First look: Sonic the Hedgehog for Apple TV

No longer tied to supporting their own consoles, in recent years Sega has aggressively brought classic and popular titles to a variety of platforms. Apple’s tvOS can now be counted among those platforms, as Sega has brought their most iconic character’s original adventure to the Apple TV with Sonic the Hedgehog. In this first look, we’ll see if the classic platformer still offers enough fun to merit it’s $2.99 price.

Sonic the Hedgehog was originally released in 1991 for the Sega Genesis, a rival marquee character to take on Mario. While Mario was beloved for being affable, Sonic captured the 90s fad of edgy characters with bad attitudes. More than anything, though, what Sonic offered over Mario was speed. Taking on the evil Dr. Robotnik, Sonic sped through levels full of loops, ramps, and other features that made the side-scrolling levels zoom past.

Sitting down to play Sonic for the first time in likely 20 years, I was amazed to find that the sense of speed remained impressive. While modern graphics have lapped the 16 bit era multiple times, Sonic still captures a fun feeling of blurring through levels unlike just about any other platformer.

One thing that might shock today’s younger gamers is just how hard the game is. Substantial parts of some levels will leave little opportunity to use Sonic’s speed, instead requiring precision platforming around spikes and over lava in classic retro fashion. Fortunately, the Apple TV version of Sonic adds a robust save system that means game over is never truly a game over (though there is an option to disable this, for the hardcore gamer).

Visually and aurally, the game appears perfectly preserved–I’ll leave it up to you whether that’s for better or worse. If you remember the original you’ll likely appreciate that it hasn’t been tampered with. To fresh eyes, the game might appear too dated to enjoy.

Beyond the new save system, the Apple TV version offers a couple other niceties. The entire classic game is wrapped in a nice new presentation that lets you see the original box and cartridge art for the Japanese, European, and American version. You can also play as either Tails or Knuckles, two characters that originally didn’t show up until later in the series.

A word on controls: like all Apple TV games, Sonic supports the Siri Remote, but after testing it, I can’t recommend playing the game that way and would advise anyone without a proper controller to pass on the game. The Siri Remote controls the game very strangely and makes it much more difficult due to imprecision. Playing with something like the SteelSeries Nimbus makes a world of difference.

All told, Sonic the Hedgehog for Apple TV provides a terrific time capsule of 16 bit gaming with a few added bonuses for a reasonable price, provided you have a game controller. For younger gamers who don’t have a soft spot for classic games, though, there are already better platformers on the Apple TV that should take priority.