Developer: Sonic Team | Year of Release: 2015 | Platform(s): iOS, Android | Genre: Platform/Endless Runner | Reviewed on: Android
Modern Sonic games often get accused of neglecting the apparently sole attribute that made the 16-bit originals great: running fast. More often than not, whenever Sega attempt to bring something new or return to ways of old, they’re ferociously slandered by critics and fans alike regardless of whether it’s warranted or not.
The general consensus is that Sonic is allowed to run and do nothing else, which brings us to Sonic Runners. Available on a smartphone near you, Sonic Runners is a free-to-play endless runner combining precise 2D side-scrolling platforming with Sonic’s “Need for Speed” and it’s bloody brilliant.
Gotta Go Fast!
Sonic Runners brings the bare essentials: Running and Platforming. Like most smartphone runners the game actually does the running for you while the player taps the screen to jump. While you start off with just Sonic much of the Sonic cast can be unlocked.
These characters are split into three types: Speed, Flight and Power. Speed characters such as Sonic can jump up to three times, Flight characters can ascend at a 45-degree angle by holding your finger on the screen and Power characters perform horizontal dashes to break obstacles that are impenetrable to others. Levels are also split into Speed, Flight and Power levels; each having its own distinctive look. Despite these distinctions, any character can be used on any stage.
The main aim of the game is to run for long as possible while avoiding enemies, spikes, bottomless pits and whatever the game throws at you, but the secondary aim is to do this as fast and as skilfully as possible. In typical Sonic tradition there are multiple paths with the lower path having the easier route and the higher path reserved for thrill-seeking players where it’s an achievement in itself to stay up there.
Levels start at a steady pace but it is up to the player to speed things up. Bouncing off enemies, hitting air loops and timing your jumps will all increase your speed which makes thing harder; getting hit however will lose you all your momentum. In short the game rewards your efforts but punishes your failures. While old-fashioned it provides a sense of dread, satisfaction and accomplishment all in one.
Breaking up these segments are Dr Eggman sections. The game smoothly transitions to a chasing duel with the mad doctor in a way that doesn’t interrupt the game’s flow. Here you dodge Eggman’s attacks while retaliating with your own. It’s simple stuff but gets progressively more difficult as the game progresses.
There are a ton of power-ups available through all of the stages ranging from old-school classics such as the Magnetic Shield from Sonic 3 to several of the Wisp based Powers from Sonic Colours. They prove to be quite handy and add a bit of spice to the mix. By racing through stages characters level up which allow them to keep these power-ups for longer periods of time.
Sonic Runners definitely has the look and feel of a Sonic game. Levels are based of classic Sonic stages from your Green Hill Zones to your dark underground stages. Sonic Runners is full of crisp, bright and vibrant environments which serve as nice throw backs to past games.
Whether you’re jumping, smashing robots or losing all of your rings, iconic sounds are there to maintain the authentic Sonic experience alongside an up-beat, energy-pumping soundtrack which gets you ready for action.
Before every level there is some dialogue between characters as well as a storyline (I’m assuming)…which I skip through every time. An on-the-go game such as this doesn’t need a drawn-out story and presenting it several pages of monologue is just a bad idea. To be blunt it’s an entirely unnecessary addition.
The Final Sprint
Before I end with my final verdict there is a technical issue that I need to address. From the moment I downloaded Sonic Runners I have had nothing but a joyful experience, however several others have reported that for them the game seems to be riddled with bugs, glitches and even fatal crashes.
I’m unsure if this occurs more often on a particular smartphone though I believe this was more apparent during the game’s release and it hasn’t happened to me personally but it’s been widely reported to the point where to the point I cannot ignore it. In closing, my review will be based on my experience of a fully functional game.
|Presentation||Lame story segments aside, Sonic’s crisp worlds and cel-shaded models fit accordingly.||Good|
|Gameplay||It’s simple controls but creative design create a pure, addictive old-school platforming experience.||Excellent|
|Content||Tons of unlockable characters, power-ups and goodies will keep players running for a long time.||Excellent|
Final Verdict: Excellent
Favorite Track: Invincibility Theme
Sonic Runners is easily the finest portable Sonic experience around. Its simple controls but creative level design creates the perfect combination; anyone can jump in but the game has enough depth to sustain one’s interest and plays like an interactive roller-coaster ride that requires good reflexes and concentration. It’s addictive and rewarding gameplay will keep you coming back for more.
Sonic Runners provides a challenge that I’ve waited for in a Sonic game since the Mega Drive days. It is a true old-school platforming experience with enough fan service to please even the fussiest Sonic fan. Sonic Runners is definitely worth your money. It’s free!
Edited by Ayrton Noye George