Review by Wolfcheese
And now, a word from someone who actually somewhat enjoyed this game
After I received this game unexpectedly and started playing it, I was flabbergasted to find that this game was receiving ratings of 1/10 and 2/10, and that I couldn't find a discussion on the game without most participants writing the game off completely. I am not sure if I am biased because adventure games are my favorite type of game, or if I enjoyed it more because I came to it with no expectations. However, I want this to be a review of its own merit, not a reactionary piece, so without further ado let's see what kind of final rating my grading rubric yields.
There are several different things happening in gameplay, so I am going to split it up, starting with the main attraction:
Open world: Sonic Boom is mainly an adventure game, which means the player will expect to feel lost sometimes. After the first story mission the heroes are thrown into the excavation site, which acts as one of two expansive hub areas, with no clear direction to go in. That means they will be spending plenty of time learning the lay of the land and finding things to collect using the heroes unique abilities. The main items they are after are robot parts, which act as a sort of currency, along with crowns, which unlock upgrade tiers but are mostly just trophy items. Robot parts are also used to renovate the hub areas, which will activate certain mechanisms or provide access to more goodies. Additionally, the hub areas have characters for the heroes to meet, who will give them missions to explore the hub areas further, or locate people in the story missions, in return for power-ups called power glyphs. Unfortunately power glyphs arent very rewarding to collect, as you can only have one assigned to each of the four heroes, and most of their effects are underwhelming. For those less patient than I when it comes to exploring worlds, a map is unlocked after a few story missions. The map lists the available objectives, including the next story objective which is marked with an exclamation point. The map also has fast-travel, which is kind of awkward to use because when the characters arrive at the chosen location, they always act like its their first time there, and there is also no distinction made for the player between which areas are story missions or not. Overall there isnt much action in this part of the game, but it is where the player will spend the most time, and will be the most interesting aspect for players in the mood for exploration.
Story missions: These levels that advance the story will play similarly to the open world, but they are much more linear in structure. There are side-quests and secret areas to explore, but overall the path is always obvious. The heroes tend to be split into pairs, which means the level design will cater to their unique abilities more. Using these is simple enough Sonic spin dashes up blue ramps and can homing-attack blue targets. Tails can fly up using yellow ventilation shafts, and use his buddy bot in small yellow portals to disable electronics. Knuckles can climb up red walls and monkey-swing from red ceilings. Amy can walk on pink balance beams and swing on pink parallel bars, and she can also use her hammer to activate switches in mid-air. These story missions are the center of the action, with traps to avoid and simple puzzles to put together. They are not very difficult, but one frustrating aspect is that there is no invincibility after the player is hit, which means they can take damage very rapidly. Thankfully, perhaps to counter this, the consequence of dying is pretty low the player will lose some robot parts and go to the last checkpoint, but otherwise no progress is lost even during a boss battle. The combat sections are mostly button mashers, using one of two attack buttons to bash robots. One attempt to change it up is a tool called the Enderbeam, which lets the player lasso enemies and throw them into each other. it is not very useful except to remove shields from enemies, or throw their projectile weapons back at them. There are also dash sections, which are similar to Sonic and the Secret Rings the only direction is forward. These are not very exciting, just move left and right to avoid obstacles or jump over them, although sometimes an alternate path can be used by snagging a hidden zipwire. This can help the player find more treasures. Overall the story missions are the bulk of the action, but that action is mostly mundane, and this aspect of the game wasnt as interesting to me as the open-world aspect was. There is an extreme mode which I have not tried yet, this is earned after completing the story. I feel that should have been an available setting from the start.
The length of the story itself is not very long I completed it within a week of receiving the game, although I also played it quite a bit heavily. I would estimate it took a little over 10 hours, which doesnt feel like a full-length game to me. That leaves me at 81%, and I will probably revisit the game again to try to aim for 100%, but it feels like the games life was cut short a bit.
The controls are easy enough to get used to. Sometimes the camera (right-stick) gets locked, but usually only during the side-scrolling sections. There should have been a control to specify the target of the enderbeam there were quite a few times I tried to target an enemy but the enderbeam would latch onto a different enemy off-screen. It would have also been nice to be able to detach from a zipwire as desired especially using the ones in the town on Bygone Isle.
This is one of the most beautiful Sonic games I have played. The character models are great, and the expanse environments are something I got immersed in. I particularly liked the lighting effects. My only complaint in this category is that some characters looked like strange puppets when they opened their mouths, namely Amy and the secondary characters.
The main focus here is the dialogue, which is a mixed bag but provides the game with most of its character. There are lines that the characters say over and over again, which serve as an awful reminder of Awesome Possum (yes, I have actually played that game). I speak of when the characters bounce on a spring, or get treasure, or collect rings they keep saying the same things constantly, and it gets irritating. Even the grunts they make when jumping get tiring to listen to. The other dialogue saved the experience for me though, usually making me smile. It helped set the heroes as a well-knit group of friends. I never tried to search for an audio setting to turn the voices off, because the game wouldnt have been the same without them.
The music is pretty good, and adds a cinematic feel to most of the settings. Bygone Island gets buggy though, and keeps switching between two musical tracks. Im not sure why that area needed two tracks anyway, they should have just kept the softer tune which is my favorite from this game.
The story is pretty basic stop the evil Lyric from obliterating organic life. Dr. Eggman falls into more of a comedic relief role, which I am actually fine with he had some of the best lines in the game. The main characters have slightly devolved into more stereotypical versions of themselves (especially Knuckles) but Amy is much better than in previous games. Not once did Amy fawn over Sonic, or anyone else, and I found this to be a huge relief because that used to be her entire personality.
The most jolting part of the story is the fact that it is a reboot out of nowhere the heroes have new body types and outfits (Sonic has a scarf, which to my entertainment gets made of throughout the game) and they are working with some guy named Cliff at an excavation site. There is no backstory to explain how they got to know Cliff or why they are hanging around at a dig site. But there are other pieces which clearly got cut from the game why does Shadow appear at all? He adds nothing to the story. Why do some characters speak of time travel like it is a more universal feature of the game, when it is only a side-effect of one level? I understand that visions of a game are usually grandiose and content must be carved out, but it could have been done so a bit more cleanly.
The chances of a player wanting to play through this game more than once are pretty low, if only because most of the action is pretty mundane. However there are also bugs that can inhibit players. Myself, I only got one bug where the game froze after the underwater level, which forced me to unplug the Wii U because it got locked up. If the game were more polished, I could have seen myself exploring the areas again anew, a few years down the road.
+ Large open world to explore
+ Easy to control, except for the enderbeam
+ Most dialogue adds character to the game
- Action parts are a bit dull and too easy
- Some of the dialogue is greatly repeated, which can be irritating
- Bugs can freeze the Wii U
This is a game I would only suggest buying out of the bargain bin I certainly dont feel it is worth the full price. If you are into adventure / exploratory games, I would give this a look. If you just want another Sonic game, I would probably skip this one.
Product Release: Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric (US, 11/11/14)
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