Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric

As some of you may already know, when growing up I didn't have the luxury of owning multiple consoles. So back in the early 90's Sega Mega Drive was my gaming platform of choice. From the likes of Streets of Rage, The Revenge of Shinobi and Terminator Versus Robocop, the Mega Drive was a pretty awesome system. Of course, it goes without saying that I also loved the Sonic the Hedgehog series, the flagship series and mascot of the Mega Drive itself. My favourite was Sonic 2, as with levels such as Casino Night Zone, Oil Ocean Zone and Chemical Plant Zone, it was without a doubt the stand-out title of the series. However, as the series progressed into the realm of 3D it started to fall from grace. With all that speed being iconic to the series, most of the 3D Sonic titles since Sonic Adventure felt clumsy, awkward and just plain wrong. Sega have tried everything to kick-start the series again though, mostly either going for fake attempts at nostalgia or rebooting the series entirely. This latest entry in the series goes for the latter approach. But Sonic Boom isn't just one of the worst Sonic games ever made, but one of the worst games I have ever played.

Developed by Big Red Button Entertainment and out now for Wii U comes Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, a game that, for me at least, is proof that Sonic the Hedgehog needs a rest, and a long rest at that. Sonic Boom is a complete reboot of the franchise, as in this world Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Amy are already friends, and you'll play as all of these characters throughout the game. After escaping from ever evil Dr. Eggman (who, by the way, should only be called Dr. Robotnik, but whatever), Sonic and his friends find refuge inside a cave. But this is no ordinary cave, as it's a cave that houses the ancient remains of Lyric, a huge armoured snake of doom. Naturally, Lyric comes back to life and plans to wipe out all organic life on the planet, in favour of robots. Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Amy must work together to stop Lyric in its bid of worldwide destruction.

OK, where do I start? Sonic Boom has many, many problems. First off, in playing Sonic Boom you'd be forgiven in thinking it's not a Sonic game, because it's a rarity that Sonic gets to unleash his true speed. Whereas past 3D Sonic titles have screwed up on translating Sonic's insane speed to a three dimensional world, Sonic Boom just tries to hide it under the rug for the most part. Sure, there are segments in which you get to speed around, but they literally take no skill whatsoever and simply rely on dodging various obstacles. I'm all for someone trying something new with the Sonic series (after all, it's not like the last 10 games worked anyway), but Sonic Boom doesn't play, look or feel like a Sonic game. The ENTIRE Sonic the Hedgehog series was based around the main character running fast. That's it. In Sonic Boom he literally jogs for 70% of the game, with the remaining 30% just being a disappointment.

The rest of the game essentially plays out like a really substandard platformer. From searching for items across the badly designed world, collecting gold rings and fighting a lot- and I mean A LOT- of generic and easy enemies, Sonic Boom is painfully mundane. Big Red Button Entertainment have tried to add flavour to the game in a few ways though. Each character has their own abilities, and because you can freely switch between Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Amy, levels are based upon using certain characters at specific times in order to advanced forward. Unfortunately level design is just so damn bland and lifeless that using, say, Knuckles to climb up a certain wall, or Tails to fly up to a ledge just doesn't feel rewarding or unique. Even Sonic Adventure 2 had levels full of surprises, wonder and fun. Sonic Boom has levels full of crappy textures, NPCs who look like they're having a stroke and large empty spaces devoid of any charm. Then you have the other ace-in-the-hole Sonic Boom has going for it: the Enerbeam. The Enerbeam sounds pretty epic, right? It's basically a weapon that resembles a lasso, and you can use it to grab enemies, items or ride rails. This is the gameplay mechanic that sets Sonic Boom apart from every other title out there- a gimmick that I'm pretty sure was in every second Playstation 2 game in existence.

To top it all off Sonic Boom looks dreadful. While I've harped on about level design already, the new redesigns of the characters are laughable. For some reason Sonic and Knuckles both have bandages of their feet and hands. Why? Who knows, but it just comes across like an awful design choice. Then you have Knuckles who looks like he injected steroids directly into his shoulders, chest and back. Then you have Amy who, compared to her original incarnation, constantly has this sly, shit eating look on her face. Then there's Tails, and his redesign basically comes down to strapping a belt and goggles on him, you know, because he's a nerd or something, I guess. Ugh. It just stinks of complete laziness, and I came away from Sonic Boom hating the characters I grew up adoring. When playing it I could only think of one thing. Remember that episode of The Simpsons where Homer becomes Krusty the Clown's double? There's a scene in which Homer, genuinely thinking a Hamburglar-like character is stealing Krusty burgers, bashes the back of his head off a rock. The crowd of kids are stunned as one kid sobs, “STOP! STOP! He's already dead!”. Sega is Homer. Sonic is the dude getting his head caved in.

Sonic Boom ruined by childhood so it gets a 1/5.


Denis Murphy

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