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Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric review

AT A GLANCE
  • Lighthearted story suitable for kids
  • Decent variety of gameplay
  • Easy for younger gamers to play
  • Controls lack precision
  • Too slow-paced and easy for many adults
  • The horrible twin-stick boat segment

Back in the PlayStation 2 days, store shelves were practically drowning in mediocre 3D platforming games aimed at kids. It may be a Wii U title that came out this year, but Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric would have fit in perfectly next to middling games starring The Incredibles or Spongebob Squarepants in 2006. Neither outstandingly good nor bad, and making the assumption that younger gamers are fundamentally less skilled, Sonic Boom seems doomed to fade into obscurity just like its spiritual predecessors.

The kid-filled toy and comic ads on the back of the manual should be a tip-off. If you miss those, the Saturday morning cartoon nature of Sonic Boom's introduction makes it quite obvious that this isn't a game for steely-eyed hedgehog veterans. On the run from the ever-present villain Eggman, Sonic and his buddies take a painfully easy trip through a jungle race track before accidentally unleashing an ancient evil snake named Lyric. Lyric is mad at the world and obviously in need of hugs, so of course the answer to beating him involves demonstrating the power of friendship. Everybody in the cast is exuberantly child-friendly and far too willing to share obvious tips on what to do next. It's all perfectly great if you're eight years old, but pretty annoying if you're not.

Although it becomes increasingly complex and interesting later on, Sonic Boom is rarely challenging to play. Just as with the kid-friendly story, that's either a positive or negative depending on who is playing. This is more of a exploration-based adventure than the speed-based platformer that fans of classic Sonic games might expect. Most of the game is spent ambling along, exploring and solving simple puzzles rather than running through fast-paced mazes. While there are times when Sonic and company go fast, they're either non-interactive moments or are segments that don't require much in the way of reflexes. Battles are separated out from most platforming segments and are marginally more difficult than normal gameplay, but still quite forgiving.

This lack of challenge is just as well, because the controls are slippery and the camera can be problematic. Sonic and friends move a bit like a car with an overactive accelerator, making it very easy to slip off platforms or overshoot targets. The camera, though far from the worst I've encountered, gets stuck at times and doesn't show the entire battlefield during fixed-camera combat segments. It's no fun to fall off the stage because you can't see where you're going, and it's no fun to be shot by a robot that is standing off stage-right. At least Sonic's healthy life pool means that death in combat is rare, and frequent checkpoints help keep falling deaths from being terribly inconvenient.

Your own personal Sonic

There are a couple ways to personalize Sonic and his team. You can spend the crown orbs that are hidden all over the world to unlock power-ups. These are quite useful, especially Secret Stash, which allows you to return from being knocked out with a reserve of extra health. It's great for those camera-induced falling deaths. Completing side quests awards power shards, which boost a character's combat abilities. You can mix and match shards between characters, so Sonic can create extra explosions after defeating a foe while Amy decides to live on the edge and do more damage when her health is low. Most of the power shard choices are situational or uninteresting, so I generally kept the explosive shard equipped on everybody. Boom!

Where Sonic brings the fun is in the variety in the action that it offers. Many sections of the game are quite entertaining despite the lack of difficulty. Zip-lining, dashing atop water, and leaping all over a giant robot are among the highlights. In addition, each of the four playable characters (Sonic, Amy, Tails, and Knuckles) has a unique fighting style. Busting evil robots with Sonic feels appropriately frenetic, while Tails requires a more strategic approach and Knuckles packs a satisfying punch.

Everybody has special out-of-combat abilities as well. It's particularly fun to hover-glide as Tails and do gymnastics as Amy. Tails’ ability is flexible and great for surveying levels, reaching secret areas, or making difficult jumps much easier. Amy can only do gymnastics on special pink platforms that let her balance, swing, and flip around, but her lively animations make these segments feel exciting.

Things fall apart a bit when Sonic and friends depart from the more linear action-packed levels and roam around the sparse hub world that connects them. Dull and difficult to navigate, it's particularly bad in the beginning when there's no map available and Team Sonic is dumped into it without any instructions. Even after its map is finally unlocked and the destinations are made clear, the hub world could have easily been replaced by a menu that allowed players to get to the good stuff as quickly as possible.

Several other flubs in quality keep Sonic Boom from being a great game even for the younger set that it's meant to entertain. Sometimes the sound cuts out for a moment, or it feels like pieces of the story cut-scenes are missing. It’s difficult to tell if the story is disjointed or if scenes are being skipped by a technical error, but it’s jarring either way. A few game segments also stroll into awful mandatory mini-game territory. Particularly bad is the twin-stick shooter level, which drops you onto a boat and forces you to steer with the left stick and shoot with the right while a million bad guys come at you. It's hard to control and unlike the rest of the game, offers few opportunities to refill the health bar between enemy waves. I wouldn't be surprised if this is the point where the targeted kiddos throw in the towel.

Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric comes close to being a decent platformer for the elementary school crowd. It certainly abounds with youthful enthusiasm, and that works well during its better action sequences, or when Knuckles gleefully exclaims, “Bounce pads are cool!” If its developers had resolved its control and camera issues, cleaned up the cut-scenes, and shot the twin-stick boat level into outer space, it could have at least been a decent holiday gift for the little ones. Instead, it's a forgettable game that is greatly outshone by other Wii U offerings this year. Kids who are in love with the Sonic cartoon that's currently on TV might dig it for a while, but everybody else can find far better games to play.

More Info

Release date: Nov 11 2014 - Wii U (US)
Available Platforms: Wii U
Genre: Adventure
ESRB Rating:
Everyone 10+: Cartoon Violence

Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric is too slow-paced, too easy, and too childish for teen or adult Sonic fans, and its control and design issues make it difficult to recommend even for its target audience.

24 comments

  • tyler_14_420 - November 25, 2014 11:49 a.m.

    This game is fun for the wrong reasons. Everything about this game is downright wrong. The dumb on-rails boss fights, the terrible camera, the horrible character updates (Why is Knuckles now as smart as a rock?) and the rediculous voices. I spent more time laughing at the game (and it's failings) rather than really enjoying it. At best, this will just be Stream Bait so people can see how bad it is. I can't recommend anyone actually pays money for this game.
  • watevermanimlost - November 24, 2014 8:26 p.m.

    I think that might be too generous a score given the fact the game is broken, unfinished and unpolished.
  • homestar99 - November 24, 2014 5:38 p.m.

    Let's all sing the poop song ladies and gentlemen!
  • winner2 - November 24, 2014 4:35 p.m.

    Tell me GR...will the tears ever stop?
  • Jackonomics2.0 - November 24, 2014 3:31 p.m.

    SEGA: "HOLY SHIT WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT!?" BigRedButton: "That's the game!" SEGA: "BUT I THOUGHT YOU SAID YOU WORKED AT NAUGHTY DOG!?" BigRedButton: "I cleaned the bathrooms at Naughty Dog! I was the lead programmer for Bubsy 3D!"
  • watevermanimlost - November 24, 2014 8:22 p.m.

    SpongeBob Square pants is a good show.
  • shawksta - November 24, 2014 3:15 p.m.

    Im actually surprised somebody who isn't Justin reviewed this game and gave it generous score. Given the game and actual show, it seems very clear the major focus was on the show itself and the game's are just tagging on it, this is some Activision style business and it just stinks this is how the Sega agreement Nintendo made ended up, the franchise in general doesn't know where it wants to go. Generations was only good because Nostalgia and fixing old 2D levels into 3D and Vice Versa, and Lost World tried to go into a more platform heavy territory but nobody asked for it.
  • pl4y4h - November 24, 2014 3:10 p.m.

    Kids won't care and I assume thats what the developers were thinking
  • Psylockerules - November 24, 2014 2:25 p.m.

    im supriosed its so high, honestly, played it round my nieces and its a hot buggy mess
  • BladedFalcon - November 24, 2014 12:19 p.m.

    Took you guys long enough... Also, a 5 seems mighty charitable considering what everyone else have been saying and shown about the game. Specially those hilariously horrible glitches and cutscenes. Oh, and dat dialog... But who cares right? The sonic cycle will begin anew, and fanboys will forget their lesson here and get excited all again anyway once the new game is announced..
  • Vonter - November 24, 2014 1:02 p.m.

    What keeps this series alive? I mean any other mascot series will be long forgotten.... Hmm, I suppose the lack of them might be the reason.
  • BladedFalcon - November 24, 2014 6:23 p.m.

    I think that it's because Sonic appeared at just the right time in videogame culture, and provided an icon for an entire generation of teens that were just growing up with gaming, he was just the right mix of "attitude" with a distinctive and iconic design, and pretty solid games. (I say solid, not great, because I've never considered ANY Sonic game, even the first ones, to be truly great or that do anything that breaks the mold.) So for the longest time, he was the symbol of "cool" for games, because Nintendo and Mario were anything but. He was SEGA's Bugs Bunny to Nintendo's Mickey Mouse, and so, an entire generation rooted for him and stood behind him, no matter what he did, and even praised his games even when they were flashy but shit to play. (I'm looking at you, Sonic Adventrues 1 & 2.) So, honestly? I think the only reason Sonic has endured this long where most other mascots haven't. Is entirely due to the strength of his image, and what he represents, and how generations of gamers now desperately want said image to matter because they want to identify with him more than with the goofy, lovable Mario, who's also the spitting image of the "baby boomer" generation that Gen X and Gen Y people have grown to despise.
  • Vonter - November 25, 2014 12:40 a.m.

    So in other words, they can't let him go. But oh well there is essentially a movie planned of nearly every nostalgia property ever created. If there's a time to bury him its not right now. And it also seemingly has a semi decent comic series, that his fans can latch to. Now if only Bomberman could have been as lucky.
  • BladedFalcon - November 25, 2014 5:17 a.m.

    Pretty much, yeah. Never was gonna happen. Bomberman was great, but nothing about his design is "cool" at all, and it was more along the lines of Mario in terms of aesthetic appeal. And, to be fair, Hudson soft did squander the property really bad for almost a decade before killing it entirely.
  • Vonter - November 25, 2014 9:58 a.m.

    But the adventure games had still potential, especially since they could have added a physics engine to make each bomb type different. But yeah, the last adventure one, Bomberman Jetter was lazy and it was also tied to a cartoon apparently.
  • shawksta - November 24, 2014 3:16 p.m.

    One day ONE DAY Ah screw it IS IT TOO MUCH TO ASK FOR DAYTIME UNLEASHED LEVELS BEING MADE INTO A GAME WITHOUT THE WEREHOG.
  • BladedFalcon - November 24, 2014 6:05 p.m.

    Dude, you do remember I called this the very second the game was revealed here, right? :P Also, the answer to your question is obviously: Yes, it's too much to ask, SEGA clearly does not give a fuck.
  • shawksta - November 24, 2014 9:37 p.m.

    Yeah i know, but you'll never know when a game unexpectedly becomes a hit. I honestly want to see what would happen if Sega were to make a Mario game and Nintendo makes a Sonic game.
  • BladedFalcon - November 24, 2014 11:48 p.m.

    I promise you, No Sonic game will become an unexpected hit, ever again. The franchise will survive for a couple of years more while the younger generation of gamers get their new "hip" mascot. Once a new mascot inevitably takes over the place Sonic currently holds? No more Sonic games altogether will be made. Either that, or SEGA will flat out drop from making or licensing big budget console games altogether in less than 5 years. Which also sounds pretty fucking likely if you ask me. Either way, be in denial as much as you want, Sonic is done, you'll never see a great game from him ever again, A Solid one in the style of generations? maybe, but a truly great one that shines due to it's own merits rather than nostalgia? never. Marks my words.
  • shawksta - November 25, 2014 8:14 p.m.

    Im well aware of that fact. Sega themselves are barely holding up by themselves.

Showing 1-20 of 24 comments

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