Some may argue that to bring games into the 21st century and keep both new and veteran gamers happy and interested, things need to change. Whether that’s changing the games concept entirely, updating the graphics to adhere to peoples expectations of “next-gen,” or to simply add in new mechanics which weren’t first included in the earlier, what some would call ‘classic’ games. Sonic Boom is the manifestation of all three of those ideas which when put together create something new and fresh, but completely kicks dirt in the face of Sonic’s nostalgic past.
Introduced to gamers in 1991 on the Sega Megadrive, Sonic the Hedgehog gave us a new kind of platformer to get used to, one which involved fast thinking, nimble fingers, and an eye for hidden bonuses which’ll give us those much-needed coins we keep losing by falling onto spikes. It’s a concept which has run through the veins of the Sonic series for as long as I can remember, even the more RPG focussed Sonic Adventures stuck with the Sonic norm. Sonic Boom however is a completely new experience with one familiarity. Sonic.
During my preview of the game at Nintedo’s Post E3 event I was given a taste of a fairly basic level on the Wii U which saw me take control of either Sonic or Knuckles – the Nintendo representative also made me aware of the new character, Sticks the Jungle Badger, even though she was nowhere to be seen in this particular demo as she’s exclusive to the 3DS. I was tasked with entering Dr. Eggman’s lair which was currently overrun with nefarious robots who were keen to stop me from entering. It’s here where Sonic Boom surprised me.
Sonic Boom is a brawler, there’s no doubt about that, there’s some essence of puzzles and exploration here too but the majority of the time you’ll be mashing buttons in order to defeat the robotic army which are set on putting a stop to your mission. Unlike Sonic games of past, there’s no bouncing on their heads in order to free the little forest creature, oh no, you’re required to kick, punch, and spin your way through the various enemies you’ll face in Sonic Boom turning this once strategic fast paced platformer into nothing more than a mindless button masher.
Once I’d defeated the robotic guards I had to then work out how to get over the gate. This is where the games first new mechanic comes in. I realised I had to some how get a mine cart down which was currently suspended high above by a crane. This tutorial-like task introduced me to a weird sort of magic/electromagnet power that Sonic and the gang now have. Holding one of the triggers, this prompted Sonic and the now built-like-a-brick-shit-house Knuckles to shoot out their electromagnet power and pull the lever to unleash the mine cart.
The mine cart of course had a spring on it which sent Sonic shooting up in the air but there was another problem, the cart was nowhere near the gate I had to cross. This is where the next main mechanic in Sonic Boom comes in – cooperation. Sonic Boom has a lot of emphasis on co-operation in both the single player mode and, obviously, the co-op mode. See, Knuckles wasn’t just aimlessly following me around to give me a hand in the battle against the robot uprising, he’s actually a playable character too. In a similar fashion to Grand Theft Auto V, you can seamlessly switch from Sonic to Knuckles, or Tails, or Amy (Sticks is only playable on the 3DS).
Unlike Grand Theft Auto however, you won’t find the character getting up to no good elsewhere in the Sonic Boom universe, they’ll just be behind you, acting as your shadow.
Each character in Sonic Boom has their own unique skills to help you progress through the game, in this particular scenario I had to utilise Knuckles’ strength to punch the mine cart on its way down the track. Knuckles also has the ability to burrow down as well as climb up certain climbable walls this adds a level of exploration which leads you to finding hidden items. This does at least bring back the classic inclusion of hidden areas, which is nice, but it’s a shame that it’s burried deep beneath this new attempt at making Sonic fresh.
Sonic Boom as a whole isn’t actually a terrible game at all, despite the way I began this preview. The short demo I played through was really enjoyable and I felt that it ended too soon, but as someone who grew up with Sonic I can’t help but feel dirty enjoying the game. On the Wii U I did feel that there was a heavy emphasis on co-operative play, especially seeing Sonic lifelessly standing there waiting for me to switch back to him, but as a two player experience I’m sure it’ll be a much less lonely experience, that is after you’ve fought to the death deciding who’s going to play as who..
Sonic Boom is set for release in November 2014 on the Wii U and 3DS.
This preview was written based on a Wii U demo of the game played at Nintendo’s Post E3 press event.