The Sonic series has had a tough time shedding the perception that it has been consistently terrible. No one would argue it suffered a serious rough patch with Sonic ’06 as the definite rock bottom, but the recent installments have been pretty solid. Sonic Colors was a good game, Sonic Generations a great one, and even Sonic Lost World, despite the mixed reception, was enjoyed by many. Lost World was the first in a multi-game exclusivity deal between Sega and Nintendo, and the next game, Sonic Boom, looks to be quite a departure from what most expect of the series.
The main focus of Sonic Boom, and something that definitely sets it apart from other Sonic games, is its cross media presence and tie-in to an upcoming animated television series of the same name. The Wii U game, the 3DS game, and the show all take place within a single consistent universe, with the games acting as a prequel to the show and primarily serving to develop the characters leading into the story of the series. Both the games and the show feature the same art style and voice actors and the developers and showrunners are taking a lot of care to really tie the two mediums together in a meaningful way.
As far as the actual game is concerned, it certainly has elements one would associate with Sonic games, but there are also many new aspects as well. Sonic Boom on the Wii U is primarily an action adventure game as opposed to the more straightforward action/platformer approach of recent Sonic games. The game features a melee combat system with a fairly robust arsenal of moves, though we can only hope its better than the last time the series attempted this (the dreaded Werehog). There are certainly still sequences of very linear speed and reflex based challenge, but the majority of the game involves much slower paced environmental exploration.
Much of game’s design revolves around the multiple playable characters and cooperative gameplay. Whether you’re playing alone or with friends there are always a minimum of two characters present, with as many as all four (those four being Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy). Each character has their own unique abilities which grant them access to different areas of the levels and different approaches to combat. These abilities allow players to split up during co-op play and explore areas solo before meeting up again, while during single player they present incentive to replay stages.
The 3DS version shares many of the same core ideas present in the Wii U version, such as the multiple characters with unique abilities and exploration based level design, but the gameplay much more closely resembles the classic 2D sonic games than the more unique style of the Wii U game. The 3DS game also features an exclusive character, the boomerang wielding “Sticks.” Both the Wii U and 3DS versions of Sonic Boom are set for release this November.