to game with on PC, simply because no one seems to be playing Episode II. The best medicine for this is just to have a buddy come over and play locally, but it's disappointing--although not really the fault of the game itself--that PC gamers can't find anyone to jump in and out of games with at random. Other than that, though, the games play and look (and sound) identical across platforms. And while the look is now considerably easier on the eyes than it was in Episode I (ugly, prerendered backgrounds have been replaced with layered, moving ones, for example), the sound is still subpar. Sure, the trademark sound effects you've come to know and love are here, but the music is mostly forgettable and at times (like Dr. Robotnik's boss battles) is incredibly repetitive and annoying.
A good follow-up doesn't just add new content--it improves on the original. In that critical sense, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 disappoints. While the addition of cooperative play is a big step in the right direction, the core elements that made Episode 1 a tepid experience persist here: mediocre level design, slow pacing, and erratic levels of fun. Like its predecessor, this is a functional "time waster" of a game, but should you spend too long in its world, Episode 2 reveals its feet of clay.
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