I'm reviewing this as someone who never played the original, but also as someone who has religiously beat Sonic 3 + Sonic & Knuckles back in the day for the Genesis. So my first time ever playing it is April, 2015.
On a game like this, you can't really critique graphics/sound since it was originally released over 10 years ago, so I won't base my review on graphics or sound at all.
It's a cute Sonic game, but it lacks substance and coherency. Maybe that's just a result of the time period of when it was released and the technology that it was released on. It's a very short game - 6 levels with 3 zones each. It's super easy to beat except for a vew rare instances like the level with metal sonic. He's a ♥♥♥♥. Those conveniently placed metal spikes on the ground also suck. Especially that one that's only half on the ground and half floating in the air (derp?) because of a slope. Also, it doesn't really tell you this but you're supposed to race him... thanks for that heads up! (I FINALLY MADE IT TO THE END ALIVE! WAIT WHAT IT JUST KILLED ME??)
The concept of lives is pointless. It just lets you respawn at the last check point that you've passed. If you lose all lives, you can just load up the save and start from the beginning of the level. The levels are so short that it really doesn't matter if you lose all lives other than the annoyance of having to go back to the main menu and loading the save again.
Sonic has a new move (compared to Sonic 2 and Sonic3/Knuckles) which is just like the spin dash but you hold up and then hit a button. Supposedly it goes faster than the spin dash at the trade-off of leaving you vulnerable to attack. I never really encountered a situation where I would want to use this over the spin dash. I didn't even know it was in the game until I saw it being done in a YouTube video. I think this one is in the game manual... but who reads those anyway, especially digital ones.
Control-wise it felt like a classic Sonic game, except momentum felt off. I don't know how to explain it. Also, Sonic takes a really exaggerated amount of time to start moving in a direction from a full stop. "Herp derp I have to start moving my feet now."
I don't really understand the past/present/future concept. It is not explained at all in the intro video. Maybe it is something that was explained in the game booklet/manual. I kind of figured it out after reading about it online, but it still doesn't really make sense with the information provided to us by the intro video or any other storytelling cues. I don't know why you would ever seek out to change the time period except for going into the past for the achievements.
The special stages are really ♥♥♥♥ing annoying. There is no reason whatsoever for Sonic to HAVE to be constantly moving. It's just infuriorating that he has to be moving all the time and turns ridiculously slow for no REAL reason. Also, wtf time stones? What's the point of them? It seems all they do is give the "good" futures for levels instead of destroying the teleporters and hologram metal sonics -- which I didn't know even existed in the game until I read about it online for the achievements.
The achievements are a pain in the ♥♥♥, especially with the lack of a "Restart Level" option from the pause menu. Why would you ever not have that option?? So I have to waste time going back to the main menu and then loading the saved game again. You also can't level select (besides time attack mode which isn't always the best option for achievements since they remove the past/future sign posts). So achievement hunters may be playing the whole game over and over :/
Achievement hunters should avoid this game. There's only 12 achievements, but they are not worth the pain and suffering and you will grow to really hate this game.
- Classic Sonic look and feel.
- Too much not explaining what or why story-wise and gameplay-wise.
- Some interactive environment objects don't make it clear that you're supposed to interact with them or how.
- You can beat the whole game and never know about a lot of things -- such as the enemy teleporters and metal sonic holograms in the past.
- There's no reason to change time periods unless you're going for achievements which are all done in the past.
- Special stages: Sonic being forced to always be moving and super slow turning for no reason other than to ♥♥♥♥ you off.
- No restart level option from pause menu (even at the cost of a life).
- The concept of lives is pointless.
- Way too easy except a few parts that are way too hard.
- The Wacky Workbench level is annoying as hell with the ground that shoots you way up into the sky.
- Sonic's movement's momentum feels off and it takes an exaggerated long time to start moving from a full stop.
I don't think this game is worth the money unless you can pick it up for a dollar or two and really want a short retro experience or played the original and want the nostalgic trip.