Monday, February 8, 2016

Sonic Runners (iOS, Android) Review

After February's first review, Rayman Adventures, SuperPhillip Central takes a look at another platforming icon, Sonic the Hedgehog. Here, I check out the Blue Blur's next mobile outing, Sonic Runners. I just hope I can keep up!

Sonic's Microtransaction-laden Adventure

Sonic the Hedgehog has seen multiple releases already on mobile devices with games like Sonic Dash and Sonic Jump. With his latest mobile offering, he gets a game designed by Sonic Team itself instead of a Western developer. However, the end result, Sonic Runners, may have compelling gameplay, but it has a free-to-play model so sinister that it would make even Dr. Eggman shake his head in disgust.

It seemed like the obvious type of game for Sonic the Hedgehog of all characters to inhabit, the runner. However, Sonic Runners is hardly just another runner game. It has multiple levels to it that show off areas from Sonic: Lost World, such as the Green Hill equivalent of Windy Hill, Desert Ruins, Sky Road, and even Dr. Eggman's stomping grounds in the game, Lava Mountain.

There's an insane amount of text for a game of this type through Sonic Runners' story, and all of it is unneeded and superfluous. I ended up just skipping the dialogue entirely, as there are only so many scenarios that can be set up that have Dr. Eggman doing evil hijinks for the umpteenth time.

The runner genre seems perfectly fitting for Sonic the Hedgehog, and it mostly is.
Regardless, the actual gameplay is a lot of fun and designed well. It's just like what you'd expect a Sonic-starring runner to be like. You move from left to right in an automatic fashion, tapping the screen to jump and doing so again while in midair to perform a second leap-- a double jump, if you will. The round ends when you fall into a pit or take damage without holding any rings, typical Sonic the Hedgehog stuff.

These Egg Pawns are no match for Sonic's speed.
Levels are similar to the old 2D Sonic games, possessing multiple tier design to them. The greatest amount of rings and gems rest at the top of the screen and makes for less of a worry about colliding into a wall, a pit of spikes, or just a pit in general. Collecting rings and gems one after the other in a short amount of time gives you a combo bonus, and your score at the end of a run determines how much advance through a chapter of Sonic Runners' story. Get a high amount of points, and you'll quickly pass the requirements to face Dr. Eggman in a one-on-one battle that when beaten, opens up the next chapter for play.

Earn enough points in a run to make your way to a given chapter's conclusion.
The potential for long-term playing is there for Sonic Runners. Each of the over a dozen characters have their own gauges to earn experience with. Earning levels provides a given character with bonuses, such as more invincibility time from invincibility item boxes, for instance. You can also earn and equip what the game calls "Buddies", which give each character different bonuses during play. These take the form of series regular since Sonic Adventure, Chaos, as well as other objects and shapes.

A hit to Dr. Eggman will let loose a whole lot of precious rings.
Like I said, there's potential for long-term play, but whether or not it's actually worth it is an entirely different story. This is because Sega and Sonic Team went the wrong direction with the microtransactions and free-to-play style of the game.

This all begins with dying once in a given run. You are given a chance to return to your run by either spending a certain amount of Red Rings or through watching a 30-second advertisement. This isn't counting the ads that you have to watch after runs that pop up occasionally. Throw that in with long and frequent load times, and you're already getting your chops busted enough.

However, that wasn't enough for Sega or Sonic Team. You get two different roulette wheels to spin, one of which you get a free spin on a daily basis. The thing of it is that this wheel is pretty much full of useless stuff that you wouldn't want to spend your time with. The actual roulette wheel that has worthwhile goodies on it (such as new eggs to hatch new Buddies, or new characters to unlock) requires 50 Red Rings to spin. This would be great if Red Rings came naturally at a fast enough pace to feel you were investing your time in a positive way.

Levels start out slow enough, but every now and then the speed increases.
Instead, Red Rings are delivered to you very slowly, so slowly that the option to buy them via transaction for up to $39.99, or 485 Red Rings. The issue here is that even though you can spend that much for this premium type of currency for Sonic Runners is that Red Rings are easily wasted through spinning the second roulette wheel, which has a low probability of even giving you what you want, one of the unlockable characters. But hey, there is no better way to a get a new generation of gamblers into the gaming circle, so this is something that Sonic Runners, Sega, and Sonic Team can be applauded for. (I am being incredibly facetious right now, for those unaware.)

Thus, Sonic Runners is a good designed gameplay experience that is trapped behind walls upon walls of sleazy microtransactions and is a slave to the free-to-play model. It's the type of game that is a perfect example to unfortunately bring up to show how not to make a mobile game that respects the player and doesn't treat them so obviously as a money-generator. Otherwise, Sonic Runners is an enjoyable runner, when you actually get the chance to play it without all the loading times, ads, notifications, and microtransactions.

[SPC Says: C-]

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