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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Sonic Boom.

TranscriptEdit

So all the major pre-Christmas releases have shuffled out like the elderly residents of a retirement home queuing up for a nice restful euthanasia, and there's time for a bit of catching up before the year ends. So let's have a look at Sonic Boom on the Wii!

As the game begins and the usual slew of idents plays, the CryEngine logo is accompanied by the words "Achieved with CryEngine"! And you know, I don't think "achieved" is the word I'd use. "Shat out with CryEngine", maybe. "Tortuously prolonged with CryEngine". Or perhaps "enabled with CryEngine", in the same way one "enables" a crippling drug habit. Fuck yes, I'm reaching for the low-hanging fruit. It's been a long year, and taking it out on something no one with even a passing interest in reality will defend is my equivalent of a day at the spa!

Where is this invisible mob of deluded twatblasts that still buy Sonic reliably enough to bank new installments? 'Cause it's reached the point that even the 2D good ones have been retroactively tainted! Having said that, Sonic Colors was tolerable and some people seemed to like Generations, even a couple of people who are allowed outside without adult supervision. So Sonic Boom being a spunk-bubble wasn't a given.

I know the character revamp that gave Sonic a Nathan Drake scarf and turned Knuckles into a slow-witted give-way sign probably made the fanbase moo a bit, but it made sense to me! At least they're physically differentiating the characters a bit for once! Although I'm not sure what's with all the bandages wrapped around everything - maybe everyone's gotten paper cuts from signing acceptance forms for all the shit they're being given!

The gameplay is based around switching between the four marginally different playstyles of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, which hearkens back to good 'ol Sonic 2006, the game that learned the hard way that no one buys a Sonic game to play as one of Sonic's fucking roommates! But perhaps it'd be superstitious to blame Sonic's entourage alone for the fascinating awfulness of Sonic '06 and Sonic Boom. The far more reasonable explanation is that the games were both developed by syphilitic gibbons!

The plot opens with Sonic et al running fast and fighting Dr. Egg-robot-man-nik. Blimey, that's a bold stride in a new direction! No wonder we needed a fucking reboot! In short order, Sonic frees an evil snake monster from the past who claims that it was Sonic himself who imprisoned him a thousand years ago. And so the plot starts making time travel noises as Sonic is transported back to do the thing he already did. You might reasonably think at this point that we're setting up a Zelda-esque mechanic wherein we hop back and forth between two different time periods throughout the game, and you'd be all wrong and a bag of chips! We go back in time, imprison the poor bastard, and come straight back. It's never brought up again and we're not even a quarter of the way through the game.

The rest of our time is spent going to the next level to find the power crystal that opens up the level after that, while evil snake dude does absolutely nothing to indicate that they are in the slightest bit threatening or effective. Unless they murdered most of the population of the connecting world offscreen, which would explain why entire hub towns can contain maybe two NPCs. And I suppose the big evil snake must've nailed their feet to the floor as well.

Over the weekend, an associate asked me what kind of game Sonic Boom was. And you know what? As I opened my mouth in a shower of angry spittle and rum, I realized I had no idea how to answer that question. There are the token bits where you run fast along a long and inexplicable running track with no apparent relationship to the surrounding scenery, where the framerate drops like a sparrow with a plum pudding, and obstacles appear about one-sixth of a second before it will be too late to avoid imprinting your little freak one-eyed hedgehog face upon it.

There's also combat, or at least I think so. The characters are quite small on screen, and with Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme all fighting off multiple enemies it's like watching a vibrating tray covered in Star Wars miniatures, except you’re also still coming off the anesthetic from a slightly botched corneal transplant because the camera follows you sluggishly and refuses to behave itself. I’m also not convinced that the characters are trying to hit each other when they could just as easily be trying to wipe snot off their hands.

There are also platforming sections, most of which are contrivedly laid out with everything needed to accommodate the movement abilities of all the characters you’re dragging along like toy ducks on a string, like the mandatory wheelchair ramps on public buildings, and I have to wonder why we’re even bothering with multiple characters if any of them will do. And of course there are the side missions from the aforementioned solitary NPC’s, mainly related to finding or wiping snot off on five things around the map, and which I swiftly learned to ignore because your only reward is upgrades, and I think the designers must have been having some kind of drunken competition to come up with the most useless ones imaginable. Slightly increment the damage of an ability that almost always instant-kills, vacuum-up rings as long as they’re within arm’s reach, increase the arbitrary one hundred ring maximum capacity? That might have been useful, if only to make the deluges of rings the game throws at you not so much golden piss in the wind, but the game arbitrarily locked that upgrade until I bought the accompanying 3DS game.

One of Sonic’s random witticisms for picking up rings is: "Can never have enough rings!’ and somehow he says it with a straight face. Not that it matters, since even if you die you just spawn exactly where you were with twenty free rings. Challenge must have of gotten shunted down the priority list to pay for the voice actors humiliation insurance.

So again! What kind of game is this? A racer? A Brawler? A Platformer? A Gather-things-for-twats-er? Action Adventure? You need either action or adventure for that. No, I know what it is! It’s an endurance test, you see how much of the dialogue you can listen to before you slice your own ears off with a paper guillotine (or perhaps turn the volume down, you spaz.)

"Getting sniffy about random quips not meeting your comedy standards again, are we Yahtzee?" I would be, if they were quips! They seem more like matter-of-fact running commentary! “Bounce-pad!” announces Sonic as he touches a bounce-pad. “It's Bounce-pad time!” he adds. “I’m bouncing off something with pad-like characteristics!” he clarifies. And when it’s not that, it’s the game weakly attempting to praise itself. “This is awesome!” cries a sprinting character as they faceplant into another rock. “This place looks amazing!” they say, taking in the boxy buildings worthy of a pre-analog sticks PSone game, but saying something isn’t enough to make it true, unless you say something like “Sega are attracting derision, the massive wankers.”

And when the dialogue isn’t awful quips or self-aggrandizement, it’s just treating the player like an absolute cretin. “That wall looks breakable! I notice you haven’t broken it in the 2.7 seconds since I last mentioned that. That’s cool, I’ll check in 2.8 seconds!” What makes you think I’m this stupid, Sonic Boom?!

"You bought me!"

...TOUCHÉ!

AddendaEdit

  • Spiky little bastard: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • If, like me, you now have that song from the Sonic CD intro sequence stuck in your head then you, too, may be getting too old for this shit

  • See y'all after Christmas I suppose

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2

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