Gotta go… smell the roses?
Out now on 3DS and Wii U, Sega and Sanzaru Games have released a demo for Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal on the Nintendo e-Shop. What are the Inverseman’s impressions of this alternate continuity take on one of the most iconic characters in gaming? Find out!
The game gives three levels for you to try: a main level, a race level, and a speed level. Each of these levels has different forms of gameplay, but the bulk of your time will be in the main levels.
The demo level drops you right into the action and this is where a real departure from typical Sonic fare is seen: you’re definitely slower. You actually walk when you tilt the Circle Pad and to go faster you need to press Y to “Sprint” a la holding down the Boost button in Sonic Generations, Colors, and Unleashed. Even when you’re sprinting, you’re back to a more acceptable speed, but nowhere near back in 2009. Other oddities of control include mapping the jump/Homing Attack to the B button when I’m more conditioned to the A button, but it makes sense since it’s closer to the Sprint button.
On the upshot, in moments when the action heats up a little, the Enerbeam, a versatile energy whip used for many puzzles, helps spice up the usual Homing-Attack-a-string-of-enemies deal. More interesting is the fact that you control all four playable characters and can switch anytime similar to Sonic Heroes. Every character can Homing Attack and Boost (finally Knuckles is back in action), but they all have special skills to access new areas. Tails has grenades and can hover, Knuckles can burrow and has a powerful tackle attack, and newcomer Sticks has a boomerang useful for switch puzzles. Though in the demo, the most mileage came from Sonic, who has a very abusable air-dash. Personally, I look forward to seeing the other characters more validated in some very tight level design.
Now for the levels themselves: they are nothing like your usual Sonic level. On the bottom screen, you’re given a map so you can track your progress in some rather large Metroid-like levels. Currently, this demo level feels kind of empty, except for a few easy enemies that can be taken out with a simple Homing Attack. When I first played the level, I had no idea where I was going or what my real objective was between the bare routes and a submarine minigame until I eventually found the goal ring after charging blindly headfirst into the stage for a couple minutes. Hopefully there will be a better communicated sense of direction, whether it’s to get to the goal or scramble around for crystals or machine parts or some third objective. That said, the open levels do feel different, and we’ll see if that design choice is capitalized on with interesting things to find, unique stage gimmicks, and creative forms of combat.
The smaller stages included with the demo have a race battle against Sticks the Raccoon which is simple enough like the rest of the game and restores some of that feeling of speed. It actually reminds me of Sonic Rivals for the PSP somewhat, but that game was so-so at best. There wasn’t much resistance from the raccoon, so it felt more like a time attack if anything. Here’s to later levels putting more obstacles in the way, particularly matches against Shadow, who should interfere with a well-timed Chaos Control. The other small stage was the Worm Tunnel segment which is reminiscent of the Quick-Step segments of the previous HD Sonic games and Sonic Colors. Sadly though, that’s all there is to those segments, so to fans hoping for a more Sonic Generations-esque level will be disappointed, but there is at least some rush to be had.
So far, the demo is okay-ish at best. Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal feels like an action game of sorts but it’s nothing like the previous era of Sonic with its super high speed action gameplay. Playing this game and then starting up Sonic Generations really does make the difference feel like night and day. The game did indeed whet my whistle, but I don’t know if the 3DS version is a day-one purchase for me yet. Too many portions of the game feel bare or lack the conveyance of a sense of direction. If anything, a high-exploration adventure game is what I’m looking for out of the 3DS and Wii U games. Here’s hoping Sanzaru and Big Red Button deliver. Though I will say, if anything, the cartoon on Cartoon Network is quite entertaining. Join me next time when I write horrible fanfiction.
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