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Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric Review

It’s very telling that Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric is such a non-event that I’ve been avoiding writing anything about it. If you aren’t already aware, Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric is a video game that ties into SEGA of America’s reinvention of Sonic the Hedgehog that includes another game, a variety of merchandise and a new animated cartoon series. Sonic and friends have been slightly redesigned to be more lanky and accessory-laden, but otherwise it’s business as usual for the gang as they attempt to stop Dr. Eggman from conquering the world and imprisoning all the inhabitants.

Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric mixes things up a bit by introducing a new villain called Lyric. Lyric is a snake in a mechanical suit that is hell-bent on destroying all natural life in Sonic’s world and replacing it with machinery. Sonic and co accidentally wake Lyric from an ancient tomb and it’s up to them to stop him as well as Dr. Eggman who is accompanied by Metal Sonic.

Here lies some of the first few issues with the game; why do we need a new villain? If this is supposed to be the first game in a new branch of the franchise aimed at getting a new audience on board then surely you’d want to introduce them to the existing cast before adding to it. Rise of Lyric never takes a moment to establish itself and it simply expects you to care about this bonkers cast of characters from the get-go. It’s never explained where Sonic is or what Dr. Eggman’s motives are. Luckily, Lyric’s backstory takes centre-stage so there is a constant narrative that flows through the game.

Thankfully the story is actually one of the most redeeming features of playing Rise of Lyric. The script is actually quite funny and each character gets some decent time on screen to allow you to understand their specific traits. There’s some great little back-and-forth between Sonic and Eggman and everybody gets a moment to crack a joke or two. A particular favourite comes when Knuckles congratulates Sonic for actually saying, “thanks” and when he slaps him on the back a ring pops out of him and he falls off a ledge. Scenes like this are actually quite snappy and play off established elements that the series is already known for (even though it’s a bit bizarre to expect a new audience to know them already).

What makes Rise of Lyric such a tedious and uneventful experience is its gameplay. Rise of Lyric has no idea what it wants to be. The game is a both a 3D and 2D platformer with puzzle elements and a lot of melee combat. New to the game is the use of enerbeams which are basically energy whips that can be used to attach to sky rails, pull-switches and enemies. Returning are the third person running sections that should be familiar to anyone who’s had to quickstep their way around Sonic Unleashed, Colours or Generations.

Despite all this diversity, none of it is ever as fun as it’s been in the past and combat in particular gets incredibly repetitive. Sonic and co have a set move-list that never evolves with the game and the characters can use their enerbeams to latch onto enemies, swing them around and throw them into stuff; it’s all very simplistic and uninspired. What’s even more worrying is that the Werehog combat from Sonic Unleashed has a deeper combat system than this. Attacking feels stiff and clunky as Sonic awkwardly darts between enemies and the fact that you’ll be doing it a lot means you’ll quickly begin to tire of how clunky it all feels. The only thing that really changes is that more enemies start to get flung into battles which means you’ll be spending even longer trying to scramble your way through these very uninteresting fights.

Platforming is equally ham-fisted. Platforming should be the one thing Sonic does right but due to a lack of speed or momentum during any section that isn’t the behind-the-character running stuff, it just feels like you’ve been hindered. Amy is bizarrely the most agile of the group and you’ll often find yourself using her over everyone else as her triple jump makes for much faster climbing of obstacles.

Speaking of the other characters, Rise of Lyric allows you to switch between Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Amy at any time except you’ll never bother unless the stage design forces you to. Sonic has most of his traditional move-set that you’d expect to use from any other 3D Sonic game apart from the enerbeam that everyone gets, Tails can gently glide down to Earth as well as gain access to a “buddy-bot” that can go into small spaces and open doors, Knuckles can climb on walls as long as they look like broken glass (yes really) and Amy can walk on pink balance beams and use the aforementioned triple jump. It often feels like most of these abilities have been either tacked on to extend the game unnecessarily or that they’ve been split out into 4 characters for the sake of having four playable characters. In an ideal world the worst abilities would have been scrapped and the rest would have been crammed into one character.

Also, with the addition of four playable characters we also get a lot of in game dialogue. The characters are always speaking to each other or pointing out glaringly obvious surroundings and it’s completely unnecessary. Why does Sonic need to tell you he’s found a bounce/boost pad every time you hit one? Why does Sonic point these irrelevant things out instead of explaining some of his abilities? I completely missed any explanation of the homing attack because it was explained briefly in a bit of on-screen text that appeared in the middle of a fight. Thanks guys; really helpful.

Graphically Rise of Lyric is alright to look at. The green and natural scenery makes for the game’s best vistas while the more mechanical surroundings often look the most uninspired. The prettiest looking parts of the game generally act as the game’s hub worlds which contain side-quests as well as the gates that lead to the game’s main stages. These hub worlds are very similar to Sonic Adventure’s adventure fields except they’re generally bigger and more detailed. These areas also showcase an interesting side of Sonic that has yet to be explored and it’s quite intriguing. Exploring these areas can be a lot of fun as it leads to secret areas, rings and chests filled with robot junk that act as the game’s currency. Yes, that’s right; Rise of Lyric has more additional distractions up its sleeve. Using the game’s currency you can rebuild the damaged hub worlds. It’s actually quite an endearing little side quest that makes good use of the hub worlds but it’s never the main focus of the game and sadly it falls to the wayside like so many of Rise of Lyric’s failed ideas.

Speaking of failed ideas, what is going on with this soundtrack? Even in Sonic’s worst outings, the soundtrack always triumphs (see Sonic the Hedgehog ’06) but everything in Rise of Lyric’s soundtrack is entirely unremarkable. Most of the music in Rise of Lyric is incidental meaning it simply adds gravitas to a scene instead of acting as a main theme. This sort of music has never suited Sonic very well and the lack of hummable tunes really hurts the game’s presentation.

Let’s take a look at what we’ve ended up with: Rise of Lyric is an awkward, disjointed mess of a game that doesn’t know what it wants to be. The combat is repetitive and the platforming is uninspired. There are a few glimmers of something decent thanks to the humorous script and the detailed hub worlds but all in all this is a very run-of-the-mill experience. It’s perfectly playable despite comments from some players that complain about a lot of bugs but outside of a few audio glitches I never experienced anything game breaking. What I did experience was a very flat and unmemorable game that I’ll probably never return to.

5/10

Written by Lewis “Sonic Yoda” Clark on 01/12/2014

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