Sonic Boo Hoo

Despite having one of the coolest names for a Sonic the Hedgehog game ever, Big Red Button’s Sonic Boom, a prequel tie-in to the Cartoon Network series, is an middling, bug riddled mess. The Sonic Boom universe is a completely new branch of Sonic fiction, separate from the established canon and with ex-Naughty Dog staff on the development team, it’s mildly shocking that Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric managed to exhibit so many of the flaws of Sonic games gone by while finding unique and lamentable problems all its own.

One of the more stand out aspects of the cartoon tie-in is the redesign Sonic and his pals received. Knuckles, Tails, Amy and Sonic have all been altered to better reflect their apparent strengths. Sonic, an adventurer, now has a nifty scarf. Knuckles got the most visually evident rework, made to fit the “big, dumb, bruiser” trope. Amy is portrayed as less of a ditsy, Sonic obsessed airhead and instead exemplifies a strong female character, or at least stronger than before. A slightly more trim Doctor Eggman returns temporarily to harass the group as the game opens up and the real villain, Lyric, is introduced. None of the new designs are particularly egregious, but what hit a sore spot for me coalesced in the cringe worthy quips and attitude of Sonic and friends.

Tails looks like one of the robots from Five Nights At Freddies.

Cute little mutant.

Rise of Lyric has a bare bones, by the numbers story: collect the MacGuffin, beat the bad guy and save the world. You travel around, solve puzzles, rarely go fast enough and brawl with enemies. But it’s the deluge of one-liners and spotty attempts at humour that truly make it difficult to sit through the story beats or enjoy the characters for long. Sonic has always had at least a rough semblance of attitude (he even tapped his foot impatiently if left idle too long in Sonic CD and would eventually leave the stage altogether – causing a Game Over), but Rise of Lyric never quite gets there. Things instead come across as forced and the repeat playing of certain audio samples only amplifies the problem. Did you know wall climbing is the only way to travel? Knuckles made sure to remind me of this three times in quick succession when I swapped climb points.

knucklesboomThe most unfortunate part of Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric might be the brawling segments. The combat is vaguely reminiscent of early Jak and Daxter, but feels like it’s on rails with super sticky targeting. Each character has a basic combo string executed by tapping Y and unique special abilities, like the bombs Tails can throw, that mostly feel clunky in use. Sometimes it’s easy to get juggled by repeated enemy combos, depleting the ring fueled health bar in short order. Despite all of the characters being quite nimble, dodges are touch and go as well. Occasionally an ample moment of invulnerability is granted, but all too often things don’t register properly and you pay the golden price. Another new addition is the energy tether, a device that can be used to grapple enemies as well as get around the environment. It doesn’t always work properly and adds a layer of frustration to an already tenuous area of the game.AmyBoom

Switching between characters is an integral part of getting around in Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric. While venturing through the expansive over-world hubs don’t expect the map to be of any real use, never mind that you don’t even get the thing until act two. It doesn’t relay basic information and the fast travel, yes, fast travel, routinely fails to function like it should. Some areas are gated off and are only accessible by specific characters, like Knuckles being able to climb somewhere across a ceiling or wall or Tails being able to hover somewhere unreachable by anyone else. Amy’s triple jump makes her the most efficient character for exploration and since everyone runs at the same speed there’s literally no contest unless you’re forced to use someone else to get somewhere.

The rest of the time not spent fighting evil ancient robots or traversing the sprawling landscapes is devoted to what could have been some solid platforming. Instead, the levels aren’t designed particularly well and lend themselves to frequent instances of slowness. Even when things manage to get going at a decent speed, a string of enemies and a chasm will materialize and you’ll slowly have to destroy them or you’re dropped into an arena with waves of enemies, it really derails the pace. Enemies spring out at inopportune times and at blinding speed, far too quick to dodge comfortably in most instances. Most of the time the solution is to just eat the damage and run. The run-really-fast sections that have been pretty darn fun in Sonic Unleashed, Generations and Colours return, but don’t hit the high mark of previous games, partly due to performance issues. The other part is that Sonic and crew are finicky to control and steering around obstacles can be difficult. The drawn out spring sections that tether these speedy bits together do little to add to the excitement.

The aforementioned energy tethers, colour coded for your convenience even.

The aforementioned energy tethers, colour coded for your convenience.

I duped one of my friends into some co-op and it was mildly amusing, but probably not for the reasons it was meant to be. During co-op, player one will utilize the GamePad while player two gets a WiiMote, a nunchuk and the TV. You can still switch back and forth between characters, barring any sections for specific pairings. Players aren’t even locked together and can simultaneously explore different sections pertaining to certain characters and their unique skills – if only these sections were more consistently enjoyable. Be aware that playing co-op comes with a significant drop in the already lackluster performance. The frame rate dips sharply, lighting looks noticeably degraded and the texture resolution also gets knocked down a peg and the competitive stuff doesn’t fare much better.

As a genuine, unironic Sonic the Hedgehog fan I held out hope for Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric. When Big Red Button, a western developer, was revealed as the studio to handle the license I was excited. Excited for the fresh perspective that might bestow a reviving waft of life to the ailing iconic mascot. Excited what a studio with such character action pedigree might impart. I know Sonic Boom is skewed at a younger audience, but that doesn’t excuse the gameplay and performance problems. Regrettably, Rise of Lyric isn’t the triumphant forging of a new path I would have loved to see, and instead manages to be more of a Sonic dud.

[A review copy of Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric was provided by Sega.]
Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric Review
Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric is a half-baked video game. I admire Big Red Buttons attempt to expand on Sonic's simplistic core, but merely bolting on poorly executed mechanics is not the answer. Not awful, but not really good either. If it didn't have so many performance issues, it might be easier to recommend.
Prose
  • Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric is a mostly functional video game
  • Large over worlds convey an impressive sense of scale
Khans
  • Combat is flat and sloppy
  • Characters are tedious
  • Performance issues abound
4Overall Score

About The Author

Evan T
Editorial/Reviews Writer

Evan is a super serious, real life production assistant, video editor, and current review and editorial writer for Gamer Assault Weekly. A failed knife salesman and former member of a prestigious World of Warcraft guild, renowned for his voice and childlike enthusiasm for video games. Has never broken a bone. Hates possums. Mumble-sings.