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CONSOLE: Wii U DEVELOPER: Big Red Button PUBLISHER: Sega
RELEASE DATE (NA): November 11, 2014 GENRE: Action-Adventure
// review by Matt

It isn't terrible.

Had the mascot platformer not been so excessively common during the PlayStation 2 era, this might have been considered pretty good — if released during that time. Made by developers with experience making Ratchet and Clank titles, you'd think it was safe to assume that Sonic Boom would be quality. Mmmm. But I don't believe that the Internet's harshness is completely justified because the sparks of a good game are here, just the sparks have nothing to ignite.

The fuel that would have been tight and responsive controls, for one. Sonic the Hedgehog shouldn't feel floaty, but here the characters have that "winged wombat" vibe. Everything floats down here. Platforming should be Sonic's forte, not his pianissimo. The same goes for his crew, whose skills have all become quite lackluster in their old age. Wait, Sonic the Hedgehog is a year younger than me. Oh crap, I'm old!

When platforming isn't dish of the day, there are very basic puzzles and combat to fill the void. I say "void" because the fresh wood logs of the game design fireplace, the varied and interesting environments, are missing. The puzzles are the same recycled prefab elements rearranged around the game world, a game world where most areas are barren and soulless. Places should look lived in if, well, characters supposedly live in them. And they should have things to do in them, if the characters who live there are perceived to do things in that place. It's called world-building, and it's what makes the difference between this and a "breathing" world like that of any Rare title. But hey, at least the environments look good.

So I haven't mentioned what a "Boom" is yet and how it differs from a "The Hedgehog". The most recent animated series, Sonic Boom, is a comedy series showing the day to day lives of a defeated and disillusioned Team Sonic, and the various stupid things they get up to. This game is based on said series, and was developed while the series was being made. This gave Big Red Button a deep glimpse into Sonic Boom's world and characters, which allowed them to craft a game that stays true to the look and feel of the show. They nailed it like I would Amy Rose.

Whether or not you like the show, that's a personal choice. But the game resembles the show far closer than a fair few licensed games based on TV shows can muster. As for the script, voice acting and cutscene direction; I've heard mixed opinions. I, however, liked these. Especially the pseudo catchphrase, "Not cool, Sonic!", whenever that stubborn mule does something dumb. That always gets a chuckle from me.

They made Knuckles into a big dumb, but his lines are comedy gold.

"I like punching things!"

Let's bring this crashing down by discussing the combat. This really feels like a repurposed Sony prototype from 2003. The mascot platformer has been improved over the decades. Flowing combos, smooth and fluid movement, and effective weapons are all commonplace in platformers with a combat emphasis. Sonic Boom doesn't have this. The combat is merely passing grade. I understand not every game can be Mark Of Kri (mainly because of the bullsh... silly Sony patent) but they could at least try to make it flow. But maybe it does flow, it just doesn't appear to. Sonic Boom lags like a Half-Life deathmatch on a 56K modem, not so impressive. The choppy frame rate made me wonder if my Wii U was dying! Also, the 1GB patch did little to address the frame rate, seemingly only adding in invisible walls and disabling fun exploitable glitches.


Surprisingly, they didn't use the "Sonic Boom" theme from Sonic CD. Wasted potential, much like this game.

There was a moment near the beginning of the game where I got completely lost because the game fails to tell you where to go, but I'm probably one of few people who got stuck there because I think far too literally for my own good. The staggering frame rate, repeated stage elements, and archaic platforming are elements of a bygone era.

The few moments when Sonic Boom operates as intended, at a high speed and visually impressive, it really shows up the rest of the game. This could have been quality, nay, would have been quality if given the proper time and platform to grow.

Yes, we've all heard the story. The game was developed for 360 and PS3 but had to be scaled down for Wii U thanks to SEGA's exclusivity deal with Nintendo, a deal SEGA hadn't talked through with Big Red Button. Because if they had, the development team would have at least come up with a plan or had more sufficient time to port everything over. Instead, a choppy game is released where it mightn't have been so bad if released multiplatform. Can I really fault the developers for a problem caused by the publishers? Perhaps only a little. I'm confident Big Red Button did their best considering the situation.

Look, it's abysmal. But there's a real glimmer of something Sony would have crafted back in the mid-2000s, a Sly Cooper or Ratchet and Clank style platformer with some solid controls. And I didn't thoroughly hate this, either. I recommend with caution. As per usual, set your expectations low.


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