Friday, 5 December 2014

Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric [Review]

 The game that looked like a reinvention, but failed on all accounts. If you look up a list of all what was promised, you could probably count what was achieved on one hand. Though maybe that's an exaggeration. It certainly doesn't play like a Sonic game, doesn't have many of the elements you'd expect from a Sonic game, thus a reinvention. But in a worse state than better.
Let's just get to what all Sonic games are primarily about. The gameplay. Rather than sprawling levels filled with speed and exploration, we just have the exploration part. In the place of speed is combat, which is the most basic combat you can get. It works, sure, but isn't the greatest combat in existance. Not even close. We have a normal attack, a special attack, an air attack, and a bounce attack. Aside from a dodge and the Enerbeam mechanic, that's it. Launch an attack, either repeat the same attack or break the combo. Get into an attack, there is no chance to dodge mid-combo. And when enemies are many in both health and units, it can get annoying. But not that annoying. Rings act as a health bar, and when they hit zero and you get attacked again, you'll die and respawn in the near exact position you died. There are no lives. Some might say this is to make it easier - after all, the target audience is kids - but when combined with the real problems, it seems a moot point.
First, we have four characters - Sonic, Knuckles, Tails, and Amy. While not a problem themselves, they are the cause of them. The game is mainly focused on co-op, mostly with just two of the characters, and numerous puzzles require the use of swapping from one character to another. However, sometimes you'll have completed the section for one character, have to swap to another, and find they are still at the beginning. Sometimes you'll come to a part where two characters are needed to pull something into place to find that the other character hasn't caught up yet. That might not seem so bad, but when you add in another physical player, you can't go five meters apart without Player 2 teleporting to Player 1's position. And it happens all the time, every time. So why can't the same happen with just one player? Combat and exploration are playable though. Simple, frustrating at points, but serviceable enough. Thankfully, there is one other part to the gameplay which breaks up the combat and exploration. But is also the most broken part. Speed sections.
These are numerous. The game even opens on one. But they are just too short. The opening one is interspersed with small cutscenes, but even so, it doesn't go past ten minutes. And most of those minutes are the cutscenes. And the shortness of them is the least of your problems. For whatever reason, most of the lag, or framerate drops, are suffered within these sections. This can make it hard to gauge jumps or dodges. And it becomes noticable even more once environmental effects are added.
There are other problems away from the gameplay. While the plot of the game can shine at times, to put it bluntly - it feels basic. It also feels unfinished. Near the beginning of the story, main villain Lyric is set free by Sonic. Sonic uses a spin dash on the mechanism holding Lyric. Lyric says that after all these years, Sonic is still predictable. Sonic and Tails were sent back one thousand years in search of a map of the location of the Chaos Crystals, and encounter Lyric once. Yes. Once. The main point of the story is Sonic learning to work together with his friends, but that whole story element is so messed up it's as though pieces of the story are missing or they've been jumbled around. And let's not mention Shadow, who seems to be here just to be a mirror of Lyric [seriously, they both talk the 'your weakness is your friends' spiel, and almost word for word as well]. But while Lyric gets defeated for it, Shadow recognises that perhaps he is wrong. Eggman in the story is the backstabber. He takes control of Lyric's army of robots for his own ends, then when Lyric is set free teams up with him. Both don't trust the other, and when Eggman sets Metal Sonic on Lyric, the latter uses his controller device to turn Metal to obey him. So Eggman makes a robot completely under manual control to try and take Lyric down [and eventually does get the last laugh].
Aside from all this villains clash story though, the plot never escapes out of finding the Chaos Crystals. As I said before, basic. Which is also what NPC's of the hub worlds are. Aside from Cliff, and maybe Quincy, the NPC's hardly get any limelight and are only around to give one quest each. They just stand around, give you one quest, then just repeat their quest finished line whenever you try to talk to them again. By completing a side quest, you do get a Power Glyph. These are equipable and give an extra bonus, such as increasing damage of enemies thrown with the Enerbeam. There are also other upgrades that you use robot parts for. But you also need to have collected enough medals to be able to do so.
The last points to mention. For one, graphics. They do the job well, but don't go beyond what is expected. As such, they look no better than Gamecube-PS2 era graphics. While the graphics and textures do look good for the most part, sometimes they don't look as good. Up close, they look flat and muddy, but thankfully the animation pulls through. Characters move fluidly, as do objects, characters and robots within the levels. The levels themselves are varied, but puzzles never get too ambitious. Hubs and levels can feel empty at points, and sometimes give no direction. Music within the game sets the tone well, expect for an occasional misstep, but isn't exactly memorable. There is honestly no tune from the game I have stuck in my mind, or would I listen to outside of the game itself. Character interaction within cutscenes are brillaint for the most part, and show the characters as you would expect them to be shown. Occasionally though, a misstep for the interactions will be made. Knuckles is a laid back character, sometimes slow on the uptake, but to make the joke that he doesn't know the difference between left and right takes that to the highest levels of exaggeration. Outside of cutscenes though, the interactions are nothing short of annoying. The characters interact with each other occasionally within levels, but is mostly basic, and annoying, repeating of what you can very plainly see. "Rings" "Boost Pad" "Bounce Pad" and the like are followed up with characters also commenting on themselves or others. Lines like "I'm awesome" "Nice one" and simple signs of excitement like "Yeah" "Wahoo".
Without mentioning the glitches [there are some, mostly brought on by player interaction] and comparisons to other Sonic games [though subtle hints lie within], I'd say the game is good. Nothing special, but good all the same. But it can never fully get itself away from the fact it still has the Sonic name on it and as such will be held up for it. The game can be enjoyable, and if you do get to the end of the story, it does get better. There are more long stretches of tediousness than proper enjoyment though. As such, the game is a good play, but not worth full price. £15, yes. £30, no. And I also couldn't fully recommend it at full price, either. Once it does hit £15 or less though, that is the time to strike.

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