While Sonic Boom on the Wii U has its issues, there are also some redeeming qualities. Co-op is enjoyable, the platforming is pretty fun, and the 2D sections aren’t bad. With a few more months in the oven and more polish, it could have ultimately been a decent Sonic title.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the 3DS version of Sonic Boom. There’s almost nothing redeeming about it.
Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal (3DS)
Developer: Sanzaru Games
Released: November 11, 2014
Shattered Crystal is a 2D platforming alternative to the 3D Rise of Lyric, offering up old-school level-based gameplay instead of semi-open-world exploration. The map is very similar to Donkey Kong Country, as is the game’s propensity to hide collectible objects in elaborate mazes. Sounds cool, right? Well, things go downhill from there.
The biggest problem with Shattered Crystal is the sluggish pace. It’s not possible to just jump and run around like you can in any other 2D Sonic game. In addition to all of the terrible dialog and ridiculous caricatures from the Wii U version (Knuckles is still an idiot), you’ll also have to deal with slow-moving, unskippable text boxes during story scenes. Why yes, I definitely wanted to watch a five-minute scene about something meaningless with bad jokes in a 2D platformer.
That’s not the worst of it, though. Each stage has a large number of collectibles like blueprints and tokens that must be found to unlock more levels. Yep, in order to make any real progress, you have to search tirelessly for tons of objects rater than enjoy the level for what it is. Here’s the biggest issue: levels are purposefully designed to have points of no return, forcing you to replay them at least twice to find everything, if you’re lucky. At one point I wasn’t sure if I was progressing through a level because multiple areas felt like direct copy-and-paste jobs.
“Gating” is a common mechanic used in games that force you to master previous content to access tougher areas. While many would say it’s never justified, I would argue that as long as said previous content is fun, gating can be a minor annoyance at worst as you work your way towards the newer stages and feel a sense of accomplishment along the way.
But in Shattered Crystal, the maps are sprawling and feel exactly the same throughout, so it feels like an utter chore to trek on. The game has a map feature (if you can call it that), but it basically just throws up a blue grid on the bottom screen, completely devoid of any real information outside of the occasional icon. You’re just going through a sea of blue struggling to find anything of value. Many levels aren’t fun to play once, much less two, three, or more times at which point you’ll probably give up.
It sucks, because the mechanics are quite fun. Sonic not only has his homing attack and sonic spin, but also an air dash and a running ability that speeds things up. The air dash in particular adds a new dimension to gameplay since you can also stop momentarily and dash upwards, giving it a distinct Mega Man X feel. Switching characters to access new areas like air vents is also easy and intuitive. Sticks the Badger (Aika from Skies of Arcadia‘s doppleganger), the newcomer in lieu of Amy, is also a nice addition to boot.
The visual style isn’t technically impressive, but the cutscenes do have a console quality to them, and the actual levels are bright and full of life. There’s also a consistent frame rate even with the 3D effect on. Just like the Wii U version, I don’t mind the new character designs outside of Knuckles, which feels like a wasted effort based on the quality of the two games.
Rather than let you actually play, Shattered Crystal is content to make you wait, wait, and wait some more before you get to the decent (but flawed) platforming. The design is maddening, especially when coupled with the poor dialog compliments of the new Boom universe. If you must pick up one edition of Sonic Boom, make it Rise of Lyric at a price drop.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]