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Review: Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric

Nov 20 // Chris Carter
Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric (Wii U)Developer: Big Red Button EntertainmentPublisher: SegaReleased: November 11, 2014MRSP: $49.99 Sonic Boom is not a reboot per se, but a re-imagining of the Sonic universe with a new art style and villain. The biggest problem is that developer Big Red Button not only changes many things for the worse, but the "alternate" universe is a half-measure. First off, you might notice the new crew (Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy) are wearing different gear and wraps -- lots and lots of wraps. While the actual designs are passable, the in-game personalities aren't. The most criminal change of all is the decision to make Knuckles a lumbering idiot. As a once-respected protector of the Master Emerald, I enjoyed Knuckles' proud nature and his ability to bravely take on any problem head-on. He was a great counterbalance to Sonic's carefree attitude. But in Sonic Boom, he is a complete moron, billed as the "brawn" of the operation like a poorly produced Saturday morning cartoon (and it does have a cartoon now, which may explain things a bit). Case in point, this conversation between Sonic and Knuckles: Sonic: "And as we know, there's no time like the present!" Knuckles: "Wait, there are presents?!" Ugh. Tails, Amy, and Sonic are more than tolerable, but a lot of soul is missing, particularly when it comes to the titular hero. There's absolutely a way to make Sonic cute and campy and get away with it. Although a large group of people are always going to find the character annoying, I've found the "you're too slow" finger-wagging cockiness of Sonic endearing and sometimes unintentionally funny. In Sonic Boom, he's milquetoast, which is a shame. [embed]283867:56394:0[/embed] Lyric, the new villain in town, is a creepy lizard-like take on Dr. Paradigm from Street Sharks. He fits the mold quite well and is a foe worth chasing, but things start to take a familiar turn as Dr. Eggman once again makes an appearance. Big Red Button had so much opportunity to turn things on their head and craft a new world we haven't seen, but instead the studio played it safe with the same exact personalities as before, just dulled down. I just don't get it. As the promising story takes familiar turn after familiar turn, it becomes forgettable. Actual gameplay, on the other hand, is decent when not marred by technical issues. The platforming in particular feels right, and the camerawork is impressive throughout the adventure. In terms of frame rate, Sonic Boom feels like it caps out at 30 frames per second with occasional stuttering and choppiness. It's not broken, as the game is still playable throughout the annoyances, but it -- and the sound outages and messy cutscenes -- are something to be aware of. These issues affect the presentation but don't necessarily impede gameplay. It's a bit odd though, because the game looks worse than most of the recent 3D Sonic titles. The characters are bright and stylish on-screen and the indoor environments have a penchant to delight, but the outdoor settings feel half-finished in certain instances, like the team didn't get to flesh out most of the details. This is no more apparent than when you attempt to run on water in zones where you "aren't supposed to," and are met with a "glub glub" effect and instant death. Gameplay is predictable. Think of a basic 3D Sonic, but with areas only specific friends can reach (you can tag-switch characters with the d-pad). Tails can use gusts of wind, Sonic can spin up ramps, Knuckles can climb on certain walls, and Amy can triple-jump and balance on marked beams. Notice the words "certain" and "marked"; Sonic Boom isn't as open as you'd expect. While Sonic Boom's design inherently limits where you can go, it also makes for some fun puzzles in the indoor dungeon portions. Billed as an open-world adventure, that claim only feels half true. While there is a big hub with a few NPCs, it mostly acts as a gateway to the other zones, which are more linear affairs with branching areas. In terms of combat, all of your favorite moves are back like the Sonic Spin and homing attack, and character operate mostly the same way outside of Tails, who employs a more ranged style. It's not the most ingenious fighting system in a 3D mascot game, but it works. The new "Enerbeam" mechanic lets you use a beam-whip as either a tether to certain areas or as a weapon, but it functions exactly as you'd expect and barely comes into play. Like most of the game, its addition can be described as "adequate." Co-op (up to four players) makes things heaps more enjoyable, especially when kept at a maximum of two. Since one player can opt for the GamePad and the other a traditional controller on the TV, things get much more fun when it comes to the action and exploration areas. Switching characters is also smoother in co-op as you can basically tackle any obstacle in tandem without having to stop, wait, and do every puzzle individually. My favorite part of the game was playing with a partner and figuring out some of the clever indoor jumping puzzles together, often times saying out loud things like "What if I tried this? I'll go around and meet you there." If you have a friend who can't get enough of Sonic, you may want to pick up Boom at a discount and go halfsies on it. There's also an arena-like mode to experiment with, but it'll only last you an hour tops. When I first saw the announcement for Sonic Boom, barring the weird Knuckles redesign, I was excited by the prospect of change. The Sonic series hasn't taken many risks in recent years, particularly when it comes to the 3D aspect of the franchise, and Big Red Button had a lot riding on its inaugural effort. Unfortunately, the game could have used a few more months in the hopper and taken many more risks. Better luck next time. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Sonic Boom review photo
It has all of your favorite friends in it, like The Incredible Hulk
As a character, Sonic gets a bad rap these days. No matter what is announced, I can practically hear the collective groaning from my desk. Like any popular franchise with consecutive releases, some of them are going to be goo...

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Sonic Boom can be hilarious without game-breaking bugs


blublublublublublub
Nov 12
// Steven Hansen
Used to be Sonic games would at least let you stand in shin-high, Interstellar water. I stood in a lot of low water tending to my chao homies in their gardens (Dark Garden for life). This series was so much be...
Well...alright then photo
Well...alright then

Sonic Boom's game-breaking bugs are delightfully anticlimactic


Well...alright then
Nov 10
// Steven Hansen
Ah, Sonic Boom. I'm just in it for the laughs. I checked out after Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic Heroes.  Did you know I actually missed the Janet Jackson Super Bowl nipple slip because I left at halftime to go pla...
Sonic Boom photo
Sonic Boom

Go try the Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal demo now on 3DS


No Wii U demo though
Nov 06
// Chris Carter
Nintendo has announced that the demo for Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal, the 3DS edition of the Sonic Boom series, is now available. Full disclosure -- we haven't obtained a review copy yet for either version, and I hear we're not alone. At the very least, the demo for the 3DS game can give you some idea of what to expect.
Sonic photo
Sonic

Sonic and friends save a real life cat in this Sonic Boom commercial


'90s commercials, go!
Nov 04
// Chris Carter
Although I know it's not cool to like Sonic in just about every context, this new commercial for Sonic Boom is pretty cute. It basically involves Sonic and his crew rescuing a cat in real life in over-the-top fashion, which reminds me of the gloriously cheesy '90s commercials I grew up with. I'm half-expecting Crash Bandicoot to jump out and say "booyah grandma!" at any point.
SPORTS! photo
SPORTS!

The Giants are pumping Sonic music at batting practice


Green Hill Zone
Oct 16
// Steven Hansen
The San Francisco Giants are getting in the "Green Hill Zone" for tonight's game against the St. Louis Cardinals in San Francisco. MLB.com's Anthony DiComo reported that the Giants are taking batting practice to So...
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Zone Runners: Sonic-themed hip hop


This exists
Oct 13
// Dale North
Sonic-themed hip hop exists. Check out Zone Runners, a game music-inspired hip hop trio that just released their debut album of Sonic the Hedgehog type tunes. They run through a number of zones over the 11-track release, with...
Mega Man comic photo
Mega Man comic

Sonic and Mega Man will crossover again in Worlds Unite


The second collaboration
Oct 08
// Chris Carter
Sonic and Mega Man already did the crossover thing with Archie Comics' Worlds Collide storyline, but they are returning yet again in "Worlds Unite." More details will be revealed at New York Comic Con, but for now we kno...
Sonic Boom photo
On Cartoon Network
Before we get Sonic Boom for Wii U and Sonic Boom for 3DS, we'll be getting a Sonic Boom cartoon. Said cartoon will arrive on November 8th on Cartoon Network, with 11 minute shows on a weekly basis. You can ge...

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Uber is giving Sonic Boom Rides at New York Comic-Con


Gotta go fast!
Oct 02
// Dale North
I hate missing New York Comic-Con. This is only the second one I've missed. I'm missing out on the Sonic Boom Rides in New York, provided by Sega, Chevrolet, and Uber. Imagine jetting around New York in a Sonic-themed ride? I...
Sonic Boom Wii U photo
Sonic Boom Wii U

Sonic Boom dashing to Wii U a week early


Gotta go fast!
Sep 18
// Kyle MacGregor
In a year when so many titles have been delayed, Sega is bucking trends. The rogue publisher has announced plans to actually hasten the release of Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric. Quelle surprise! The Wii U action platformer will now cross the finish line a week early, launching on November 11 alongside its Nintendo 3DS companion, Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal.
Sonic + Mega Man photo
Sonic + Mega Man

Sonic / Mega Man: Worlds Collide comic is getting a complete collection


In addition to the smaller ones
Sep 16
// Chris Carter
The Sonic / Mega Man: Worlds Collide comic was pretty much everything I expected it to be. It was a perfect combination of two of my childhood icons, and it was enjoyable to read from start to finish. Although there have...
Sega photo
Sega

Check out Sega's booth at PAX Prime and hop in an Alien egg pod


I really wish I were going now
Aug 27
// Brittany Vincent
If you're headed to PAX Prime this weekend, first of all, I'm jealous and you should take me with you. Second, you should hit up the Sega booth, where you can get friendly with hands-on demos of Alien: Isolation, Sonic Boom: ...
Sonic Boom photo
Sonic Boom

Here's another incentive to pre-order Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric


Amy pillow not included
Aug 26
// Brittany Vincent
Starting August 25, anyone who pre-orders Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric for the Wii U from Amazon will receive a exclusive character costume pack that can be used in the game. Fans who pre-order will receive a code to unlock the ...
Sonic photo
Sonic

These Sonic-themed chili dogs and onion rings look pretty tasty


I think I'd just go buy them instead of make them
Aug 20
// Brittany Vincent
I'm not sure why Sonic's favorite food is chili dogs, but whatever. Rosanna Pansino, star of my favorite videogame cooking show Nerdy Nummies, has created a Sonic-themed meal here in the form of Sonic chili dogs with onion r...
Sonic Boom photo
Sonic Boom

The latest Sonic Boom trailer is rife with quips and a movie announcer dude


Sonic is either a big jerk or kinda dumb
Aug 15
// Brittany Vincent
Are you tired of Sonic Boom yet? Oh, you are? Well, I guess you won't want to check out this new trailer, then. See if I care. The latest trailer details some of the enemies and villains Sonic will face up against,...
Sonic the Hedgehog photo
Sonic the Hedgehog

Scientifically accurate Sonic the Hedgehog is more nightmarish than even my fanfiction


Animation Domination does it again
Jul 28
// Brittany Vincent
What's weirder than Sanic making a big boy puddle for Amy? This newest video in the Scientifically Accurate series from Fox's Animation Domination HD YouTube channel, which features good ol' Sonic the Hedgehog. Going fast. And other things. I won't spoil it. Just go ahead and watch it yourself. Then check out the rest of the series. You're welcome.
GOTTA GO FAST photo
GOTTA GO FAST

Sega reveals Sonic Boom release dates, package art


Coming to 3DS on November 11 and a week later for Wii U
Jul 24
// Kyle MacGregor
Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric (that's the Wii U one) is dashing to North America on November 18, Sega announced today. It won't beat its portable (and more promising) companion to market, though, as Sonic Boom: Shattere...
Sonic BOOM photo
Sonic BOOM

Sonic Boom also has characters not covered in tape


Like 'sexy purple Rosie the Riveter hedgehog' and 'old tails-less tails'
Jul 23
// Steven Hansen
SEGA released a little collection (with bios) of other characters in the Sonic Boom universe, whether they inhabit the 3DS version, Wii U version, or are in the television show. And there's so little tape there, unl...
Sonic goes mobile photo
Sonic goes mobile

Sonic Jump Fever is fun for about two minutes


Actually 'fun' might be overselling it
Jul 10
// Kyle MacGregor
Sonic Jump Fever is now available worldwide via iTunes and Google Play, Sega announced today. The vertical platformer is a free-to-play sequel to Sonic Jump, which first appeared on Japanese mobile phones in 2005. The experi...
Sonic Boom photo
Sonic Boom

Two new Sonic Boom trailers show off one super extraordinary team


The Gotta Go cast
Jul 02
// Brett Makedonski
In May, I had a chance to check out the two upcoming Sonic Boom games -- Rise of Lyric and Shattered Crystal. I was surprisingly impressed by one, and unsurprisingly unimpressed by the other. These two trailers mak...
Sonic's birthday! photo
Sonic's birthday!

We're celebrating Sonic's 23rd birthday the only way we know how


With erotic fan fiction and art
Jun 23
// Brett Makedonski
It's Sonic's 23rd birthday, and we couldn't let his big day go by unnoticed. We wanted to celebrate by paying tribute to the legendary hedgehog. A really hot, steamy, sexy, erotic tribute. In case that last sentence wasn't indication enough, this post isn't exactly family friendly. So, not safe for work content to follow. You've been warned. Enjoy.
Sonic movie photo
Sonic movie

Prepare for a hybrid CG/live-action Sonic the Hedgehog movie


We knew this day would come
Jun 10
// Jordan Devore
Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sega Sammy's Marza Animation Planet studio have plans for a big-screen Sonic the Hedgehog movie that will combine CG animation with live action, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Evan Susser...

Sonic Boom on 3DS seems like a pleasantly surprising platformer

Jun 10 // Brett Makedonski
Like Lyric, Shattered Crystal frequently halts the platforming challenge to put an emphasis on puzzles. Usually, these are solved via one of the characters' unique abilities. Playing as Sonic, but need to hit a far away button? Switch to Sticks with one tap of the screen to throw a boomerang at it. It's tough to say how difficult these sections will get as the game progresses, but they were pretty basic in the demo we were shown. However, it seems as if often times these puzzle bits won't necessarily bar off the main path through stages, but serve as a gateway to optional areas. The levels in the demo were absolutely huge, enough so that one of the 3DS screens is dedicated to providing a map. It definitely prompts exploration to earn extra rewards -- another takeaway from Lyric. One such example is a playable mini-stage that required the use of Tails. Outfitted in a submarine, there was an underwater maze complete with harmful obstacles that needed to be navigated to find a hidden object. All that needed to be done before Tails ran out of oxygen. It had an air of difficulty about it that assured Shattered Crystal wouldn't just be a walk in the park. As if all that adventuring goodness weren't enough, Shattered Crystal even has a Metroidvania aspect to it. At first, it looks as if Sonic will be soloing the areas until the game's other characters -- Knuckles, Tails, and Sticks -- are unlocked. Once they're available, earlier levels will necessitate a replay in order to access previously unreachable parts by way of using their unique skills. Walking away from some hands-on time with Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal, it's easy to have an optimistic outlook for this take on the fabled hedgehog. A title that manages to be true to the series' roots while simultaneously innovating in a positive way is something 3DS owners can get excited about. It may not be an exact return to Sonic's glory days, but there's no reason it can't be just as fulfilling.
Shattered Crystal preview photo
Sonic's Metroidvania
Just last week, Sega announced that the two upcoming Nintendo-exclusive Sonic games were given subtitles. The Wii U title is now Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, and the 3DS version is Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal. Despite sh...

Sega @ E3 2014 photo
Sega @ E3 2014

I wanna be all alone with Alien: Isolation and more with Sega's E3 2014 offerings


Hatsune Miku all up in here, holla!
Jun 06
// Brittany Vincent
Once your heart's broken, what do you do? I only want some pieces of you, Sega. And I won't be making it out to E3 to check out your lineup. There are a few games coming down the pipeline over at Sega that I'm more than a lit...
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News that's good to the last drop
There's a hot drizzle of news leading up to E3, and Max is here to suck it down and spit it back at you! A sequel to Homefront is actually happening, for some reason. Ed Boon officiates the new MK as Mortal Kombat X (as in E...

Sonic Boom plays pretty much exactly as I expected

Jun 02 // Brett Makedonski
I attempted the quick, zoomy level first because I knew that it'd be the one that felt the most like the Sonic that I knew. Unfortunately, it was the roughest around the edges. Sonic Boom isn't necessarily equipped to deal with fast camera changes and dexterity-dependent platforming, making this mode nothing more than an exercise in frustration. There were several paths to take along the way, each one leading to more or less rings. Every route I took was nothing more than blind luck, as it felt as if the level was a blur. It seems that to succeed at these, it'll take a lot of repetition and memorizing, because skill didn't seem as if it were a factor. Luckily, things started to look up a bit when I took on one of the campaign levels. Sonic Boom's supposedly geared more toward exploration and combat than platforming, and it showed. A taste of the combat came first, as Sonic and Knuckles tried their hand at melee attacking a group of enemies. There's a combo system in place that assigns letter grades based on performance, but it looks to only be based on number of hits and not variation of moves. Also in play is some sort of collectible currency (apart from rings) that go toward what I expect will be an upgrade system, but the developers were unwilling to talk about it at the time. While the fighting didn't feel terrible, it wasn't great either. Because of the relatively simple nature of the enemies, it was still easy to succeed, but in a way where I never felt completely in control of the fray. I couldn't put my finger on the reason why, but it may have had something to do with the depth perception, possibly stemming from the camera angles. Truth be told, the camera would be the biggest complaint of the entire demo, as it served as the biggest hindrance. Switching between characters and using their abilities to explore offshoots of the areas for extra collectibles was a fun exercise that added a twinge of cerebrality to the mix. However, often times, actually jumping to the necessary platforms was mostly an estimation, as the camera didn't give a correct frame of reference as to how far was needed to go. Mitigating this effect a bit is the inclusion of the EnerBeam, which acts as a whip that can latch onto certain attachments. This helps take the guess work out of some maneuvers, and adds a level of forgiveness. When not engaged in combat or exploring, Sonic Boom likes to bridge the gap with puzzles. The ones I saw were rather elementary, mostly using two characters in conjunction. It all worked fine enough in singleplayer, but I suspect that a cooperative partner would enhance this sensation exponentially. For what it's worth, during these puzzles, I found myself more interested in staring at the screen on the Wii U's GamePad than the television in front of me. I don't know what that might indicate, but it happened. By the time I reached the boss fight, I had a feeling for what Sonic Boom had to offer. The dust-up with Eggman featured him in a giant suit and shooting rockets which either crashed into Sonic and/or Knuckles, or came to rest on the ground. The goal was to pick up the undetonated ones and use the EnerBeam to fling them back at the evil doctor. It wasn't the most original take on a boss fight, but it wasn't bad. Actually, that was my experience with Sonic Boom in a nutshell. It's doesn't look as if it'll break any new ground, it doesn't look like it'll be Sonic's chance to reclaim his long-vacated throne, but it doesn't look like it'll be lousy either. Anyone that's forgiving enough to look past some of the obvious shortcomings might find an enjoyable experience underneath. Just know that you'll have to take the bad with the good.
Sonic Boom preview photo
Not great, not terrible
[Update: Apparently, just this morning, Sega decided to subtitle both Sonic Boom for Wii U and the upcoming Sonic 3DS game. Sonic Boom on Wii U is now Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, and the 3DS title is S...

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What kind of question is that?!
Max and I have a chat about some interesting new characters coming to the Wii U. However, Max has an ulterior curiosity that may just ruin everything forever. Which would you choose: Sticks the Badger, or the Mario Kart Mercedes?

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Sonic Boom: New character Sticks


Fan art incoming...
May 29
// Dale North
Presenting Sticks, the new character for Sonic Boom. She's Amy's best buddy, and she's maybe a little backwards. She lives in a burrow and has a boomerang as a weapon.  What do you think?
Sega photo
Sega

Sega's numbers are down, but still profitable


Total War: Rome 2 led the way
May 09
// Brett Makedonski
Sega didn't have a great year, but did enough to stay in the black. Due to a "harsh market environment," the publisher's physical videogame sales tumbled to 8.7 million. However, the company noted that mobile and digital PC t...

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