Sonic Frontiers – Zero punctuation

Sonic Frontiers – Zero punctuation

Sonic Frontiers – Zero punctuation

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Handling their signature franchise has been like watching two blind sea urchins trying to get through their wedding night. Any half-decent idea for a Sonic game in your hands is about as much use as a professional grade drawing board in a baboon finger painting class. I’ve said a lot of mean things about Sonic Team in the past. And currently. And in the very near future, too. Sonic Frontiers sucks balls. Well, hmm. Look, as much as I look forward to anything, I was looking forward to Sonic Frontiers. Because my game reviewer instinct, forged over years in the crucible of disappointment and cake, told me that open-world design might be what finally makes 3D Sonic work. OR it’s going to suck balls and either case will at least be fun to write about. The actual result is a mixed bag, for whatever it’s worth, I mean, a bag of dog shit and a bag of dog shit and cake are just as hard to sell. I’ve always hated the aggressive linearity of Sonic levels, the way they keep shooting me right off stage because I pressed the wrong stick or didn’t press jump in time or didn’t enter an uncontrollable sequence of boosters and springboards with the right positive attitude or because it was a Tuesday.

But in an open world, falling off things isn’t an instant foul kick, you just end up somewhere else. At worst, you crash through someone’s kitchen window and have to apologize for interrupting their bar mitzvah. And that’s what Sonic Frontiers gets right. Ending up somewhere else, not the bar mitzvah part. Its world is chock full of mini platforming challenges, you can’t walk ten feet without tripping over a grind rail. It’s impossible to predict where you’ll end up from divebombing any given random bouncy pad, which is annoying as hell if you’re trying to get to a specific location, and that’s to say there’s absolutely no connection between the environment and the platforming stuff . It’s like they took a washed out generic hilly landscape and then haphazardly sprinkled disconnected grinding rails over it like it was a freeze frame after an explosion at the U-bend factory. Reminds me of the custom runs people do in GTA Online, where it’ll just be a cargo container mysteriously floating in the air, because having something to roll off at that specific moment is more important than having a world that gives someone plump opinion.

Oh, sorry, I started praising the game, there, and somehow we ended up chugging. It’s the mixed experience, you try to gently squeeze the cake out, but sooner or later you’re dealing with dog shit. Anyway, the plot is that Sonic and friends fly to some island for some reason, there’s a big cockup and Sonic’s friends get trapped in cyberspace or something. And when Sonic wakes up alone in pouring rain in a washed-out landscape surrounded by the imposing ruins of a once vibrant civilization while haunting music plays, I felt, not for the first time, a strong urge to grab the Sonic series by the jackets, shake it back and forth shouting FIND YOUR DAMN TONE. YOU ARE A DAMN DRAWING MOUSE IN SNEAKERS. YOU ARE A CONCEPT FOR BABBIES. YOU ARE NOT A DEATH CLAIM. YOU ARE NOT ATTACK ON TITAN. YOU ARE NOT… WHAT THE FAN SONIC 2006 TRIED TO BE. Possibly Final Fantasy X if it was mixed with some dizzyingly unpleasant slash fiction. You’re also not Shadow of the Colossus, and isn’t it amazing that I even needed to tell you that, Sonic the Hedgehog. I feel like I’m trying to explain to a sofa cushion with a toilet roll pipe attached that it will never be a real boy.

But honestly, sad setting and weird tone aside, in the core gameplay area, Sonic Frontiers isn’t bad. At heart it’s a collectathon, each chapter focuses on one of Sonic’s friends and Sonic progresses their story by collecting a bunch of valentines for Amy or tubes of implied other butthole cream for Tails and that’s the excuse to roam the country seamlessly. in and out of a smorgasbord of micro-challenges, as well as a handful of very seamless classic-style Sonic levels that are, with the best will in the world, at least mercifully short. Combat is unoffensive with one or two actually pretty neat ideas that integrate well with the format, I like how you can do a sort of guard break attack by literally running rings around a guy. It’s let down by an exorbitantly pointless upgrade tree. Almost everything on it was just ‘press a button during the combo to make Sonic tell everyone to stop moving and be aware that he was doing a little stunt like a hyperactive 12 year old doing amateur dentistry with a skateboard and a concrete step.” I’d bought everything on it halfway through, and then I’d just had a bunch of unused character points on the GUI the whole game like a bloodstain on Henry Kissinger’s glasses.

Damn, I forgot I was trying to praise the game again. But here’s the thing, isn’t it. Sonic Team’s problem is that they don’t know when to quit while they’re ahead. They are like a magnet demonstration in a nail factory, the longer you let them go on the more likely something will go wrong. They do a decent job of focusing on core mechanics sometimes, but you look away for two seconds and they bring back Charmy the damn bee. Sonic Frontiers’ critical path is full of mandatory random mini-games. I’m not even talking about the fishing. I like fishing. I like that if I can put up with Big the Cat for ten minutes, I can get 20 keys which means I don’t have to engage with the rest of the game’s nonsense. I’m talking about crap like holding up the plot at the end of the third island to make us play pinball. What’s wrong with pinball, Yahtz? Nothing, if you don’t mind playing on a third of a table with physics like you’re playing nerf baseball on the International Space Station. It won’t let you go until you’ve earned five million points and have to start over if you lose three balls. It fitted into the critical path as neatly as a cricket ball into a seagull’s throat.

But honestly, I was already down on the game by then. It was touch and go for a while. The story is muddled with very little frivolity and I looked up the coattails for a new tone conversation, but I was having fun with the core gameplay for now, until I got to the first giant boss at the end of the first island and then said “Ok ok this sucks balls. Thank you for freeing me from my world of insecurity.” You have to do them as Super Sonic within a time limit set by the number of rings, except the boss decides the pace of the fight so there is very little you can do to kill it faster, it keeps knocking you away and when you have wrestled the camera around to see what it’s doing, you’re just in time for it to knock you away again. And if you mess up and reload, you’ll have to start over with just 100 rings no matter how many you started with. Thanks a lot, game, I’m going to do a much better job now, I’m a quarter of the way through the deadline and a raging hater restricting the blood flow to my brain. So yeah, Sonic Team fucked up again. In many ways it is reassuring. Good to know there is some stability in the world. No matter what happens, the sun will still rise in the morning, Sonic Team will still fuck, and a seagull will still react badly to having a cricket ball stuck in its throat. But maybe it shouldn’t have gotten big ideas about my bag of chips, Jeffrey.

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