There's reason to be concerned with Sonic Boom

Is Sega's latest Sonic game already running into trouble?

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There was a time at one point where Sonic the Hedgehog was in the midst of a renaissance in platform gaming. The original Sonic became a mainstay on the Sega Genesis, and the sequels that followed, including 2, 3 and Knuckles, continued to carry the series to prosperity.

Since that time, however, the saga has been hit-and-miss. On one hand, we've gotten some great racing games, like Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed, as well as the under-appreciated Sonic Generations. On the other, hand his transition into "new" territory has been questionable at best. Most notorious was his disastrous 2006 debut, featuring poor level design, too many limitations, and a weird, creepy romantic interlude with a human girl. Seriously, we're still trying to shake it off.

Sega tried to return Sonic to form last year with Lost World for the Wii U and 3DS. Even though some innovative ideas came into play, the game came up short in several areas, particularly with cohesive control (there were way too many accidental deaths) and problematic difficulty spikes. Plus, it just wasn't as much fun as Sonic's main platforming competitor, Super Mario 3D World.

So, the publisher has turned to a new publisher, Big Red Button, to bring Sonic out of the doldrums and into the light. However, upon introduction, Sonic Boom left a few fans upset. That's because the characters went through a redesign similar to what the animated show of the same name will have, with tall, lanky models compared to the Sonic characters of old. In fact, Knuckles is about as tall as a basketball player, easily towering over Sonic.

Still, Sega was determined to show that Sonic had indeed made changes for the better this time around, and a few weeks ago, brought the game to E3 for all to see. The new open-world approach to some levels is novel, and the ability to play with three others in co-op fashion is interesting, to say the least. However, a new video posted by the team at Nintendo World Report shows signs that we should be concerned.

How, you ask? Let's break down the three main problems.

It isn't entirely Sonic

As demonstrated through the video clip above, not every aspect of Sonic Boom's gameplay is really true to the nature of the series. For some strange reason, Sonic is now able to assault characters using his fists, rather than just bopping on them in a timely fashion. That's not all, though. There are some situations where you'll have to solve puzzles to move ahead, such as bumping a mine cart over to a fence in order to spring your way out.

Sonic games of the past didn't rely too heavily on puzzles. They were a cut-and-dry run through a stage, while finding secret routes along the way to unlock bonus goodies, such as 1ups. By doing this, Sega is essentially turning Sonic Boom into a more conventional platformer, rather than focusing on the gameplay that made him such a marvel to begin with.

That's not to say it won't work, as some fans may welcome the change. However, it's something that not all players will easily accept.

The new grapple technique

Again, Big Red Button is applying a game change that doesn't feel like Sonic, although it does present an interesting case as it goes on. The grapple technique enables Sonic and crew to grab onto wires, enemies and objects using some sort of electrical harness, instead of, you know, picking up something and hurling it at someone.

This is questionable. Did Tails build the tech that enables the grappling? Or does Sonic somehow magically seem able to interact with objects after getting hit by lightning? Either way, some fans may be turned off.

Again, the ability has its moments, particularly during boss fights, like the one featured in the video above. Still, it leads to Sonic assaulting Robotnik with his fists, instead of his tried and true methods.

Not everyone will be a fan of this mechanic, but, thankfully, it still works better than just plain punching. However, it can't overcome the biggest problem with the demo…

NO. ONE. SHUTS. UP.

Having characters talk in a video game can be a crucial element sometimes, moving the story forward or even showing the nature of how they get along. The Uncharted series, for example, is wonderful in this regard, as Nathan Drake talks to his cohorts (or bad guys) while performing actions seamlessly in the game.

Other times, however, it can be downright annoying. Exhibit A: Bubsy 3D, and the narrator who absolutely had nothing positive to lend to the experience. The reason that we bring this up is because Sonic Boom is filled with a lot of this sort of banter. No, we're not kidding. Just take a listen.

It's one thing to have characters talk every now and then. Throughout Sonic Boom, however, they do it a lot. Even if they have nothing worthwhile to say, they make lame comments. Case in point with Tails, who actually says at one point, "Last one to the bottom is a rotten Eggman!" Ugh.

It's one thing to carry over the tone of a game based on an animated series. We've seen it done lots of times, and in many cases, done right. But here, it almost seems like they're just afraid of silence. Even during the boss fights, we have to put up with ridiculously bad banter from Eggman ("Seriously, this suit makes me look cool, right?").

Can it be fixed?

When introducing something new to a general gameplay formula, it can go one of two ways. It can be an absolutely brilliant change for the better (like what Retro Studios with the magnificent Metroid Prime trilogy) or it can be a train wreck. Unfortunately, judging by what's been seen so far, Sonic Boom leans toward the latter, becoming more of a conventional licensed platformer, rather than evoking the magic we've come to expect from the Hedgehog to begin with.

Granted, the game still has months to go in development before its release, and Big Red Button could make changes that do away with some of these problems. Otherwise, as stated, there's plenty of reason to be concerned... even without the flaws that weighed down the other problematic games in the series.

The 3DS version, on the other hand, could be completely different. Being developed by Sanzaru Games (the same team behind the brilliant Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time), it looks to be closer to Sonic's general side-scrolling nature than the Wii U release. The addition of new characters still gives us pause, but we're more optimistic about this one regardless.

We'll find out for sure when Sonic Boom releases later this year for Wii U and 3DS.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    June 30, 2014 9:30 AM

    Robert Workman posted a new article, There's reason to be concerned with Sonic Boom.

    Is Sega's latest Sonic game already running into trouble?

    • reply
      June 30, 2014 9:43 AM

      I'm gonna be that guy: Sonic gamers were always terrible platformers. 2D, 3D--they were bland at their best. The only appeal of a Sonic game is revving Sonic up and watching him shoot forward, loop a few loops, and smash through walls. In essence, the best part of a Sonic game occurs any time you let the game play for you. When you do play, you have to fight floaty controls and mediocre platforming sections.

      Sonic was a big deal in the late 80s and early 90s because he was a hip mascot designed to attract gamers who felt they were too old for Nintendo's colorful, family-friendly Mario games. In other words, for gamers who felt they were too old to enjoy games that were more polished and had tighter controls.

      *drops the mic*

      • reply
        June 30, 2014 9:48 AM

        I can't argue with you. I always figured my bias was to being a Nintendo guy until I bought into the Dreamcast, but even then I didn't play/buy Sonic games outside of a quick demo here and there to see if my feelings changed. Nope.

      • reply
        June 30, 2014 9:50 AM

        gotta agree. "Fast" in 2d doesn't really work. Those loops etc like you say were not player controlled. If you had to play and interact at that speed, it would be like the jetski level from Battletoads. When it slowed down so you could actually controlled things it wasn't all that fun IMHO

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        June 30, 2014 9:50 AM

        Sonic's music, at least the first two games, were pretty memorable and excellent.

        I have to agree, I couldn't understand the gameplay, though. You'd have to memorize the level to really do it justice. Sonic just went too fast to really have any kind of control.

      • reply
        June 30, 2014 9:57 AM

        Maybe it's just nostalgia, but I recall Sonic 2 and Sonic Adventure being awesome.

        • reply
          June 30, 2014 9:59 AM

          Man, you even want to extend that claim to Sonic Adventure? Then it's definitely nostalgia.

          • reply
            June 30, 2014 12:13 PM

            No it isn't. First Sonic Adventure had some great levels. The "Adventure" part was meh, but the rest of the game was great fun.

      • reply
        June 30, 2014 10:06 AM

        Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 were great platformers in my opinion. They're still pretty solid today.

        • reply
          June 30, 2014 11:38 AM

          I love Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles!

      • reply
        June 30, 2014 10:19 AM

        have you actually played sonic 1/2/3? they were masterful platformers. i assume you never played passed greenhill zone or something. david i thought you were a better gamer than this.

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          June 30, 2014 11:12 AM

          I've played all 3. They never did anything for me. :-/

        • Zek legacy 10 years
          reply
          June 30, 2014 10:09 PM

          I played Sonic 1 on the Wii VC having never touched them as a kid and I hated it. I found it super frustrating how the game constantly punishes you for trying to go fast. If you haven't memorized the levels it's just an ordinary platformer with janky controls.

      • reply
        June 30, 2014 11:19 AM

        The only Sonic I played a lot of was the one where you could raise Chao. I was basically just playing Pokemon.

      • reply
        June 30, 2014 11:26 AM

        Sonic Spinball is the best pinball game of all time

      • reply
        June 30, 2014 11:37 AM

        Nah, Sonic 2 and Sonic CD are justified classics, and I was far more a Nintendo kid.

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          June 30, 2014 1:21 PM

          Sonic CD had the best music, love that stuff to pieces.

      • reply
        June 30, 2014 11:52 AM

        I was a Nintendo kid so I don't really know. I've collected a Genesis and some Sonic games though, I'm going to go try to finish one later and report back.

      • reply
        June 30, 2014 11:55 AM

        [deleted]

      • reply
        June 30, 2014 12:19 PM

        I agree with you 100%. They felt too loose, and for a game emphasizing speed so much, using it was always a really bad idea.

      • reply
        June 30, 2014 12:21 PM

        Agreed. I never liked Sonic anything.

      • reply
        June 30, 2014 3:25 PM

        Sonic and Knuckles Master Race signing ITT

        • reply
          June 30, 2014 3:26 PM

          Best Sonic game ever, in case anyone here dnkwtf

        • reply
          June 30, 2014 6:07 PM

          I've only played it once at a friends house and I was blown away IGN.com didn't exist back then

      • reply
        June 30, 2014 4:31 PM

        Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is pretty enjoyable from what I've played.

      • reply
        June 30, 2014 8:00 PM

        David, I can't disagree with you more.

    • reply
      June 30, 2014 9:55 AM

      They should just make more Sonic Generations. It was Sonics perfect transition to 3d.

      • reply
        June 30, 2014 10:12 PM

        No, it was a one-time 20th Anniversary thing. Let it keep being magical.

    • reply
      June 30, 2014 9:56 AM

      Sanic der heghod - http://sonicrunninglikeanidiot.tumblr.com/

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