Developer: Big Red Button Entertainment (Wii U)
Release Date: November 11th 2014 (US)
Platform: Wii U
As of now, I’m sure that you guys are aware of the reception of Sonic Slump…I mean Sonic Boom. But in case that you haven’t heard on how Sonic Boom did, or if you are ever curious to read on what I have to say about it, then feel free to read on!
Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric sets the stage as the prequel to the TV cartoon series and comic books. Rise of Lyric starts off with Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy going into a temple for refuge after a pursuit of Dr. Eggman that went wrong. Upon further exploration, they accidentally freed Lyric from his prison, which he is set out to destroy all things organic in order create the age of technology and machinery. Sonic and his pals decided to set out to get the Chaos Crystals before Lyric does in order to stop his plans of conquest.
This game is a mix of exploration and puzzles (like Jak and Daxter games) with some aspects that were staples of sonic games, including speedy parts. This game also has combat integrated into it where you beat up robot baddies. Each member of the gang is equipped with a weapon called Enerbeam, which is a whip made of energy, which is can be used for combat as well as swinging on rails and orbs in non-combative stages.
I will be upfront and say that there is a reason why Sega decided to embargo review copies of this particular game to any media sites. After playing and watching previous Sonic games, I can conclude that Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric is the worst console Sonic game to date. Yes, you read that right, Rise of Lyric managed to dethrone Sonic 06 in that category. Now I understand that this is a game aimed at kids, as opposed to Sonic 06 that was aimed more towards the general audience. However, the fact that this is a game for kiddies doesn’t excuse the ridiculous amount of shortcomings that this game has.
Before I go over those, there are some redeeming parts that this game have(however minor they may be). You are able to control any member of the Sonic game with either the rest of the gang following you or stay behind. Whatever character you decided to play as, the game allows you to progress through the stages by proceeding with your favorite Sonic character. In addition to speeding stages, Big Red Button Entertainment decided to add another kind of speeding stage which added a fresh new flavor to the game: Hydroplaning stages. These stages were exclusive to Sonic as he hydroplanes across water. These hydroplaning stages were a bit nice and a change of pace. Almost like a breath of fresh air. Boss fights are a bit fun to play as they included the right amount of challenge which could keep the player on their toes at times, with the exception of not great things that plagued the entire game (more on that later). The cut scene animations look pretty fluid and cartoony as it fits the theme as a kids game.
Even though that some parts of the game were fun and gave the player a sense of agency, all of it soon dissipated with all of the shortcomings that could have been prevented with extra time to run QA along with some balancing of the game. Even the redeeming aspects of the game get dissipated by the lack of care that got put into the game as a whole.
Like Sonic 06, Rise of Lyric came out to the shelves practically unfinished. If you remembered how bad Sonic 06 was in terms of lack of QA, polish, etc. it looked like Rise of Lyric was rushed out with very little (if any) time to test the game for any glitches or parts of the game that needed more polishing, making this game worse than Sonic 06 on that aspect alone. Rise of Lyric had more bugs than Sonic 06, And Sonic 06 had more bugs than a gross chili dog shop. And yes, there is a bug that allows the player to skip 3/4ths of the game with Knuckles and finish the game in about an hour. This was one of many game breaking bugs that existed. There are also a fair share of non-game breaking bugs that existed, one of them allowing the gang to walk right through NPCs. There are issues with draw distances, rings flicker in the first area at a distance, many examples of falling through the floor to your death, the list just keeps going on and on. There are also issues with frame rate throughout the game. The frame rate issues are most noticeable when you are in combat stages, and they occur quite frequently during those sections, including boss battles. Speeding stages tend to be fun if you forget everything wrong with the stages, but its hard not to forget them when your guys keeps moving too quick and bouncing off at a jagged pace which can be nauseating. Not to mention that the terrible frame rate at these sections would make you run into objects without enough time to register that there are obstacles at times. Even the frames of the entire Sonic gang would appear at the wrong places, even if its in a fraction of a frame. You may miss most of that because they go so fast, but they are there. Just look at this video here:
We haven’t even gone over the gameplay aspects yet and I’ve only scratched the surface. Not only did they fail to allocate time for QA, but they failed to set aside time to see if everything about the gameplay was well balanced as well as making sure everything fits the game perfectly. The music was nice and soothing. However, music didn’t turn out to be memorable as it was only basic unlike some of the music from Sonic 06. The combat in the game turned out to be a bit monotonous when you press the same attack button over and over with an occasional dodge to beat the enemies. It could be deemed as challenging at times, but the challenge aspect gets lost every time you run out of health. You’d go right back to where you were before you died with some of your rings back (and yes, your health is determined by rings). This feature alone just ruins the fun from the most fundamental part of the game that’d require any challenge.
The presentation is abysmal. The graphics aren’t great. I can understand that they are going for the presentation that looks a bit cartoonish for the kids. But the quality of the graphics turned out to be the quality of the graphics that you’d find right in a game that belonged in between the Gamecube and Wii generations. The rings in the game looked so shiny, they just look rather bad. The graphics doesn’t look anywhere near as crisp as the graphics on Mario Kart 8 or the new Super Smash Bros. I haven’t gotten anyone to play a 2 player co-op with me, but I managed to view footage of the game play of 2 player co-op, and I gotta say that the overall presentation gets worse. The moment you hook up player 2 to the game, the lighting disappears and the frame rate worsens.
Another thing terrible about the game is that it gets rather unintuitive. You would have no clear direction on where to go, no UI to point you in the right direction. The closest thing that you’d have is an arrow that’d disappear 4 seconds after a new objective gets added. You wouldn’t get a map until about a third into the game, and even it didn’t have anymore of a use rather than pointing at your current location and the objective goal location. There is no indication on what direction you’re facing or where you’d need to go in order to get to where you need to be. With the lack of direction to show you objectives and optional objects intuitively, it just makes the map useless and it kills motivation to complete certain optional objectives.
When you are walking around in a big town, it just feels rather empty with few inhabitants. Sometimes I would forget that there are NPCs that would inhabit in these towns. Another thing about that is that they are so big that I would love to switch to Sonic and crank up the speed to make traversing less boring. But when you walk around as Sonic, he cannot go faster than a jogging pace. Do you want speed? Looks like you can’t get that here. Except in speed and hydroplane sections of the game. Which they don’t show up too often.
In terms of gameplay, where it doesn’t get intuitive or tedious, the game also becomes mundane with puzzles. Most of them require either traversing with a character of the gang and press a button, or using the Enerbeam to pull something in order to progress through the stages. Sometimes you would have to use a certain character to do one of the two things just mentioned. There is such thing as making this too hard, but there is such thing as making the puzzles so easy they become boring.
Again, I understand completely that this is supposed to be a kids game. There are some things that are allowed like one liners and some humor, but there is such a thing as too much. Or trying too hard to add them in the game. The characters of the following game would say too many one liners too often. The characters would alway say something for every little thing. Which can get annoying and old about the first few minutes of 2D sidescrolling portions of the game. If you use a character’s special ability, going through a speed pad, using a bounce pad, or even touching a ring.The game got pretty annoying pretty fast with the one-liners, even for a game that is targeted for kids where one-liners are expected. They would also try too hard to add humor in the game. Sometimes it works, but for the most part, the writers are trying too hard to keep the kids’ attention with humor.
I can say that, without a doubt, this is one of the worst games I’ve played. While Sonic 06 is bad, but a bit enjoyable in its own ways, there seems to be a lack of personal standards when it came to developing Sonic Boom, making this game just flat out bad. It looks like they cared more about getting this game out the door rather than taking time to fix the game bugs and give it more direction to make it more comparable to at least Sonic 06. If the bugs/alone wasn’t enough to be the deal breaker, everything else about is mediocre at best, from the music to the graphics to combat to everything else. This game appears that it lacked direction which more time could have fixed a bit in that aspect. Coming from software development trenches, this is what happens when you rush a game out to the shelves. It seems that Big Red Button Entertainment managed to make Sonic Boom a prime example of what happens when you weren’t willing to make the time to improve on this game. I haven’t played the 3DS version of the game, but I read that the 3DS version is better than the Wii U version, but not good enough to warrant the purchase of the game. It would be better if you just look at the gameplay for yourself before you can determine if you want it for the holidays or not.
My final verdict, do not get this game. If you truly insist on getting this game for whatever reason you may come up with, I’d wait until the game goes on sale. Like $5-$10. Because I can guarantee that it’s not worth $50. If you are a big Sonic Fan, I read that the TV show is really good!