It’s hard to tell if anyone’s really expecting Sonic Boom to be any good. Admittedly, I’ve been a fan of Sega’s mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog, for a long time, but I’m not blind to the fact that many games featuring Sonic have suffered from poor design decisions. Still, the relatively recent Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations are two of my favorite installments in the series. As for Sonic Lost World, it was also a pretty cool, albeit largely different, offering, focusing less on speed and more on clever, rotating worlds. Sonic Boom, however, seems to slow things down even more, at least on the Wii U.

A slower Sonic

Titled Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, the upcoming game from developer Big Red Button Entertainment differs immensely from its predecessors and 3DS iteration. The game focuses largely on 3D world exploration, something completely uncharacteristic of the series. As someone who had a genuinely good time playing Lost World, I was excited at the prospect of another 3D Sonic title. Unfortunately, my time playing the Wii U version of Sonic Boom at E3 2014 was muddled with annoying objectives, convoluted story bits, and monotonous sequences.

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While there are still flashes of that old speedy Sonic flair, a lot of that fast-paced platforming has fallen by the wayside in favor of more methodical, puzzle-like elements. I normally wouldn’t be opposed to that sort of thing, but this is Sonic we’re talking about here — this series is all about dizzying speeds, crazy jumps off of springs, and insane loop runs. Instead, Sonic Boom slows things down and has you tediously messing around with your environments to progress to new areas.

The stage I played partnered me up with an AI-controlled Knuckles (the new roided out version of Knuckles, that is). Together with the red echidna, I was tasked with triggering switches, pulling blocks, opening gates, and dropping bridges. None of these objectives were especially interesting, and though both Sonic and Knuckles have grappling hooks of sorts that help them work together to pull color-coded switches, the mechanics were uninteresting and tiresome after the first few minutes.

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It certainly didn’t help that the controls weren’t good, either. Guiding Sonic around the 3D plane, performing tricky jumps onto small platforms, and climbing structures was made all the more cumbersome due to the fact that the game just doesn’t control well at all. I constantly sent the blue mascot into oceans of lava and off of ledges, and it wasn’t long before I realized that I would likely never be able to deal with the way Sonic handles in this game.

Sonic moves on mobile

When I’d had enough of Sonic Boom on the Wii U, I decided to give the 3DS edition a go. This version of the game, titled Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal, is being handled by Sanzaru Games, the studio behind Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, and is notches more entertaining than its Wii U counterpart. Rather than relying on 3D action and platforming, Sonic Boom on the 3DS is a more traditional 2D platformer.

Of course, a few new elements uncommon in the Sonic series are present here, too. For starters, the exploration gameplay from the Wii U version carries over to this edition, though it’s much better here. The running, jumping, and spring-bouncing makes for a much more enjoyable time, and though there’s plenty of switch-pressing to do, the fact that the game doesn’t force you into slow-paced sequences helps keep the Sonic vibe intact.

The size of the levels lends itself to exploration. In the past, Sonic games have rewarded you for going off the beaten path. The same remains true here, but this time there’s more to discover. Sometimes exploring is essential to progression, but other times, you just get that classic sense of Sonic discovery. Either way, it was a lot of fun playing through these levels and still getting that familiar hectic pace while being treated to some fresh level designs.

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The Wisp-based color power-ups from recent installments have been done away with. Sonic Boom lets you play as multiple characters (four in total), each with their own unique abilities. Tails, for example, can use his two tails as propellers to float upward and reach areas inaccessible to other characters. Sonic can dash forward, breaking through certain walls and discovering secrets and new areas. Once you’ve unlocked multiple characters, you can switch between them on the go, which is essential to clearing the game’s rather large stages.

Sonic Boom on the Wii U and Sonic Boom on the 3DS are two very different beasts. While the former could potentially be okay, I don’t see it being anywhere near as good as Colors, Generations, or even Lost World. The 3DS version, on the other hand, was a blast to play at E3, and the light but still fresh gameplay elements implemented to the familiar formula only served to enhance the experience. Both versions of Sonic Boom will be available this November.


Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal 3DS

Platform: Nintendo 3DS
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  • Tony Gonzalez

    I have to agree with this wholeheartedly. Watching videos for the Wii U game, I just couldn’t see the “point” of that type of Sonic game. I get that they are trying to find a safer, more traditional route, but it just looks and feels mediocre. It may get better, but as of now, it needs a tune-up and a lot of polish.

    The 3DS version, though, looks BEAST. The animations are really fluid, the character switching is a cool twist on the Sonic formula, and it still feels like you could race through a level without bumping in to too many obstacles. It seems like it will be capped at 30FPS, but graphically, even in 2D, it looks very promising.