The revealing of Knuckles’ gargantuan arms and Sonic’s suave scarf were prophetic warning signs that the once beloved Sega franchise would likely be continuing down its tremulous path with the release of Sonic Boom. Quality has fluctuated since the Genesis era, and Rise of Lyric – a prologue to the newly launched cartoon series – places itself predictably and awkwardly as a bug-filled stumbling block, leaving the franchise face down in the spike-filled pit of licensed titles.
Rise of Lyric’s story is naturally simple; involving Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy taking on the diabolical Eggman (supported by Metal Sonic), along with the new titular antagonist: forgettable, run-of-the-mill cyborg serpent Lyric. While the plot receives minimal attention, the main characters do have some development, which is elevated by an experienced cast of voice actors. Our main hedgehog retains Roger Craig Smith’s witty voice from Sonic Lost World, and bulky Knuckles chimes in with the voice of Travis Willingham (of Full Metal Alchemist acclaim). While there are a myriad of moments where our protagonists repeat themselves to the point of hair-pulling annoyance, there are others where the quality of the voice actors shines through.
Sonic Boom puts a lot of effort into recreating the appearance and quality of its animated series. There’s an undeniable atmosphere about a Saturday morning cartoon; one that is carried forth into the action here. In other words, if you’re looking for an old-style Sonic game, this isn’t the place to go. Speed sections are still present and correct, and can work quite well, as you must jump and sidestep obstacles (as well as the seemingly mandatory Sonic moments where you’ve no control over movement). However, in order to accommodate all four main characters, Sonic’s mechanics have been morphed and slowed down from previous outings.
The game works similarly to other children’s action games such as the Lego franchise, and can be broken into three gameplay elements: exploration, puzzles, and combat. In each of these, the unique abilities of the characters must be utilised to tackle obstacles. Unfortunately, however, none of the tasks have been given enough attention, and we’re left with a game showing only hints of its true potential.
The structure is typical: a small, open world, breaking off into closed levels. Although noticeably bare, the hub world is far improved from the previous attempts by Sonic games, and despite the occasional frame rate struggle, its beauty and scope make it a joy to explore. However, this joy is swiftly quenched as you begin to run into the game’s innumerable issues. To name a few: Sonic and friends’ movements are drunkenly imprecise, the camera has a mind of its own, and worlds are poorly designed to the point of being disorientating.
Bugs are rampant in every location: your character can fall through walls to an infinite plummet, and can also get trapped behind objects. These design issues extend into Rise of Lyric’s closed levels which contain the majority of the game’s puzzle elements.
Puzzles are at times fun but also simple and too similar to one another; an annoyance aggravated by the seemingly uncontrollable urge of the characters to tell you the solution before you even gaze at the task in hand. Like a child with an overprotective mother, your hand is held too tightly as you vainly protest and cry, “I can do it by myself!”. Of course, one could argue that the game is for children; but, considering how popular the complex Minecraft is, even they may find Sonic Boom too easy.
Unfortunately, even if you do manage to get past these gripes, there’s little encouragement given with regards to the exploration of the world. None of the collectibles hold any real value, and many seem more trouble than they’re worth. Even the act of collecting rings seems pointless, as you can only reach 100 before the count ceases.
There are many moments where collecting can ostensibly appear fun, and the act of seeking out crowns – which are used for upgrades – can seem at first joyous. However, finding a purpose for your collected items is beyond taxing. None of the upgrades serve any necessary or meaningful purpose, and for the most part only help to enhance characters’ abilities in what’s already an overly simple combat system.
You may squeak at the idea of Sonic with combat, but, as you should’ve by now realised, this is anything but a typical Sonic game. As with navigation, each character’s attacks are unique – though not groundbreakingly so – and like the puzzle sections, Sonic Boom’s combat is simplistic with hints of fun resting beneath a wreckage of problems. For example, hammering X and Y can get you past pretty much every enemy skirmish (though switching between characters and hurling enemies around can be quite enjoyable). The protagonists shout motivation to each other, which does initially add to the combat before giving way to grating repetition. Even the characters themselves inadvertently point out another of the game’s issues here, stating that there seems to be no end to the amount of robots; indeed, the ceaseless torrent of metal gets very stale.
Not only this, but the bots also lack variety – only differing in the fact that they can come in different groupings. As a result, if players (understandably) decide not to mess around with the limited combat mechanics, fights can quickly become a bore. There are ratings given for combos, but getting a good rating mostly boils down to pure luck.
Overall, Sonic Boom’s gameplay makes it little more than a shallow, repetitive, hack-and-slash title. Raising the difficulty level, unlocked after completing the game, does little to dissipate this. The game’s multiplayer offering also fails to add depth to proceedings – with Dr Eggman’s eye-gouging commentary perfectly supplementing the several dreadful modes available.
In closing, Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric is a rushed TV tie-in. It does have hints of enjoyable moments and suggestions of what the game hoped to be: a simple, fun title that complemented its cartoon counterpart. However, an almost never-ending list of bugs and level design problems have left a mess of a game. Along with Sonic Lost World, it’s evident that the momentum gained from Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations has been all but lost. Sega has left us with a lazy, rushed cash-in; a game that, like Sonic ’06 before it, will leave fans feeling blue.