By Louis Polite / December 11th, 2014
|Title||Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric|
|Developer||Big Red Button Entertainment|
|Release Date||NA: November 11, 2014
EU: November 21, 2014
AU: November 29, 2014
JP: December 18, 2014
|Age Rating||ESRB – E10+|
So, I have to be the one to review this. That’s just lovely. Nobody else wants to take this? Anyone? *sigh* … OK, here it goes. Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric is a 3D platformer from SEGA, made by Big Red Button Entertainment. Big Red Button Entertainment is a company comprised of former Naughty Dog developers. It’s a tie-in and prequel to a currently ongoing television show (of course known as Sonic Boom). This comes after successful titles like Sonic Colors, Sonic Generations and Sonic Lost World. Lost World was not a critical darling, but it’s still an accepted installment by the avid platforming fans. So, with that string of promise you’d expect good results, right?
Let me put this in perspective for you. Owning a Wii U means you don’t have to deal with as much of the game industry’s jaded advertising as an advantage to your under-the-radar console with a lack of third-party content. You may be one of those who is actually glad to be hidden away from all the games that tell you that cinematic smoke and mirrors are just fine as long as you give the player a false sense of interactivity once in a while, by making them “Press F to pay respects” to a casket by putting a hand on it. As a Wii U owner, you either get polished Nintendo exclusives naturally, or you get the rare exclusive third-party partnerships. You get immersive third-party titles like ZombiU, crazy crossover games like Hyrule Warriors or out-of-publisher/develop partnerships, products of high quality assurance like Lego City Undercover or Bayonetta 2!
What exactly am I trying to get at? Let’s recap. With the high success of Sonic (let’s not forget that people were claiming Sonic Boom was going to be essentially Sonic Adventure 3) and the high that Wii U owners are on, receiving a plethora of quality titles from this holiday and continuing on going into 2015, it surprises and pains me to say that for the lack of better words, Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, a AAA Wii U exclusive, is just not a good game. It’s not the quality you’re used to.
First of all, an abundance of Sonic fans (like myself) out there are sure to be interested in the story and the character development, so let’s get that out of the way. This game may be a prequel tie-in to the show, but you never get any hints of storytelling to link it to that whatsoever. The pretentious opening of Sonic being crushed under a pile of rocks doesn’t pay off, nor does it have any reason to be there. I won’t “spoil” it, but trust me when I say I wonder how something bad could happen to Sonic when he’s crushed by the rocks in the opening. He’s the main character! This scene then cuts to telling you what happened in the past 24 hours leading up to it, which is what you play through. The character interactions, while minimally catchy, do not pay off. In contrast to the show, which shows lots of colorfully animated characters with dynamic progression, the game offers you static characters with no ending goals. Nor do any of the relationships between the characters grow. The characters don’t even sound invested in what they are doing as the voice acting all sounds like it was done in very few takes. It’s really disappointing. Blasted by a shoddy tone along with vapid writing, you’d get more entertainment out of sitting two of those Furby toys in front of one another and watching them blab incoherently. You will learn more in a single 11-minute episode of the Sonic Boom TV show than you will in the lukewarm six-hour campaign of the game.
Some of you probably don’t care about the story of Sonic Boom and are here for the gameplay. Well, unfortunately, if you’re here for the gameplay, be prepared for non-skippable dialogs and scenes. The game doesn’t let you skip any of the motions, even if it doesn’t feel compelling to watch them. Which is ironic because now the complaints of the shorter cutscenes in Sonic Lost World will have people going in the opposite direction and wanting to skip the dry story.
The gameplay and design is a hidden problem. Confession: I actually did not realize I did not like Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric until the very end. How could that be? Well, I just kept playing, hoping that the monotonous gameplay would ramp up in difficulty or become dynamic and grow over time. It didn’t. The gameplay consists of action by four different characters who all travel together. Sonic has the ability to spin dash up walls and use a shoddy homing attack to get across gaps with blue balls (which very well represents my feelings with this game) as an access point. Tails uses a robot buddy to access small holes (which are yellow) to turn on switches (or whatever) to let the party go through, as well as using his flight to glide across air vents (also yellow). Knuckles can break hard rocks, dig underground and can only climb on specifically red-colored walls. Amy Rose is a gymnast who also has a hard-hitting pink hammer that can give those meanies a good thwomping. Her gymnast abilities make her the only character to have two mid-air jumps as opposed to one for the others, and she can use these extra jumps to reach pink pull-up bars and jump on balance beams and trapezes…which are pink.
Do you see a problematic pattern here? During the more linear sections of this game, it treats you like you’re stupid. Nothing in the level design seems organic. If you see the same object which will always have the same color on a wall or across a gap, you instantly know what you have to do. Never do you have to use your own brain to put together a creative solution. Does Super Mario 3D World tell you that you need Luigi to reach an extremely high place because of how high you can jump by having a green edge on it? No, it doesn’t. You had to be authentically creative, unlike this game. So, when you come across these character-specific areas, it’s predictable. When it’s time to actually do anything other than what is described above, it’s fairly uninteresting. It’s uninteresting because the non-dynamic portions of this game consist of a plethora of mediocre gaming templates.
First, you have your poorly-designed hub world. It’s a scattershot mess of platforms and speed boosts. A lot of it is jarring to navigate due to major technical problems that this game already has going for it. It’s a generic experience that amounts to a very small scope in the end. It’s also an abject failure at trying to capture the magic of your PSX platformers like Spyro the Dragon and Crash Bandicoot. The hub sections are dreadfully dry and boring. Navigating through it is awful — you can’t speed boost at all in this game — which makes traveling anywhere a long trek. Sonic can’t even spin-dash around because it only goes the distance of a worm and you’re done. The map system of the hub is severely broken because you can’t warp to any specific point (aside from a specific spot of each of the two major islands). If you feel lost and want to retrace your steps, you’ll need to either warp to the other island or warp to a previously beaten level and then exit out of it again after watching/listening to an unskippable dialog, then warp back to the beginning of the original island you were on. This is quite funny because this game has side quests and currency glutton pools meant for reconstruction of areas. It would be nice to warp back to these spots that are even designated on your map, but you can’t. It also doesn’t help that they’re all vague demands anyway, and that all of these side sojourns were made afterthoughts. There are upgradable RPG elements, as well, but don’t even waste your time. They amount to nothing, and one of them can only be unlocked by syncing up the 3DS version of Sonic Boom to this one. I always love a sprinkle of anti-consumerism on my crap sandwich!
Then you have your kiddie hopscotch platforming that bares no challenge. The only challenge you may have is to quickly use your electric whips (I can’t even be bothered to remember the actual name) to attach to zip wires or pull shields off of enemies. This is quite funny considering that you have an infinite number of lives providing the checkpoint you are at. In Sonic Lost World, you were making daredevil jumps, hanging on ledges and skirting around the edges (the only Sonic game that would let you shimmy!) to get where you need to go and putting the Prince of Persia to shame with wall running — a fun feat to master. Alternatively, in Sonic Boom, you have mindless beat ’em up sections with a tedium that puts the nocturnal werehog sections of Sonic Unleashed to shame.
If you just finished playing Bayonetta 2 (or even Hyrule Warriors), prepare for an amazing feeling of jarring adjustment, going from dynamic combat and colorful stimuli to mindlessly mashing the attack button to build up that combo meter. These sections get longer and longer as the game progresses, as if the game has ran out of ideas over time. This is where it gets gold. Finally, you have your running sections, which is quite contradictory considering you can’t free-form speed boost anywhere else in the game. The one time you are running, you are locked into an auto-running section. These sections provide little-to-no challenge. I’ve literally let Sonic and the gang run through tons of garbage obstacles and have passed an entire section (since we’re now back to a system where rings are your health bar and you can only have 100 of them for some reason). If you thought Sonic was always “Boost to win” or “Hold Right to win,” well, talk about a case of irony here!
So, it’s all just a pattern of endless static play. Hub exploration, enter level, running section, generic platforming, button-mashing beat ’em up on stock enemies, back to a running section, rinse and repeat! Maybe occasionally throw in a boss battle that has you attacking Metal Sonic on auto-run sections or have you button mash against opponents like Shadow The Hedgehog until you win. I wasn’t extremely offended by the formula, but the question you’ll ask the entire time is “When does the game get good? When do the stakes get higher? When does a sense of dynamic gameplay and storytelling come into play?”
It doesn’t. It just doesn’t.
Not even during the final boss which might as well just be another generic puzzle disguised as a fight. You’ll go through all the motions of this game and go through repetitive feeling levels as the game will throw you through combos of pairings like: “First you do a level with Sonic and Tails! Ok now go through a new part of the level with Knuckles and Amy!”. You’ll get these pairs switched between the four throughout the whole game to hide the monotony of the game. It just doesn’t get good and it ends abruptly before any incline is ever made with practically no climax and no ending. Not even co-op, where one player uses the TV and the other uses the gamepad, can save it. There is a difficulty increase for a new game plus type of experience but the issue with this game is that there’s absolutely no replay value. Just kind of increasing the difficulty isn’t enough. You want to know what the sad part about this review is? I’ve only talked about the structure of the game! I haven’t even talked about the shoddy programming of this game which practically needs an entire page of its own.
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