Sonic Team need to pick the type of Sonic game they want to make and stick to it moving forward.
Before I continue, go and read Rossko’s review of Sonic Forces. I agree with almost everything he has written, but it’s this one sentence that really strikes a chord with me;
“At every juncture it seems like there’s a good, even great, Sonic game waiting to be played in this kind of setting, but Sonic Team just threw everything at the wall and didn’t let anything fall to the floor.”
That, for me, epitomises what Sonic Forces does wrong. It tries to please everyone and in the process, pleases no one. Sure, there will be Sonic fans out there that will defend this latest game till they’re blue in the face (and I will admit, it does have its moments) but I have to believe that the most fervent fan would admit that Forces is a disjointed, beautiful mess. It feels like a game that doesn’t know what it wanted to be and unlike Generations, tried to be “all things” to “all people” by including a 3D Sonic, The Generations Sonic and the Avatar, all of which work differently.
What’s most frustrating is that, taken in isolation, each game play style it tries works very well.
The 3D Roger Craig Smonic levels, even when paired with the user created avatar, can be sublime when they “click”. Boosting through an entire 3D level, hitting each jump to perfection, smashing each robot to pieces as you go feels fantastic. And those boss battles. Ho boy. Some of them are up there with the best that Sonic has to offer. It’s when that particular Sonic is applied to the 2D plane that things start to fall apart. The precision isn’t there and Sonic feels like he moves too fast for the platforming.
Then there’s the 2.5D Sonic levels played using the silent Generations Sonic from the alternate dimension. Again, aside from some jarring forced speed changes, these levels can be fantastic. They feel like a 2D Sonic game in the most part and they do just enough to be as entertaining as many of the levels of Sonic Mania.
And lastly, the Avatar levels. The solo “Create-a-character” levels don’t feel like they belong in a Sonic game but that’s not a drawback. Everything is a tad slower, more measured and deliberate with alternative paths for which ever Wispon you’re using. They feel like a level lifted from Ratchet & Clank and spliced in here and, again, taken in isolation from the rest of the game, are enjoyable.
It must be difficult for Sonic Team because they have to deal with design elements that almost no other series has to deal with thanks to the hedgehogs history – the speed, the loops, the transitions. Transitioning what felt great about 2D Sonic into the 3D plane has never been an easy task and with Forces, it seems like they made it even more difficult for themselves by trying to incorprorate 3 different sets of game play into one package fluidly while retaining the staples of a Sonic game; a neigh on impossible task.
It’s obvious that Sonic Team know how to make a fantastic Sonic game as there are glimpses of brilliance throughout Forces, as fleeting as they are. The issue here is that it appears they tried to make 3 of them at the same time. If Sonic Team are to forge forward onto another 3D title, they need to pick one Sonic and stick to them. Own that. Innovate that. Whether that be the smart mouthed 3D Sonic, the 2.5D Generations Sonic or another version of Sonic all together, they need to pick one and run fast with it. Diversification hasn’t worked for Forces. Maybe distilling their next game into one type of play will.