Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric had the right idea. When playing this broken mess, you could see the greatness buried beneath if you look for it. Unfortunately, none of that matters when the execution is so poor that the game shouldn’t have seen the light of day.
Every technical aspect that can go wrong with a functioning (if you can call it that) game, does go wrong here. If I were to touch on every bug or glitch I encountered with Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, this review could turn into a novella and it’s already going to be uncomfortably long as is. I’m going to touch on the most noticeable bugs, but for everything else, just imagine what could go wrong in that situation: It can and probably will happen at some point while playing the game.
We’re going to skip the stupid cosmetic glitches like pop-in, poorly done rubber-banding of your allies, or grossly mistimed sound effects, and jump right into the deep end: The frame rate is terrible. It varies wildly at moments that either make no sense, such as putzing around a small area, or times that matter the most, such as the chase sections. If it weren’t for the fact that the game makes you almost invincible and the penalty for death a complete joke, Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric would be impossible to complete. The frame rate will chug in sections where extreme precision is needed to avoid obstacles, and you’ll simply ram into every one of them.
Worse than that though, events will not trigger when they’re supposed to. Several times I’ve run through Hydro-Dash rings only for Sonic to drown while the rest of the crew Hydro-Dash off into the sunset. Sometimes the 2D sections will allow 3D movement, compromising level design or sending you to your death in the fore- or background. My personal favorite though has to be when sections of an area are literally impossible because an event hasn’t triggered properly. This is really noticeable in the area with the thorny vines, and the sky based zone. For example, I was supposed to use Tails and make my way over to another tower. However, the jump seemed impossible. Even with the updraft pushing me higher, I couldn’t make it. After two deaths, an airship with my actual objective decided to load in. My mind was blown.
Let’s not put all the blame on bugs though, some of the problems were just poor design choices. Rings, combat, quests and their rewards, and upgrades were all horrible decisions or good decisions handled awfully.
The rings in Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric serve as health points, and you lose a few rings when hit as opposed to becoming a ring geyser. To keep players from becoming overly powerful, the amount of rings a player can hold naturally is capped at 100. That’s a smart decision. Different types of attacks will take different amounts of rings from you. That’s a smart decision. Rings are everywhere, can be recovered by grabbing them, and even pop out of defeated enemies. That’s a bad decision.
With rings almost literally everywhere, there’s no need to fear losing them.Even when you die, rarely ever from losing all your rings, you lose a few superfluous robot parts (the game’s currency) and respawn immediately with 30 more rings. You can easily brute force your way through any situation with zero down side.
Combat is stiff and unpleasant. It tries to have a character action feel to it, but is so shallow and poorly implemented it’s almost insulting. Mashing Y or X until everything on screen is dead is the standard procedure after giving up on trying to mine combat depth. There’s a standard attack string, a special attack string, charge ups for both, an air string for both, a grab, and 4 dodge buttons. None of that matters. With your nigh invincibility and state of absolute boredom, you quickly learn the fastest way to conclude fights is to throw enemies to their death when applicable and mash your choice of X or Y until enemies stop coming. Dodging only prolongs the battle.
There are some quests available in Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric. You can help several NPCs or pay to upgrade the civilization, but only to mostly empty areas. The rewards are not worth your time. NPC quests will reward you with a new glyph to give characters special upgrades in combat. A handful are good and the rest are garbage. I don’t care that I can get more currency from fallen enemies, I already have more than enough. Upgrading the hub town is pretty pointless as well, provided you’re not a completionist. You get some useless rings and a Princess Crown, another currency in game used for character upgrades. The character upgrades mostly center on combat, and again are mostly useless because combat is mindless mashing.
Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric‘s camera is just one more problem to add to the list. Super Mario 64 got it right in 1996, and by extension gave everyone the outline for how a good camera should work. There’s no excuse for any game to get this wrong ever a again. Yet somehow it still happens.
The lack of character balance is also disturbing. Amy is the absolute best by a long shot. She has a triple jump in a platforming game, and the best attack strings out of all the characters. If you aren’t doing a character specific portion of the game, use Amy. I know perfect balance shouldn’t be expected, but Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric doesn’t even try..
I could beat this game up all day, but I want to highlight some positives. I claimed the game was on the right track, so what made me think that? Keep in mind you have to look past a lot of garbage to see these things.
Believe it or not, slowing the game down a bit seems to have helped. I’ve long said that the biggest problem with a 3D Sonic is that it can’t maintain the level or illusion of speed in the same way a 2D Sonic can. This is why 3D Sonics always have a heavy emphasis on the game playing itself for the parts that look most exciting. Sonic Boom‘s slower sections are the best overall, game play wise and in technical performance.
The first Hydro-Dash sections felt good to control, better than pretty much everything in the game. I had relatively little jutter compared to other speed sections, the way Sonic curves about on the water’s surface feels smooth and natural, and the hit boxes on obstacles didn’t feel as offensive. Later uses of the Hydro-Dash, in more open environments, would ruin the experience do to lower frame rates, general glitchiness, and any turn more than a gentle curve being awkward and messing up the camera.
Sonic Boom‘s setting was amazing. The generally low quality visuals, extremely bland music, and conspicuously empty “town” couldn’t completely eclipse my admiration for the presentation. The world would be absolutely gorgeous with a little more elbow grease. The presence of technological marvels throughout an underdeveloped world has always given Sonic a unique feel, and Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric sometimes takes that feeling to 11.
The character and enemy designs are on a higher level than usual too. The character models in game look great, and the Sonic Boom redesigns are not nearly as offensive as the vocal fans would have you believe. I’m actually starting to prefer the new versions myself. With enemies, you can become blind to the fact that they actually look pretty cool, because you encounter the same enemies so frustratingly often.
That’s the norm with Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric though. Good ideas are 1:1 with poor choices, and 1:10 with technical issues. Keep in mind I skipped over the vast majority of complaints. If you want to insist I’m being unfair in my review, feel free to buy Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric and see for yourself. It’s your loss.
Just look at how amazing this game looks when the trailer has been cherry picked to cut out all of the crippling defects: