You can keep Sonic Boom, America.
It’s almost impossible to come across someone who doesn’t know who Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog is. From first appearing on our screens as part of the Mega Drive console in 1991; he spun, jumped and looped-de-looped into our hearts – but nowadays, he’s become something of a laughing stock and with his new attempt, Sonic Boom coming to Europe on the 21st, he certainly seems like he isn’t going to be doing himself any more favours
The fast-paced, two dimensional platforming of Sonic’s earlier iterations were always going to be difficult to translate to the three dimensional world of gaming. The shift in the early 2000’s that brought about these drastic changes to the scene was hard on Sega’s flagship character. The Sonic Adventure series, released initially on the short-lived Sega Dreamcast, began to expand into what this strange new dimension could accomplish, but soon became abundantly clear that they were running out of ideas.
The game play on these early ‘Second Generation’ iterations was arguably solid, if a touch glitchy and buggy in places. But the over-the-top endeavour into coherent storyline that traces Sonic’s origins back to ancient civilisations, the introduction of the most unnecessary anti-hero in the guise of Shadow the Hedgehog (a very ham-fisted swing at bringing a brooding clone character into the mix), and the ‘evil’ Dr Eggman’s overall attempt at destruction of the world wherein humans and grotesque, humanoid rodents co-exist was a little too much to take for long suffering fans. Spawning the laughable at best glitchfest that was Sonic ‘06 and the downright forgettable Sonic Heroes in the process, Sega’s Sonic Team was against the ropes in terms of game design.
It was clear to Sega that Sonic was falling swiftly out of favour with the gaming community, they had tried too much and done too little to further the franchise. So rather than going back to basics, Sonic Team got gimmicky. Seemingly pulling game concepts out of their respective rear-ends featuring our beloved Blue-Bolt being transported back to Arthurian times to become a knight, having the affliction of turning into a (sigh) Were-hog at night and being propositioned by a genie in an Arabian Nights inspired setting – it all became a bit too much for Sonic fans to handle.
But in recent flourishes of a potential return to form in Sonic Colours and the nostalgist’s wet-dream that was Sonic Generations, the state of affairs waned from the tragically mediocre to the alarmingly playable and when the announcement for the next full Sonic title for the Wii-U was announced, the expectation was palpable. Then finally, a week ago today; ‘Sonic Boom – The Rise of Lyric’, developed by Big Red Button Entertainment, was released in the US. With shaking hands and child-like hopefulness, the game was booted up for the first time – and it is utterly abysmal.
The first clue should have come when they didn’t want to give out review copies to the press, the second should have been the shoddy concept art and the third should have been the unavoidable deadline that was forced upon them by a sickeningly corporate television series tie-in. But we could forgive all of this, if they actually finished the damn game. The framerate rarely peaks its juttery head over 25, the textures look like they’d slot in without so much as a double take on the Playstation 2 and the gameplay itself is a horrible mish-mash of derivative Ratchet and Clank-esque combat, forced character-swapping puzzle sections and nausea inducing ‘speed’ sections. What should have been a triumphant return to form for Sonic, crashed and burned before even reaching the first hurdle – a rushed mess that debauched a much loved mascot and supporting characters further than they already were. It was shoved out the door without as much as a ‘be safe!’ like an undeveloped toddler, where if they’d actually let it mature and gave it the proper amount of time it deserved, it could have been something grand.
You can keep Sonic Boom, America. Europe doesn’t want it.
Picture: Image courtesy of Sega Corporation