Did Eggman design the microtransactions?
Hey, Sega actually made a really cool mobile Sonic game…then promptly proceeded to beat it down with layers and layers of microtransactions.
Oh Sega, you scamp!
Sonic Runners (Android, iOS [reviewed on an iPhone 6])
Released: May 25, 2015
Sonic Runners is very clearly, well, a runner, but it’s far more than meets the eye. It’s level-based, features a variety of locales from Sonic’s past, has a cute little story involved, and plays wonderfully well, just like how you’d imagine a good mobile Sonic game would. Our hero will run from left to right automatically through stages that mirror the classics from his storied history, and players can tap anywhere on the screen to jump. Tapping again will trigger another leap, and the process of jumping will inherently attack enemies.
A lot of depth lies beneath the surface, with multi-tiered stages that are a lot like Robot Unicorn Attack‘s maps, giving you a good sense of adventure on a constant basis like a true platformer. Gathering more coins and pickups in a short period of time will grant you a combo bonus, which in turn earns you more points, which assists in your progress with the story and your skill unlocks. It looks great on paper and in action as well, sporting a cool bright look that differentiates itself from the classic titles while giving it a distinct style.
It’s great how Sonic Runners actually feels like a Sonic game through and through, from the “dying while having no rings” mechanic to plungers, to loops, and Tails’ flight power and Knuckles’ power dash are great additions. Sonic and the rest of the cast have individual experience levels, and can equip “buddies” (like Chao) for minor statistical bonuses. You can also level-up characters to beef up their response to power-ups and point bonuses for specific objectives. Like I said, it’s surprisingly deep, and will keep you interested for the long haul rather than supply you with a selection of different cosmetic options.
Unfortunately, Sega decided to be unreasonable with the free-to-play nature of the game. First, you’ll have to go through a grueling signup process that involves updates (which crashed when I first tried to install it this morning), online checks, and age verification (so you don’t spend all your parent’s money). From there, you’ll head on down to the microtransaction layer, of which you will likely never return.
Let me just list off everything that’s present in the game: two roulettes, one for each type of currency that you earn or buy spins for, an energy system that takes 30 minutes to recharge per life, a revive system that involves watching an ad to restart from your death point, three types of currency you can buy (yellow rings, red rings, and lives), friend invite bonuses (10 will get you Amy), and a ticker that shows “current deals” on the currencies involved.
This is exacerbated by ads that run every so often after a level, seemingly for no reason, that happen to play the ad’s audio alongside of the game’s music. Sometimes, this happens while you’re getting a post-match bonus tallied. It’s exhausting. While playing each round and having a bit of confined fun will often have you forgetting about all of these elements, it’s not long before they’re thrown back into your face. The energy system is probably the worst part, limiting your playtime regardless of whether or not you wade through everything else.
In practice, Sonic Runners is a fun mobile tribute to the Blue Blur, and the team that designed it should be proud — this is how you bring a storied console franchise to the Android and iOS marketplaces. Unfortunately, the team in charge of that team decided that said fun should be gated by needless locks with cash keys, which is a problem. Give it a go and see if you can stomach the microtransactions. As for myself, I’m taking frequent breaks, mostly because I’m forced to.