Sonic Boom: Rise of lyric for the Wii U is considered one of the worst games of 2014. It might even be the worst game of 2014. I still think two or more games I played are worse than Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, but there is a reason why it has been getting so many terrible reviews. This should have been a good game with a developer that was filled with ex Naughty Dog employees, and it could have been interesting if the overall feel of the game was designed better, but nope! SEGA pushed out the game, and now many fans are even boycotting the franchise. That’s saying something when Sonic 06 was once considered the lowest point of the franchise. Even as a spin-off, Sonic Boom shouldn’t have the excuse of being just a spin-off title and therefore not count. How about we dissect in a list why this game is so terrible? I would have done a review of this game, but I felt like there are already so many reviews out that you can check those out on your own. For now, here are my Top Reasons Why Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric Fails!
9. Unpolished Controls
Let’s start with the one element any game should get down, great controls. Sadly, Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric does not get that down. The controls aren’t entirely broken, but they feel slippery. I felt like the characters wanted to go Tokyo drift, and I couldn’t turn properly without getting hit by environmental obstacles or enemy attacks. The controls are ruined even more due to the speed sections, and due to the garbage frame rate; you won’t have time to dodge certain obstacles that get in your way. Even if the game is average or mediocre, it’s always nice to say that the controls aren’t a problem. Sadly, that isn’t the case here.
8. The Mediocre Graphics
Time and time again, people like to point out that the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are superior in terms of graphical capabilities, and the Wii U is constantly bashed for being about as strong as a PlayStation 3 or whatever. Personally, that doesn’t bother me. With what you can do with art direction, you can come out with some of the best looking games in this console generation. If you need proof, look at Mario Kart 8. Unfortunately, Sonic Boom: Rise of lyric looks like an HD PlayStation 2 or very early Xbox 360 launch title. Textures are flat, lighting is simple, the character models are rough and I honestly couldn’t find one section of the game that looked good. Even the enemy models are soulless, and look cut-and-paste, since the enemy variety is so mediocre that it’s sad. The two design choices that I kind of liked were Dr. Robotnik and Lyric, but even then, due to the terrible graphics, it doesn’t really make it a high point at all. Oh, and don’t get me started about the technical downgrade that happens once another player jumps into the fray. The Wii U might not be as strong as the PlayStation 4 or high-end PCs, but Wii U games can look a lot better than Sonic Boom.
7. Bad Level Design
Throughout the entire game, I never found any of the levels to be well designed. It felt incredibly generic and not unique at all. Sure, there are speed sections, but due to the frame rate and controls, they don’t save the overall bland design of the game. The two overworlds you travel through don’t have any life to them, with the forgettable side characters standing still, and having animation loops. They do add simple elements to support each character’s abilities, like Knuckles being able to climb special walls, and Amy being able to triple jump and run on rails, but I never saw anything special done with those abilities besides the base action. Even the rails that the characters ride on with those electric grapple things don’t get used in any new or dynamic way. You know how in Super Mario Galaxy 2 where they perfected the gravity and spherical level design? Yeah, Sonic Boom doesn’t do any of that. I wish I could say that there was one sequence I could remember that was satisfying and unique, but I can’t!
6. Mediocre Bosses
For me, bosses are a big deal. They should be varied, fit with the overall feel of the game, and challenge the player in different ways. Someone forgot to tell them that since every boss basically acts the same way. Grab an enemy and throw it at them, or you go up close and pummel them into the ground three separate times. Sometimes you get to use your grappling hook item, but the bosses never deviate from these kinds of tactics. It’s rather annoying, and it results with every boss feeling the same. A great example of bosses that all act differently are the bosses from Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze. They don’t reuse one boss throughout that entire game! It’s sad that the bosses that you encounter here are nothing more than annoyances.
5. Boring Combat
You know when you play a game like Bayonetta 2, God of War 3, or Yakuza where you get satisfying combat that makes you feel awesome and is fun to watch on screen? Well, you guessed it, Sonic Boom has boring and unsatisfying combat! The combos are very simple to pull off, and the combo grade that goes up the more hits you pull off doesn’t reward you or do anything for said more hits. Even though the characters have their own ways of attacking enemies and bosses, they all feel the same. I didn’t see a difference between the four characters. The worst part of the combat is that it’s basically 60% of the game. In the end, it sucks when you can’t make punching a robot satisfying.
4. Lyric Fails as an Interesting Villain
It seems like SEGA constantly tries to introduce new villains that are either really bland, forgettable or something that is right out of H.P. Lovecraft. Nowhere is this more apparent than with Lyric. Lyric has to be one of the most forgettable villains I have seen in a while. He kind of looks cool, but he is every stereotypical “I hate nature, and machines are the best thing ever” villain you saw throughout the 90s kids films that were about saving the environment. Heck, Dr. Robotnik, the main villain of the series had more personality than Lyric, since he wasn’t just a goofy villain who got comically enraged at his failings anymore. There is just no backstory to Lyric, and I know the Sonic franchise is not known for deep characters, but still, you want to make them interesting. Sure, The Legend of Zelda franchise has tried out different villains, and for a lot of people, they work! You know why? Because Nintendo put effort into crafting them with character and personality! Speaking of crafting personality and character…
3. The Story/Writing
I know this is a game aimed at kids, but even then, I think kids are looking for a story with more substance and writing that doesn’t feel so soulless and doesn’t talk down to them. There really is no story to this game since it mainly just adds up to stop the generic environment-hating bad guy. There are no twists, no in-depth themes, and the characters are walking punchlines with no real personality that differentiates them, with the exception of Knuckles being the big dumb tough guy and Eggman being a little more snarky. Even then, the humor used for Knuckles didn’t really get a laugh from me. I know it’s tough to pull off the “tough, but dumb guy,” but the writing is so boring that the jokes fall flat. The characters also talk way too much, so that it feels disjointed and not natural in the least. The humor also doesn’t work because of the stiff or poor animation that doesn’t elevate the stale voice acting. The story is meant to be a prequel story to the new cartoon show, but it doesn’t do anything to introduce the characters, no backstories for them, and it doesn’t explain why Sonic and friends are constantly fighting Dr. Robotnik. Even Shadow’s backstory isn’t talked about. It all just feels put together, and like I said above, soulless. Don’t even get me started how pointless Shadow is to the overall story, along with every bland and forgettable side character you meet. Kid games should be better, because kids aren’t stupid. They deserve high quality entertainment, and you sure as heck won’t find it here.
2. The Many Technical Issues
While my play-through of the game didn’t have as many bugs as other play-throughs, I won’t deny that the game is a technical and bug-riddled mess. The game’s frame-rate drops below 30, textures and lighting pop up randomly, characters fly through walls or fall through floors, the AI is as stupid as mud, the jumping exploit that Knuckles can use breaks the game, the frame-rate stutters, and you get the idea. It felt like QA testing didn’t get a minute with this game, and while it isn’t a buggy mess like Sonic 06, it’s still bug-filled, and either they didn’t hire a great QA team, or none of the QA reports got through to the designers and programmers. As a former QA tester, that is just awful. The thing that I feel like most big game companies don’t get is that we have QA teams for a reason, so you don’t ship out a buggy game on release, and even then we still have those issues. Anyway, this game should have had at least a couple of more months of testing, but sadly, it never did.
1. SEGA Pushed It Out The Door With No Regards To Quality
The worst part about this whole game is that SEGA, the people who made Sonic pushed Sonic Boom out the door with no regards as to how polished the game was. Heck, it was already a sign that the game might suck when no review copies were sent out. What’s even worse is that even if this game was all polished and didn’t run like bubbling piles of waste, the game would still be awful due to the lackluster gameplay and mediocre story. The game would have still been bad, but it wouldn’t be the prime example that SEGA has no freaking idea what they are doing with the franchise. Sure, people like to criticize the Mario and The Legend of Zelda franchise for being same-feeling, but that isn’t true. They are fully polished and well executed franchises, because they still have the same design choices that makes them popular, but build around them and keep what makes them good really good. On the other hand, SEGA, even if they do something good, doesn’t stick with it and build upon it, but rather scraps it for an entirely different idea that isn’t fully fleshed out and is poorly executed. Seriously, the best Sonic game I have ever played is Sonic & SEGA All Star Racing Transformed, a spin-off racing game that is better than most of the main entries in the Sonic franchise. That is pretty sad to think about. In the end, I do hope Big Red Button Games are not shut down due to the failure of this game, but I do think they need to do whatever they want in their next game, and not get stuck with cartoon tie-in video games.