Sonic Team are back with the latest game featuring the lovable Sonic the Hedgehog character in Sonic Forces. It’s a bit of a budget game coming in at just under £25 but aims to offer a quick and easy route into 3D and 2D sonic mastery. All said and done though, is this worth playing and suitable for non fans?
It has to be said right away that the price is very much indicative of the content contained within. So, eager gamers looking to breeze through the 30 odd story stages will be able to do so in an afternoon of solid play. There are two difficulties to mess around with, the added challenge of global leaderboards and the lure of besting one’s own scores but aside from the usual stage collectibles there is not a lot else to do once all are completed. Some repeat bonus SOS stages might appear to get you inside the same levels again and a handful of secret levels offer themselves as extra bonuses. There is even a separate prequel Shadow Story to download and play through just three extra missions. Some gamers might be a little disappointed with the content then considering each stage is extremely short. But for those who prefer less elongated requirements might actually find the setup here to their liking. It’s fast and furious and what’s more there are options to play as your own customizaable character – in fact, this aspect will no doubt be the best part of the game.
To explain more, at the beginning of the story players are tasked with choosing an avatar based on a variety of animal types (both male and female). You get to choose various looks and have a reasonable amount of control. Once the story begins proper then this new character can be used on select stages throughout the adventure as a pivotal character. This is a neat inclusion especially when viewing your own character during cutscenes. The game design is such that on completion of each mission players are awarded more custom parts such as gloves, boots, glasses, tops and so on. The better you do, as in S-Rank each stage even more items are unlocked. This feature provides enough incentive to replay missions however, S-Ranking is quite tough and requires fast completion of stages. Sometimes being fast isn’t enough and so the game offers daily Online challenges to beat which in turn offer a timed bonus to your score. So for example, you might get 30 minutes of 1.2x score for completion of a daily mission. This extra boost is likely to turn a frustrating A grade into an S grade. Obviously if you care not for additional items for your avatar then most of these extra challenges will be lost on you. In addition though, during the stages where you play with your avatar you can use those from other players which is a neat touch. There are some cool designs out there which gives greater incentive to spend more time on your own creations.
As mentioned there are some 30 main story stages of which players assume the role of Sonic, classic Sonic or the new avatar. Each stage comprises of 3D or 2D side scrolling sections which not only look pretty spectacular but play pretty good as well. There are few moments where the level design is a bit of a mess causing unnecessary deaths, but for the most part a bit of trial and error is required. Given the relatively short span of each stage means it’s pretty easy to hit the restart and try again though. The only real negative is Sonic Team’s love affair with tiring boss battles that drag on longer than is needed. The last boss in particular is a snooze fest simply because it offers nothing new and outstays its welcome for far too long.
In terms of visuals Sonic Forces looks great on all levels with bright colours, neat cutscenes and fast paced gameplay. Whilst there are some repeated stages, the visuals are impressive especially the 3D sections. Aside from some screen tearing during scenes the game maintains a fast speed and doesn’t let up throughout which is good. The audio is also as expected with the usual suspects providing voice overs for the many characters that feature here (pretty much everyone). Music is pretty decent as well although not reaching the heights of some past glories, but this is perhaps down to personal preference or bias.
Sonic Forces isn’t a long game and despite being enjoyable for younger players, is short on content overall which is a shame because after the end credits it would have been nice to continue the adventure with the new avatar a little more. Sure stages can be repeated but this isn’t the same as having a fresh set of scenes to play through. So in all, gamers are going to race through the game in an afternoon, maybe a little more for younger players. It’s certainly well beatable in a day which says it all really. As mentioned, the additional Shadow episode of three stages is short on content and should have been added to the main game rather than a downloadable extra – even if it’s free to play.
To conclude, Sonic Forces has some neat ideas with its character customization allowing gamers who really get hooked to create banks of odd or fantastic looking heroes. It’s just a shame there is little to do with them beyond the story. Whilst the game does feature plenty of cool stages and neat design, the lack of overall challenge and brevity really does hurt the experience, more than the inclusion of some dull boss fights. That said, the price is cheap and if you can’t get enough Sonic then this bite-sized experience will likely tick all the right boxes for you. Anyone else will find an entertaining game but if unlocking gear isn’t your thing then your mileage will be quite low here.