Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 is almost here, and many Sonic fans are waiting with bated breath for the latest instalment in the long-running franchise. After what some felt was a lack-luster return to form in the previous episode (read our iPhone review of Sonic 4: Episode 1 here), expectations are high for the second part to make improvements where the first part failed. That, and the promise of being able to play as Metal Sonic if you have both episodes, make Episode 2 a highly-anticipated game among many players.

Those who have been waiting patiently for Episode 2‘s release date wound up getting a rather pleasant surprise last weekend, as an incomplete version of the game was accidentally released on Steam for a brief period of time before quickly being removed from the online service — though not before some users were able to download and try the game for themselves.

One player was able to screencap downloading the game before it was removed from Steam. You can see it for yourselves below.

The released beta was filled with bugs and texture errors, as expected, but players were still able to try out the game for a short while, and get a taste of what’s to come — including the game’s bonus stages, which are reportedly a throwback to the 3D-esque stages from Sonic the Hedgehog 2. The game was only up for a short time, however, as Sega quickly caught wind of the leak and deleted all news of it from their official forums, then got Steam to remove the game, too.

You can see some screencaps from the accidental release below.

Sonic 4 Episode 2 Bonus Stage Screenshot 1

After giving Sonic 4: Episode 2 a try, one player noted that a few issues present in the previous game are now fixed, such as the momentum problems. Another commented that “you don’t lose forward momentum when you jump and rolling does pick up speed down slopes,” so at least Sonic Team is aware of the fan complaints and are trying to answer them. Whether or not this will ensure the game’s success remains to be seen, but this is still a good sign.

Hopefully Sonic 4: Episode 2 can win over enough fans to ensure that the Sonic franchise still goes strong from here on out. Since Takashi Iikuza has remained tight-lipped on whether or not a third episode is in the works, a successful run here could be enough to entice him to continue.

Will you be downloading Episode 2? Were you able to sneak a peek this weekend during the leak?

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 will arrive on May 15, 2012, for 1200 Microsoft Points on XBLA, and 14.99 for PSN and PC.

Source: The Sonic Stadium, CVG, Kotaku