Sonic Frontiers - Zero Punctuation

Sonic Frontiers – Zero Punctuation

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Their handling of 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 their hands is as useful as a professional-grade drawing pad in a baboons 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, um. You see, as far as I’m looking forward to something, I was looking forward to Sonic Frontiers. Because my game-critical instinct, forged over many years in the crucible of disappointment and cake, told me that open-world design just might be the thing that finally makes 3D Sonic work. OR it will totally suck balls and either case will at least be fun to write. The actual result is a mixed bag, for all it’s worth, I mean a bag of dog poop and a bag of dog poop and cake are equally hard to sell. I’ve always hated the aggressive linearity of Sonic levels, the way they keep firing at me as soon as I hit the wrong stick or didn’t hit the jump in time or didn’t didn’t go into an uncontrollable streak of boosters and springboards with the right positive attitude or because it was a Tuesday.

But in an open world, dropping things isn’t an instant kick in the bullshit, you just end up somewhere else. Worst-case scenario, you walk through someone’s kitchen window and have to apologize for interrupting their bar mitzvah. And that’s what Sonic Frontiers achieves. The end up somewhere else part, not the bar mitzvah part. Its world is 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 dive-bombing a given random bounce pad, which is annoying if you’re trying to hit a specific spot, and it’s baffling that there’s absolutely no cohesion between the pads. environment and the platform. It’s like they’re taking a generic washed-out hilly landscape and then randomly sprinkling disconnected grind rails over it like it’s a freeze frame after an explosion at the U-bend factory. It reminds me of those custom races people do in GTA Online where there’s just going to be a cargo container mysteriously floating in the air because having something to ride at that exact moment is more important than having a world that has sense.

Oh sorry, I started praising the game there, and somehow we ended up plopnobbling. It’s the mixed experience, you try to carefully squeeze the cake but sooner or later you’re dealing with some bullshit. Anyway, the plot is that Sonic and his buddies are flying off to an island for some reason, there’s a big cock and Sonic’s buddies are trapped in cyberspace or something. And when Sonic woke up alone in the pouring rain in a washed-out landscape surrounded by the towering ruins of a once vibrant civilization as haunting music played, I felt, not for the first time, a strong urge to grab hold of the Sonic franchise. by the lapels, shake it back and forth and shout DISCOVER YOUR FUCKING TONE. YOU’RE A FUCKING CARTOON MOUSE IN SNEAKERS. YOU ARE A CONCEPT FOR BABIES. YOU ARE NOT DEATH STRANDING. YOU DO NOT ATTACK ON TITAN. YOU ARE NOT… WHAT THE FUCK SONIC 2006 TRY TO BE. Maybe Final Fantasy X if mixed with incredibly uncomfortable slash fiction. You’re not Shadow of the Colossus either, and isn’t it any wonder I even needed to tell you, Sonic the Hedgehog. I feel like I’m trying to explain to a couch cushion with a tube of toilet paper stuck on it that it’s never going to be a real boy.

Honestly, aside from the dreary setting and odd tone, in the main gameplay area, Sonic Frontiers isn’t bad. Basically it’s a collectathon, in each chapter one of Sonic’s pals focuses on and Sonic progresses through his storyline collecting a bunch of Valentine’s Day cards for Amy or tubes of implied second cream for Tails and it’s the excuse to roam the earth seamlessly dipping in and out of an assortment of micro-challenges, plus a handful of highly inconsistent classic-style Sonic levels that are, with the best will of the world, at least fortunately brief. The combat is harmless with one or two rather neat ideas that fit the format well, I like how you can do a sort of guard breaking attack by literally running rings around a guy. It is left behind by an exorbitant and unnecessary upgrade tree. Almost everything on it was just “pressing a button during the combo to have Sonic tell everyone to stop moving and watch out for him doing a little stunt like a hyperactive 12 year old about to doing amateur dentistry with a skateboard and a concrete step”. I had bought everything halfway through, then had a ton of unspent character points on the GUI for the entire game, like a bloodstain on Henry Kissinger’s glasses.

Damn, I forgot I was trying to praise the game again. But that’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 demonstration of magnets in a nail factory, the longer you let them go on the more likely something will go horribly wrong. They do a good job of sometimes focusing on basic mechanics, but you look away for two seconds and they bring Charmy the fucking bee back. Sonic Frontiers’ critical path is infested with obligatory random mini-games. I’m not even talking about fishing. I like fishing. I love 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 deal with the rest of the game bullshit. I’m talking bullshit like blocking 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 playing nerf baseball on the international space station. It won’t let you go until you earn five million points, and you’ll have to start all over again if you lose three balls. It slotted into the critical path as easily as a cricket ball through a seagull’s throat.

But frankly, I was already broke on the game at that point. It was touch and go for a while. The story is muddled with very little levity and I was watching these setbacks for another tone conversation, but was having fun with the core gameplay for the time being, until I got to the first giant boss at the end. from the first island and then I said “Oh ok that sucks balls. Thank you for freeing me from my world of uncertainty. You have to do them as Super Sonic within a time limit set by your number of rings, except the boss sets the pace of the fight, so there’s not much you can do to kill him faster, he keeps knocking you down and by the time you’ve picked up the camera to see what she was doing, you’re just in time for her to take you back. And then if you fail and reload, you have to restart with only 100 rings, no matter how many you started with. Thank you very much, game, I’ll make a much better job now that i have a quarter of the time limit and a mad hate that restricts blood flow to my brain. So yes, Sonic Team screwed up again. In many ways, this is reassuring. It’s good to know that there is some stability in the world. No matter what, the sun will always rise in the morning, Sonic Team will always screw up, and a seagull will always react badly to having a cricket ball stuck in its throat. But maybe he shouldn’t have had big ideas about my bag of chips, Jeffrey.

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