Let me be clear by saying that I’ve played nearly every single Sonic game. Yes, even the bad ones. As a Sonic fan from the early 90’s it’s hard to pass up any of his games. And even though people claim his 3D adventures sucked I actually enjoyed many of them especially SA, SA2, and Generations. Up until now though it’s been well known that Sonic 06 and Shadow the Hedgehog are the worst things to ever happen to the Sonic universe (Spinball for me). Well, after my time spent with the Sonic Boom E3 demo, I walked away frightened and shaken feeling that this could very well be the worst Sonic game made to date.
My E3 demo allowed me to explore a few of the game’s different themed levels. There was platforming, running, and a boss battle—each showing the unique aspects of Sonic Boom. The first platforming stage paired me up with Knuckles and it was sort of a brawler type stage. Straight from the get-go I felt something was incredibly off. The timing and precision when attacking enemies felt very clunky and some of my attacks barely registered. This also applied to many of the segments that involved jumping. Then came the lasso. Oh, god. Every time your character needs to pull something they would use this energy lasso, which in concept sounds interesting but ends up feeling dull in practice. It’s basically a web shot mechanic we see in Spiderman games except it’s highly broken and requires a lot of effort to get something simple accomplished. For example, when trying to move the box I had trouble trying to get the lasso to register properly and even when it did it required me to keep pressing down on the A button and move in a certain direction. The one before me (who was playing Sonic Boom at the Nintendo booth) gave up entirely because the lasso didn’t work half the time. I only did it because I wanted to see what was at the end of the demo. Turns out it was a mini-boss which can only be defeated using the lasso by throwing enemies at it. The only problem with was the throwing distance felt off. At times the enemies I threw landed close to where they were supposed to causing more frustration.
This leads to my next biggest problem with my Sonic Boom impression, the pacing. This game is slow. Like, Werehog stages slow, maybe even slower considering the lasso takes forever to get something done. I understand that this is an adventure take on the Sonic universe and I honestly don’t mind that at all. But between the long fights, and moving objects around, it just felt kinda boring. There were diversions that broke up the action. For instance I used the Wii U’s gamepad screen to scan the level for items and then dig them out using Knuckles.
Speaking of which, character swapping was actually a good surprise. One of the few things I enjoyed in my demo is the ability to switch chracters in my party on the fly. The problem with that was some characters suddenly lost their traditional abilities. Knuckles for instance couldn’t glide (but could still climb) and I couldn’t get Tails to fly either. It was baffling considering these were among the staple character traits. It’s like Mario suddenly couldn’t stomp enemies.
My next experience was the running stage which thankfully served to be a lot more fun. The dodging and jumping felt more precise than Sonic Generations’ hectic LB or RB moments. It was fun and had momentum. But even when playing that the third, and possibly worst aspect to Sonic Boom appeared, poor visual quality. The game reeks of it.
Throughout my entire play session, I was incredibly disappointed by the graphics. This game looked uh-gley. Low res textures and objects that would pop-in and pop-out randomly were normal in Sonic Boom. This became more prominent in the boss battle against Eggman which involved multiple missiles, enemies, and things trying to kill Sonic and his friends at once. The framerate began to stutter almost as though the Wii U was struggling to keep up. Sonic Lost World looked way more polished than this and that game ran at 60 FPS. At times it even looked like a really good Wii game. Even Sonic 06 looked better than Sonic Boom. Yes, it’s that ugly. I also couldn’t help but feel surprised because, and if I recall correctly, the first Sonic Boom trailer looked spectacular and really boosted the CryEngine. When it came to E3 everything was dumbed down in quality. I left two videos below for comparison.
Bad graphics aside, I did enjoy the animations, especially during cutscenes. Sonic and his friends never looked more alive with personality that can match high quality animation studios. Even the dialogue which many have complained about, is surprisingly entertaining most of the time and again adds more personality to Sonic and the rest of the cast.
Sonic Boom needs a lot of work. When I completed my demo I asked one of the reps at BigRedDot if these levels were final and to my horror he acknowledged it with a firm yes. I’m worried what will become of Sonic Boom and if it does turn out to be the next Sonic 06, then that’s a shame because there were some elements I enjoyed. I liked how the characters finally have personality, I enjoyed swapping characters on the fly, and the adventure elements really brought back the Sonic Adventure feel (which is something I haven’t felt in a long time). I want Sonic Boom to succeed but judging by my E3 impressions I fear it will be destined to fail.