Monday, November 10, 2014

Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal Demo Impressions

This past Saturday, a brand new alternative universe Sonic cartoon titled Sonic Boom debuted on Cartoon Network. Tomorrow, Sega will be launching two video games based on Sonic Boom for both the Wii U and 3DS. Last week, Sega released a playable demo of Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal for the 3DS. Seeing how I never miss a chance to try out the latest Sonic game, I decided to give it a try.

For an alternative universe, it sure does feel different.

Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal is a 2D platform, similar to the classic Sonic games. The only difference is, it feels almost nothing like a classic game. In the demo, you can switch between four characters: Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and a new character, Sticks. Surprisingly, the four characters really don’t feel that different from each other. The only major differences are the characters’ special abilities that are used in specific areas. Sonic has the ability to air dash through special blocks and reach higher areas. Tails has the ability to glide through the air, fly up air currents, throw bombs, and use his mini submarine in water tank areas. Knuckles has the ability to dig through certain areas and no longer has the ability to glide through the air. Sticks has the ability to use her boomerang to hit out of reach switches. Ultimately, having multiple characters feel very unnecessary as all you’re really doing is sticking between different secondary powers. The demo gives you one stage to play and you can beat it entirely with just Sonic.

Speaking of Sonic, he feels very slow in this game. No seriously, everyone runs at the same speed and that speed is slow. The only way you can go fast is if you hold the Y button to dash. But not only does the running feel slow, the actual stage feels long and padding. It looks like the game is going to focus a lot more on exploration to find secondary items, hence why you have multiple characters. Between the long stages and the exploring, it 25 minutes to clear the stage on my first play through. That is a long time for a Sonic stage. In fact, the par time for the time trial challenge is 6 minutes and 30 seconds. Even that feels long because the level design is not that interesting or memorable.

I also had one major gripe with the controls involving Sonic. While playing as Sonic, you need to air dash up to reach certain platforms by pressing the X button. The problem is, to jump you to press the B button. Moving between the X and B buttons for jumping sequences feels very awkward and makes me wish I could air dash with the Y button instead. The problem with the button layout for Soinc is due to you having to sometimes press the A button to do a midair whip swing as well. So when you’re playing as the other three characters, the button layout is fine. It’s just Sonic’s need for three buttons for performing jump sequences that feels off.

I played the demo of Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal for a full 40 minutes and found the experience to be quite dull. I don’t understand why Sega feels the need to innovate with Sonic so many times. Sonic Generations was a great game. Perfect that formula before trying to reinvent him again. There was nothing about this demo that made me want buy this game. It’s dull, the stages feel overly long, I don’t like the way it controls, and on top of all that, the game froze on me at one point. I heard that supposedly Sega didn’t give advance copies of both Sonic Boom games to reviewers ahead of time. Between the demo and that piece of information, I would recommend you wait before buying either game. I have a feeling we may be in 2006 all over again.

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