Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric
Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric acts as a Sonic Boom TV show prequel and also reminds players of days gone by for the Sonic franchise. Sadly, the latter isn’t of its heyday but of its dark age(s). Sonic as a franchise couldn’t catch a break on consoles since the demise of the Dreamcast. Sonic Heroes was a dud. Turning him into a rail-grinder didn’t work even if it retained his trademark speed, and the shift from fast-paced gameplay to slowed-down God of War-style stuff in Unleashed was a very large step in the right direction hampered by the latter segments.
Rise of Lyrics starts off promising enough – Dr. Eggman chases Sonic and his friends, and you send him on his way. Then the origin story of Sonic Boom starts and the fun slowly disintegrates. The gang now has short and long-range melee attacks for combat, but nothing really feels speedy. Attack animations are a bit slow. The lasso you can use for “get over here!” attacks is brisk, but doesn’t do much damage on its own. Sonic can spin dash around to kill enemies, while Knuckles can do a weird windmill punch and so on. Beyond those two, Tails and Amy are also playable.
Realistically though, playing as each character feels about the same as ever. This is in stark contrast to even the 16-bit era where every character had some unique traits and felt different. While Sonic was fast, Tails and Knuckles were very fast too and the pace was kept about the same no matter who you chose. Here, it’s like Sonic is scaled-back to not stand out too much, resulting in, as Sideshow Mel would say, the height of tedium.
The game is structured around lightly jogging from point A to B, hitting a great many green buttons and meeting new people. There’s some light puzzle-solving, and while puzzles have been a part of Sonic games since the very first game, they’ve never been as big a part of the platforming entries as this. At least Mean Bean Machine was a fun puzzler – everything in this is just boring. It isn’t even that everything is poorly-done, it’s just monotonous.
You explore areas, find things and/or people, the plot progresses, and you continue on to the next area. Everything about the experience feels like it drags on – even the tutorial mission. Later, you’ll look for miners through a linear area. There’s an illusion of exploration, but it’s surface-level at best. Each character has some differences, but not enough to make hearing “BUTTONS, THEY HAVE MANY USES!” or “BOUNCE PADS” worthwhile. Knuckles is the power guy, Tails can glide, Amy is super-agile with a triple jump, and Sonic can in theory move really fast. No character is really superior to the other here, they’re all equally-boring to play as given how slow they are relative to how a Sonic game should feel.
The storyline isn’t great either, although the voice work is impressive. It’s a basic good vs. evil plot that doesn’t take you on a roller coaster. The core game peaks with glorified on-rails sections, which was also true of Sonic Adventure, which at least had enough other activities to do that you were never bored. Here, you’re bored a lot and that should be impossible for a Sonic game. You’ve got a franchise known for speed and strip that away while adding nothing of real value. Sonic Adventure had exploration, but also delivered some satisfying speedy sections. This doesn’t do that and it results in an experience that is devoid of fun.
Visually, this is a very colorful game. While the character redesigns were jarring in the initial art, they never bothered me while playing the game itself. Seeing Knuckles as a jacked-up monster is odd, but the rest of the designs are pretty seamless compared to their classic look even if Sonic having his shoes taped-up looks weird. The characters do animate reasonably well, but there are times when they’ll get stuck in the environment mid-jump. It never led to a crash in my experience, but did look odd.
Beyond little quirks like that, the game can be praised for not having much slowdown. While that could just be due to so little happening most of the time, it’s still commendable. The texture work however, is less worthy of praise. Sonic Lost World was on-par with Nintendo’s best work on the Wii U with dazzling imagery from beginning to end. Here, the prologue with Eggman alone shows off how nasty the texture work can be as things just look muddy whenever you’re anywhere near them. Pop-in is also a huge issue as entire parts of the stage, including areas you need to hop on quickly for on-rails areas, can come in out of nowhere.
The game’s voice’s acting is by far the best thing about the presentation. The TV show’s cast was used for it and they clearly get the characters. Knuckles is sarcastic with a bit of an ’80s TMNT surfer dude vibe about him, while Tails is serious and you can easily buy Sonic as the leader of the bunch. Sadly, while the acting is good, the music is just there. Absolutely no songs stand out while playing the game, let alone stick with you after it. For a franchise known for memorable music in both good and bad ways, it’s a shame to see absolutely no impression made with its soundtrack.
Sonic Boom is impossible to recommend as a purchase. Its slow-paced gameplay isn’t even all that well-done and it’s made less fun since the camera will get in your way a lot. It would be nice if the plot gave you reason enough to continue, but it doesn’t. It’s just bog-standard Saturday morning TV fare although the voice acting is quite good. Honestly, it’s probably the best part of the actual game. If you’ve got kids, then give it a rental, but anything more than that is a waste of money when you can get the far superior Sonic Lost World on the Wii U as well. That game is worth owning, but this one sadly isn’t. It’s not deserving of some of the vitriol it’s received as it’s not the worst game ever, but it’s just so painfully average in so many ways that it may actually be worse by not being a worse game. If it was comedically bad, it would probably be memorable.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
This review is based on a retail copy of Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric for the Wii U provided by Sega.