Have you ever liked a game despite itself? Like, you know it’s nothing special, but for some reason, it captures your attention anyway. That’s me with Sonic Forces, a mediocre at best 3D platformer that managed to keep a smile on my face the entire game. If you’d hear me out, I’d like to try to explain why.
If you want to play a good platformer, 2017 has you covered. From the Nintendo 64-style throwback, Yooka-Laylee, to the much more modern feeling Super Mario Odyssey, and everything in-between like A Hat In Time, there hasn’t been this many quality platformers to choose from in a really long time. Even Sonic got in on the action much earlier in the year with Sonic Mania, a return to the glory days of the Sega Genesis. With all these options, why would you ever care about Sonic Forces, a game I just said was mediocre a paragraph ago?
If you’ve been reading my blog since I started it almost two years ago, you probably already know the answer to that. My very first review was for an NES game called Dynowarz, and the whole point of that review is that it’s okay to like things that are stupid. Sonic Forces is stupid. It’s really stupid. Thankfully, it’s not anger-inducing stupid, but rather the kind of stupid that puts a big old smile on my face. This game is not great, but I love this game.
One of the best things about it is the story that takes itself way too seriously. It starts out like you’d expect a Sonic game too. Dr. Eggman is back and causing problems, so Sonic is running around and beating up robots to stop him. This changes by the end of the first level, when Sonic is suddenly confronted by several of the villains from past games who all kick the crap out of the blue hedgehog. Suddenly, the game jumps ahead in time. Sonic is assumed dead, Eggman has taken over the world, and Sonic’s friends have formed a resistance led by Knuckles. Seeing characters like Espio the Chameleon talk about the horrors of war never stops being hilarious and kept me coming back for more.
So, Sonic is dead, where do we go from here? Well, it turns out that Eggman had destroyed a nearby village, seemingly killing all but one person. This person is a character that you get to create. You can choose from several different animals, like dogs, cats, and hedgehogs, as well as different body features and colors. Every animal type has a special ability, meaning that there’s more reason to consider which animal you want to be besides just liking that animal. I made a cat that I based on my real life cat, Alfadore. A cat’s ability let’s him hold on to a single ring whenever he’s hit, unless he’s only holding one ring.
Shortly into the story, Tails meets up with classic Sonic from Sonic Generations. With him, your orignal character, and modern Sonic, who isn’t dead (spoiler, I guess), the game offers three different characters who all play pretty differently. Modern Sonic and classic Sonic are pretty much what you’d expect. Modern Sonic runs really fast in 3D environments and uses a homing attack while classic Sonic sticks to 2D levels and spin-dashes. Your original character plays fairly close to modern Sonic, but has some abilities that are unique to him/her.
The actual level design isn’t anything too great, however. Most of the time you’re just running forward and bopping enemies in the face. None of it is actually bad though. It’s a fully functional video game, which is better than I can say for a lot of Sonic’s 3D outings, but it doesn’t do anything too different. Take away the dumb story and you’re left with a pretty average game.
Your character is the one real addition to the series. All original characters have a zip line they can use to quickly bounce between enemies, functioning very similarly to Sonic’s homing attack. They’re also equipped with a weapon called a Wispon. There’s several different Wispons that you’ll unlock as you progress through the game, including a flamethrower and an electric whip. These all have uses beyond the obvious, such as the flamethrower being able to function as a jetpack of sorts.
Character customization goes far beyond your weapon choice. After every level, you’ll unlock new pieces of clothing that you can equip. None of them actually do anything, but they’re very silly and only add to the ridiculousness of the overly serious story. I’m sure some people would have appreciated stats being assigned based on your outfit for deeper character progression, but I like it the way it is. This way, I can throw whatever silly outfit I want on Alfadore without worrying about how it’ll affect the way I play.
I played the Nintendo Switch version of the game, so technically the worst version, but it still looks great. Sonic’s cartoony style has a really distinct look to it, and it’s better realized here than ever before. I also love the music, which is appropriately stupid. Most of the songs have lyrics, including one that plays every time a special team-up attack is used. None of these are actually great songs with good lyrics, they’re just exactly the kind of stupid I’m looking for.
Sonic Forces doesn’t overstay its welcome. And only about four hours long, you can enjoy the stupid spectacle without being stuck playing for a long time. Sometimes short is a good thing, and I honestly believe that the mediocrity of the gameplay would have had a much bigger impact on my overall opinion of the game had the game been longer than it was. Add in the fact that it’s only $40 and it’s hard to be mad at the length.
If you only have room in your heart (or your wallet) for one platformer this year, it probably shouldn’t be Sonic Forces. It’s got some neat stuff, especially being able to make your own character, but it doesn’t do anything truly groundbreaking. However, I love the game and am very happy to have played through it. If you can appreciate the dumb things in life, there’s plenty to enjoy in Sonic Forces.