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Review: Sonic Runners

Sonic Runners is a dystopian, nightmare vision of gaming in the future except it’s here now.

The latest Sonic mobile title is a 2D endless runner, similar in scope to Pac-Man Dash and Rayman: Jungle Run. Sonic automatically runs through a Windy Hill-styled stage and you have to tap the screen to make him jump. That’s all there is to it. Jumping at the right time to get rings, crystals, avoid obstacles and destroy badniks becomes imperative to its design as these are all needed to score higher and allow you to unlock bonus items like stat perks and “buddies” which also help increase your score multiplier. It’s a simple yet effective gameplay choice that boils Sonic down to its bare essentials and makes for some decent, bite-sized fun for the Sonic fan on the go.

However the whole experience is filtered through an advertisement hell that repeatedly hampers your experience and distracts from actually playing the game. Booting up the game requires a long installation, a stable internet connection and an initial load that eventually brings you to the main menu but only after you’re bombarded with notifications about in-game purchases and special events. The game even managed to reboot my entire phone during one boot-up that meant I had to go through the whole process again.

When you finally get to actually play the game and complete a run you are given the option to continue the run for free as long as you watch an advertisement for some other iOS garbage about farming, raising monsters or medieval combat. If you can’t watch the video then you can always pay 5 red star rings which cost real money if you run out.

I also forgot to mention that the entire game only works if you have a steady (and strong) internet connection so for those of us who commute via the London underground, your gaming experience is likely to be cut off the moment you lose connection. So much of Sonic Runners is deliberately put in place to infuriate the player to the point of giving up.

The actual game is not bad for what it is. It looks nice, it plays well (apart from the occasional stutter which can annoyingly result in some cheap deaths when the device doesn’t recognise your taps) and it certainly feels like a traditional Sonic game. The real problem is the game’s simplicity; you will quickly tire of tapping your way through the same stages over and over again and it takes far too long before you see a new environment or get to play as a new character. New characters do spice things up a bit with their extra abilities (e.g. Tails can fly for short periods of time and reach greater heights) but it soon becomes all too familiar.

I understand this is the point of mobile gaming; short bursts of simple fun for passing the time, but Sonic Runners feels like it offers very little especially when compared with Sonic Dash by Hardlight which has considerably more involved gameplay and feels deeper as a result. However the game’s biggest problems come outside of gameplay. Simply navigating through the menus in Sonic Runners opens up endless notifications about stuff you really don’t care about, the load times are atrocious for a simple 2D endless runner and the absolute advertising bombardment that you have to suffer through really bogs down the entire experience.

4/10

Written by Lewis “Sonic Yoda” Clark 29/6/2015.

This review reflects Sonic Runners gameplay on an iPhone 5.

Screenshots
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