Sonic Forces is the latest edition in the long-standing franchise that has been running since 1991. It would be surprising to come across anyone, or at least anyone who has played a video game before, that does not know Sonic the Hedgehog and his ever-growing list of friends. This time though there’s a new character recruited to the team to help save the world from the evil as ever, Dr. Eggman. To be forthright though, it’s hard to really see if Sonic: Forces brings anything new to the series but there are still some cool features and nostalgic gameplay.
The main feature of Sonic is as usual its chronological levels and of course as usual its Dr. Eggman who is trying to take over the world but, as a character says early on, he “means business this time”. A storyline is nicely slotted in between the levels to take the player through the levels. Dr. Eggman has a new invention with which he invades Metropolis and defeats Sonic. Yes, he wins and takes over. Who then, I hear you ask, is going to defeat him!? It’s a character you can actually create and customise which is one of the game’s strong points. You get to create your own personal avatar with which you play in the campaign with other classic Sonic heroes.
The player is able to choose the species of their hero, which can be a hedgehog if they wish, as well as their colour, voice and which victory pose they want. There are, however, pretty limited options. As you play you also unlock clothes with which to customise an outfit for you hero, whilst everyone else is still “naked”. Except Dr. Eggman of course. That would be weird. Players can even rent other players’ avatars they have made for a stage via an online feature. You are recruited by Knuckles and the team to help save the world and referred to as “new recruit”. This is where the fight back begins.
Sonic though, the team believes, is dead. Before and just the first stage you play, cut scenes makes quite a big deal of this and its quite emotional. I was surprised to think that there may be some mystery and possibility of a twist or two. Literally after selecting to play stage two pretty much immediately afterwards, you’re told news that Sonic is alive but is being held prisoner, in space. The dialogue and cut scenes prior were pretty much pointless. In this way, the storyline is a bit all over the place with a variety of odd cut scenes and dialogue boxes which seem unnecessary. It also made me realise that the game is clearly aimed at very young kids.
Stages are selected via big world map and the storyline follow linearly. Stages are formulated in the classic Sonic way, players need to get from A to B without dying and collecting as many gold rings as they can to help them stay alive. Stages themselves are quite short and only last up to five minutes tops. There are plenty of them though which is a good thing, although this does mean that players can power through them in a rather short space of time. Boss battles though take a bit more time but unfortunately are not overly challenging.
The gameplay itself is, as one could expect, very fast. Everything seems to go by in a bit of a blur. Some nifty new abilities such as targeted jumping attacks offer a slight variation of gameplay other than constant running. Your “new recruit” character has a flame thrower gun which to be honest is just a bit overpowered, but it adds something interesting to what is usually just, well, running and jumping. That said, there isn’t a lot of variety. It’s a bit repetitive and there’s only so much tapping of the same button (basically jump) you can do. Other than moving the analog stick to move, there isn’t that much else required and I found at times with the incredibly simple controls, it is better to actually press nothing at all. A lot of the time you’ll be automatically fired through a section at speed at different camera angles where you can’t control your hero anyway.
Within stages the view switches between 3rd person and 2D side on view, which is a cool feature. The 2D particularly gives the player the opportunity to appreciate the world in which the game is set more. In the background, there tends to be battles going on against Dr. Eggman’s forces with giant robots attacking the city. Graphically it is basically what one would expect. It harks back to the original sonic in visuals and style which any older fans of the series will enjoy, although the world map and menus look like they didn’t get much love. Audio wise the game follows a similar suit depending on setting, although some tunes that are played are little too much and lyrically are basically about saving the world constantly.
Mainly though I am left wondering why Sonic hasn’t aged well in comparison to other old school classics like Super Mario, which seems to be going from strength to strength. It’s also a game which seems to be aimed at young kids rather than any older fans, not in between. Overall players will have a bit of fun, but really it is more of the same old Sonic people have seen before.