I had no faith in Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric before it came out. At first, I held off on judging the redesigns of Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy because, as a Sonic fan, I was used to new ideas being tried with the franchise. However, after seeing actual gameplay of the game at E3 2014, I knew that not only was the game in trouble, but Sega would be as well since they were developing a new TV show and merchandising based on this idea. There was very little of the Sonic style and feel in the game, and it looked like a generic platformer that you would find dirty and uncared for in the discount section at Walmart. Everyone who has played this game has declared it an unmitigated disaster on the level of the infamous Sonic the Hedgehog from 2006 so I was expecting the worst. However, now that I have played and finished it, I think the hyperbole of the internet has gotten the best of us.
The story won’t be getting any points. Sonic and team are once again after Dr. Eggman when they stumble upon an ancient tomb where they accidentally release Lyric, a snake with aspirations to destroy all organic life forms on the planet in order to rebuild it with robotic creatures. Aside from the premise, the rest of the story is collect these crystals that will stop Lyric because reasons. Random events will happen along the way, such as going back in time, but they’re inconsequential to the story in the long run and exist solely to break up the procedural progression the story goes through. What’s puzzling about the story as well is there is no real introduction to most of the characters in the game despite this game being a different universe from the normal Sonic lore. So despite this being intended as a fresh start, it actually requires you to know the Sonic universe. Some, like Shadow, just make quick cameos that will only confuse new players and disappoint fans of the series.
Aesthetically, Sonic Boom looks alright but unimpressive. Environments are colorful and bright and on the surface level, the game looks pretty good. However, textures are undetailed and the overall art design of the game is bland and uninspired. As the game goes on, you will start to feel like you’ve already been in the area before. Only during a few levels towards the end of the game do the visuals start diversifying. The audio fairs a bit better as there are several great tracks in the game. However, most of the music and sound effects are serviceable. Some fans of the series will probably dislike how some sound effect staples of the series have been changed. It’s widely known that the game is plagued with glitches and incomplete renders. However, a patch has been issued since the game’s launch and while not all the problems have been fixed, it’s a lot better than before. They also took out all the infamous references to bounce pads.
Playing Sonic Boom sometimes feels like playing a generic platformer you might have played in the early 2000s such as Tak and the Power of Juju or Vexx. As such, this does not feel or play like a Sonic game at all. However, once you get over the fact that you are not playing a Sonic game, you’re left with a mediocre but not terrible game. As someone who has played some of those early 2000s platformers, those games were extremely mediocre but completely competent. I actually had fun with Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue and I was immediately reminded of that game from playing this. The game is broken up into hub worlds and levels, like the aforementioned games, and there’s transition sections from the hub worlds to the levels as well. But let’s get into the various components of the gameplay.
Platforming is the first component of the gameplay. Each character can double jump and grab onto ledges as well as traverse using each of their special abilities. Sonic can spin dash up ramps, Tails can hover for a small period of time, Knuckles can climb special walls, and Amy has a triple jump and can parkour on special beams. This leads to multiple ways to traverse various sections, usually based on the characters you currently have at your disposal. As someone who really liked Sonic the Hedgehog 3’s character-centric multiple paths in its levels, I can appreciate it being implemented here. However, these different paths aren’t so different and interesting to encourage multiple playthroughs. Still, I found the platforming to be serviceable if ultimately predictable.
The second component of gameplay is combat. Using a brawler combat system, each character has basic and special attacks specific to that character as well as the Enerbeam, which is a magnetic lasso that can be used to grab and toss enemies, disarm them of shields or disable them in some way. Each character plays slightly different in an attempt to suit different styles of play. Sonic has more quick and elusive attacks, Knuckles is stronger than the others, Tails fights from long range instead of up close, and Amy…has a hammer. You’ll find a character that you like the most and will typically use them over the others when given a chance. The combo system is as simple as mashing the Y or X button and it’s way too simple to be engrossing but I found the combat to be fairly enjoyable as it ramps up in difficulty just enough to keep you engaged, especially during boss fights that typically use the Enerbeams in different ways.
The last gameplay component consists of various adventure game elements. Sonic Boom will have you solve rudimentary puzzles, which are never more complicated than find and hit switches. It’s the developers poor attempt to add more meat to the game’s bones but it’s ultimately just padding. You will also do a fair bit of collecting, though most if not all of it is optional and for 100% completion sake. Collecting spare parts from chests scattered around the levels and hub worlds are used to rebuild landmarks in the hub worlds. Collecting crowns hidden in levels and hub worlds in conjunction with spare parts buy you upgrades that are only miniscule in practice. Shinies are found buried underground and can be traded in for more crowns.
Finally, there are side activities you can do in the hub worlds for an equipable ability. These abilities are fairly useful but are also minor improvements overall. The hub world in general is pretty boring to traverse and you’ll most likely hate walking around the hub world. It was actually worse before because there was no navigation indicator at this game’s launch. A patch has since been released that implemented a nav arrow. However, it’s not very good and at one point, I got lost for a long time before I found where I needed to go. If you can’t tell, the various adventure elements aren’t implemented very well and most of it is boring and inconsequential. Luckily, the collecting aspects can be mostly ignored.
In between the hub worlds and levels are transition sections, and different gameplay systems are usually placed here. Most of them are speed sections, the only parts of the game that feel like a Sonic game. Unfortunately, most of these sections are on rails and can be slowed down and done at a snail’s pace. It’s also the glitchiest part of the game as characters will start freaking out and glitching through the ground, twitching and sometimes disappear. And don’t get me started on the slowdown, which is prominent during these sections. Only during a certain boss fight that uses the speed section mechanic is it enjoyable. The other transition variation is a circular boat that you use on water sections. It’s weird and boring.
The Verdict: 5.5 out of 10
Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric is not a good game. It’s not even an okay game. However, it has not earned its bad reputation. At its best and its worst, Sonic Boom is just a dull, mediocre game that is a good example of a cookie cutter made-for-kids game with no real effort put into it aside from being competent. I know that’s not exactly a shining recommendation but it’s the best Sonic Boom has gotten, I’m sure. As a Sonic fan, I’ll pick this up as soon as the game drops under $20 and fellow Sonic fans should do the same.
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.