Sonic Boom is a bad game. It’s not even Sonic the Hedgehog for Xbox bad, that at least tried and failed to be a Sonic game. Impossible as it sounds, Sonic Boom plays like a game made by people who have never played a Sonic game, for an audience who has never played a Sonic game.
It’s fine chase new audiences. The game is clearly aiming younger and the game's creators acknowledge that the vast majority of people buying this thing won’t be veteran gamers. Sonic Boom is a full shift away from Sega’s Japanese development team to US-based studio Big Red Button Entertainment, a move based on 'transmedia synergy'. The character models and story in Sonic Boom will be deployed across all media platforms, mobile, television animation and in your local toy store.
It’s an ambitious effort for sure, but it’s anchored by what appears to be a rather poor game.
Having spent a chunk of time confusing myself with Sonic Lost World at E3 last year, I took the plunge with again Sonic Boom on the Wii U.
Forgive me for echoing previous critiques, but everyone is inexplicably wearing bandages for some reason and Knuckles appears to have developed a rather egregious HGH habit. But one can forgive unfortunate art direction if it’s in service of or at the very least buoyed by story, character and gameplay. Unfortunately few of these were present in the demo.
The core gameplay flaw is that Sonic is not fast. The level I played was hobbled with semi-puzzles that, when solved, emit a groan as opposed to a sigh of relief or a feeling of satisfaction. These puzzles are based around a character quick-switch mechanic in the style of Sonic Heroes, where different characters’ abilities can solve different problems. Like Knuckles’ newfound digging ability, or Tails’ ability to fly.
Don’t worry though, everyone has electric lassos. You can use them to slowly drag blocks or pull levers or swing around.
Sonic do games love a good gimmick. Maybe he turns into a werewolf this time or his stand-in wields a gun while driving a car. These gimmicks are frequently the downfall of otherwise reasonable games, Shadow the Hedgehog notwithstanding. At least when you stumble through a werehog level in Sonic Unleashed you are to be rewarded with a regular Sonic level. At least a few people liked Sonic Colours. When these gimmicks slow gameplay, they fail. And both the character switching and the lasso do exactly that.
Unless they showed us a particularly bad slice of the game, there is nothing to look forward to but an uninspiring and poorly designed boss fight designed around electric lassos.
If we search for a silver-lining: The cut-scenes look alright? Eggman’s new design is pretty cool? The 3DS version seems alright comparatively?
Sonic fans will find a way, we always do.