Developer: Sonic Team
Music: Tomoya Ohtani, Kenichi Tokoi, Takahito Eguchi
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Released: 7 November 2017
Doctor Ivo Robotnik is at it again.
World domination, chaos and destruction, with a crew of the baddest baddies at his disposal. Chaos, Zavok, Metal Sonic, even Shadow the Hedgehog. Of course Sonic is not one to back down from a fight, however a mysterious new figure enters the equation. Infinite the Jackal, wielding a gem called the Phantom Ruby, with powers that rival those of the Chaos Emeralds. Swiftly, Sonic is brought down and presumed dead.
Who is left to fight the dastardly Eggman? Knuckles and Amy Rose form the resistance, made up of a lot of familiar faces. And one not-so-familiar face.
Or rather your Sonic original character.
Sonic Forces is an action-adventure platformer with levels designed around speed and quick reactions. With a combination of modern Sonic levels, and classic-ish Sonic levels, it is full of customisation options for your character, absolute bangers for a soundtrack, and I guess a plot? It is a game with some serious pacing issues, a mix of fun and frustrating levels, that doesn’t give you room to breathe. I am obsessed with it. And now you’re all going to hear about it.
At its core, Sonic Forces is a fanfiction, where your character gets to save the day, fighting side-by-side with Sonic the Hedgehog. It is cheesy, it is corny, it’s more than a little silly, but when your special combined attack is initiated by a powered up fist bump, you can only lean into it. You have to embrace it.
There are four different types of levels, and if you’re familiar with modern Sonic games you won’t have any trouble navigating them. Well, you might have some trouble, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
You have levels for modern Sonic to speed through, you have levels for your own character to navigate, there are levels for classic Sonic (who is adorable and fantastically round) that has all the elements of the classic Sonic levels, but with 3D graphics, and then you have combo levels, where you play with Sonic AND your character.
Modern Sonic levels play as you’d expect, with jumps, grind rails, and lots of enemies to smash through, switching from 3rd person view to side scroller view throughout the levels. Classic Sonic levels are purely side-scroller, with those classic obstacles you can expect.
And then moving onto the levels for your character, they’re quite similar to the modern Sonic levels, however your character has multiple unique abilities, some of which is dependent on the species you play as (you can pick a cat, bird, rabbit, and more). There are often some alternative paths through sections of the levels, and depending on what wispon you use (wispons being weapons based on wisps, that can give you a lightning whip, handgun, drills, and more), you’re given alternative solutions to the same obstacle. You also have a grappling hook, and in the levels where you play with Sonic, you can help him make some tight turns and swing across massive gaps.
Are these levels fun and satisfying? Sometimes! But often control is taken away from you, and I’m left wondering why they didn’t let me do more. Allow me to explain, you’re speeding through these levels, nailing the quicktime events, and then you launch yourself through the air. Surely this is the perfect opportunity for more quicktime events, or perhaps with a well-timed move I can navigate this perilous gorge. But no, the game takes control of these segments. There are a lot of scripted events in these levels, and they’re kinda cool, but it’s not a difficult game, and these levels aren’t long. Having 5-10 seconds of control taken away from me really adds up.
Speaking of quicktime events, sometimes the game doesn’t tell me what button I should be pressing. I see that dreaded circle shrinking, I’m supposed to press SOMETHING, I go with the most recent button I pressed and then Sonic is hedgehog stew.
There’s a lot of cool moments in these levels where I’m in the flow, I’m nailing it, Sonic and I are best buds freefalling past missiles, the music is absolutely hyping me up. Infinite is a pretty cool villain with the ability to create illusions, literally turning the world upside down. And your character has an arc of their own, going from a scared citizen to the rookie who faces up against Infinite himself.
But this game absolutely suffers from an incredibly rushed plot and levels that don’t feel finished. It’s fun, and it’s funny, but not in the way it was intended. I can tell that this was supposed to be a darker story, but they didn’t deliver it. I streamed this game for my friends and we had an absolute blast, but it’s definitely not because we took it seriously. A lot of the lines feels stiff and inorganic, and it’s not like I want to see Sonic miserable but he was tortured for 6 months and he’s delivering quips like this is a friendly PvP match and not like Eggman very actively almost killed him and destroyed the whole world.
And the final battle cutscene… all I can say is ouch. Again, I can see what they were going for but it falls extremely short. The number of shortcuts they used is obvious, and I just wish they took more time rather than just writing this off as a bone for the fans. At least put some meat on the bone.
However, the music is not where this game is lacking. There are a variety of themes and songs throughout the game, and a lot of it just got me extremely hyped up. It is so hard to be disappointed on a level when Sonic tells you ‘there’s nothing we can’t do together!’ while the song called Fist Bump starts to play and you charge up the most powerful fist bump in the history of fist bumps and you start screaming through the level and up a pyramid, blasting through everything in your way. The sound design is satisfying, I really enjoyed and appreciated the way that the level music would change styles between modern Sonic levels and classic Sonic levels, with those familiar synths playing. Even Infinite’s theme kinda rules, even if it’s cheesy and a bit cringy.
And I think that sums up Sonic Forces. Cheesy and a bit cringy. But it’s meant to be cheesy, and it is cringe, but it’s really fun about it, and this game is aimed towards a group of Sonic fans who know how to lean into it, and to just enjoy the wicked ride. Did I try to recreate my own Sonic OC? Absolutely. Did I also make a joke character who wears a hat that says gamer on it, ladder shades, and crocs? Of course I did!
I love Sonic Forces, I enjoyed it, and whenever I need a quick laugh, I load it up and play through a couple of levels with my friends. Are we supposed to laugh at Infinite having a temper tantrum? Probably not, but it’s so ridiculous you have to laugh. Is it a good game? Objectively: no. But I think it’s a great example of a bad game that is fun to play, and I don’t feel bad for enjoying it. Unlike a certain Sonic game released in a year ending with 6.
If you grew up enjoying Sonic the Hedgehog a normal amount, then I don’t think this game is for you. But if you need permission to just indulge your inner 9-year-old, here you go. Make your original character, become friends with Sonic, just go for it. Have fun.