Developer(s) – Big Red Button Games
Publisher(s) – Sega
Director(s) – Bob Rafei & Jeff Lander
Producer(s) – Lisa Kapitsas & Stephen Frost
As I said in my last article, I had high hopes for this latest attempt at reviving the Sonic the Hedgehog series, since it looked like no other Sonic game that had ever been released before under it’s original creators Yuji Naka and Naoto Oshima, and I’d never been a huge fan of the series prior. I believed that it could even be the best Sonic game ever, granted that it was done right. Unfortunately, whilst the gameplay formula isn’t terrible, the title does have flaws; a lot of them.
Graphics – 6/10
To a small extent, Rise of Lyric is more conceptually compelling and different to many other games in the series. Bob Rafei, formally of Naughty Dog, having worked on some of their greatest games, such as both the Jak and Daxter and Crash Bandicoot series’, and the influence that he had on the project is made extremely apparent from the word go. But despite that, this is most probably the most unpolished game I’ve seen on the Wii U since the console’s launch. There is even a glitch in the game, which can be exploited to skip the majority of levels in it, and complete in just over an hour. The game clearly hasn’t been properly tested, and gamers and fans of the series alike have theorized that it could do with the developers wanting to simply rush it out to retail to coincide with the release of the Sonic Boom TV show. In all honesty, it wouldn’t surprise me if this were indeed the case; video games have been rushed out to retail for one reason or another before.
Gameplay – 5/10
Ever since I first saw footage of this game, and then went on to see even more at the Tokyo Game Show, I’d always thought that it had potential; sadly, the developers have failed miserably to live up to it. The combat system in the game is largely dull and unrefined, and the puzzles found throughout the game can be seen by many as being far too easy. People could argue that this is because the game is marketed primarily for kids, but there have been greater challenges found in kid’s video games than in this title. What also really annoys me about this game is that it’s set in an open world, and there is no map system from the get-go, presenting the same very unnecessary complication, which can be attributed to early unperfected 3D platformers, such as Blasto.
Controls – 8/10
Another aspect in which players can encounter unnecessary complications is in the game’s control scheme. The jumping mechanics are pretty inaccurate and the camera angles can be particularly awkward in many instances. Although there aren’t many other problems with the controls scheme besides these, they still make the game gratuitously hard to enjoy. 3D platformers have been around for way over a decade now, and to think that developers are still having problems making them, after the formula has been perfected time and again, is beyond me.
Lifespan – 4/10
With adamant players only being able to make the game last for roughly 10 hours, Rise of Lyric falls extremely short of what an exceptional lifespan should be for a game of its genre. Some platformers like Super Mario Galaxy can be made to last up to 25-30 hours, since there is a lot to do in that particular game, and a lot of incentive for making progress. But in Sonic Boom, though there is small RPG element to it, it’s nowhere near expanded on enough to warrant the game lasting any longer than it does.
Storyline – 5/10
The story involves the four familiar heroes Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Amy chasing their arch-nemesis Dr Eggman only to arrive in an uncharted world, and accidentally awaken a potentially greater threat called Lyric, who had laid dormant for centuries. After awakening Lyric, he and Eggman team up, and it is up to Sonic and company to stop them. The main problems I had with the game’s story were that it seemed to be mainly fan service. There’s no back story given to any of either the main or supporting characters and there isn’t really any true insight provided into any of them either. Though it does include a lot of classic Sonic characters, such as Shadow and Metal Sonic, as well as a few new ones thrown in for good measure, it clearly works best for fans of the series, and the developers have seemingly made no attempt at trying to weed in potentially new fans of the series by possibly explaining fully who these characters really are, or why they should even care.
Originality – 6/10
I believe the thing that developers got most right in the entire process of making this game was their willingness to take the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise into a daring and initially potentially exciting new direction. But aside from that, there isn’t much else that people will be able to point out about this title to effectively distinguish it from the many other great 3D platformers that have come before it, such as Okami and Sly Cooper. Bob Rafei’s influences are also made far too obvious throughout, and for a developers who over the years has made a habit of reinventing himself in terms of artistic presentation, I think the effort he has made in the development of this game is very unworthy of him.
In summation, while Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric isn’t the worst game I’ve played throughout 2014 (by some distance, that honour would go to Proteus), and not quite as bad as most other critics seem to be labelling it as, it has certainly been one of the most disappointing. For a game that initially showed a lot of potential all year round, it fell way short of the high expectations that gamers had for it, and for many Sonic fans, it could now potentially be the last straw. It’s a shame, as I still think that having looked at this game, an open world Sonic the Hedgehog 3D platformer could make for a pretty good game if it were to be done properly, and handled by developers with more experience in the field. This game was simply a question of trial and error, and I think if all the imperfections of the game are worked on, we could have a particularly great game on our hands. But alas, having seen the ill reception that this game had received, it would seem unlikely that not many developers would want to touch Sonic this gameplay formula, or now even the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, with a 60-foot pole.