Yahtzee reviews Sonic Forces.
Sonic Mania must have brought with it a terrible moment of crisis for Sonic Team. "Oh, shit! Someone put out a half-decent Sonic game!" cried a member of Sonic Team, urgently withdrawing their finger from their nose with a wet "plop". "We've been trying to slowly and painfully euthanize this franchise for years, and this might turn things around at a stroke! What if another generation of creepy shut-ins turn into Sonic fans flooding DeviantArt with poorly-drawn pictures of their original characters and molesting the family pets? Worse yet, what if people start holding Sonic games to actual standards again and we have to put some bloody work in?"
"It won't come to that!", cries another Sonic Team member, dynamically standing to reveal their fully-laden nappy. "I'll tell you what we're going to do: we're going to pull out all the stops for Sonic Forces; we're going to make a terrible 3D Sonic game to beat all terrible 3D Sonic games. We're going to showcase everything we've learned over the last two decades of terrible 3D Sonic games, which is to say, absolutely bugger-all. No one's going to be able to so much as think about molesting family pets because they'll be too busy thinking about how bad Sonic Forces is, and whatever Sonic game comes after it will be lauded with praise if it so much as manages to shit on the kitchen floor instead of the carpet."
The world is grateful for your sacrifice, Sonic Team. Sonic Forces gargles so much spunk that every parasitic microbe that dwells in its rotten teeth has gotten pregnant with a little turd baby. No really, it's like a fucking compilation clip show of terrible decisions that bad Sonic games have made: it introduces a new generic, broody villain who's all-powerful and invincible until they aren't; most of the levels are railroaded, super-fast sequences that kill you if you press any buttons, and occasionally, kill you even if you don't; all of Sonic's pals from all previous games show up to collectively waste enough space to re-home all the Syrian refugees, even that grey dude from Sonic 2006 and Charmy the Fucking Bee - it's like holding a symposium for all your favourite rapists. And of course, no one can keep their fucking mouths shut for five seconds. You're not funny, Sonic the Hedgehog; you talk like a dorky high school kid who read a book of Yo Mama jokes and then marched confidently into his school cafeteria somehow convinced he wasn't going to walk out of there with an entire lunch tray shoved up his arse.
And you know, on paper, it seemed like such a promising idea: a Sonic game where the main character wasn't Sonic, but a player-designed silent protagonist à la the South Park games, fighting back against the Robotnik regime after Sonic is indisposed. Tons of potential there: an unproven character having to earn their way to the level of power and acclaim Sonic already has, so Dr. Robotnik - yes, I know we've officially switched to "Eggman" now, but the bloke who invented the GIF format still pronounces it "Jiff" and he's still fucking wrong - actually could be a credible threat for once. Plus, creating your own protagonist is exactly the sort of thing those creepy shut-ins with their original character fixations need to keep them distracted from bumming the dog.
For a moment, it seemed like Sonic Team were onto something, but I should have realized that the only thing Sonic Team is on is a big pile of their own shit and piss. Firstly, Robotnik having conquered the world is established solely in a text screen, and otherwise, everything seems the same as always. I see no evidence for any other ruling authority in this world, and Robotnik is still 100% focused on battling Sonic and his mates when you'd think he'd have other things to worry about now, like working out his tax plan and getting his enslaved hot-squirrel-girls to nosh his wrinkly balls. And as for Sonic being indisposed, this lasts for all of one mission before he's suddenly disposed again; they talk a big game about him being imprisoned and tortured, but when we do bust him out, he's just sort of standing around, none the worse for wear. In fact, I don't think the door was even locked! Incidentally, this section includes my favourite line of dialogue in the game, to wit: "The prisoners are being held in some kind of internment facility!" So a prison, then; nice to see that sterling resistance intelligence network in action.
After this, we have to play as Sonic for about half the game. Um, wasn't this supposed to be about our custom protagonist developing into a hero? "No! More Sonic! Don't you understand? Sonic is the coolest! You'll play him for half the game, and for half the remaining levels, you will have to be holding hands with Sonic the whole time. And then at the very end, if you're very lucky, Sonic will fist-bump your custom protagonist and tell them they are a cool dude. You will then be provided with tissues to mop up your gushing orgasm."
So all in all, there's, like, one scene where our protagonist is scared and helpless against the main villain and then they're equally as powerful as Sonic, basically because they decide to be. And that's about it for character development, unless you count the six million cosmetic items that unlock after every stage, each one with its own unlock animation we have to sit through and which, collectively, make the "Stage Clear" screen last about twice as fucking long as the stage itself.
Oh yes, and the Retro Sonic from Sonic Generations also turns up for reasons that go largely unexplored, probably because the only reason is that Sonic Generations went down all right and Sonic Team officially don't have a fucking clue what you people want anymore. Still, it is kind of nice to have a retro Sonic level now and then to break up the god-awful modern 3D Sonic levels; gives a nice, nostalgic twinge to see enemies being an actual threat again rather than standing gormlessly in your path in a group arranged not-coincidentally like the pins at a bowling alley. These things conquered the world, I remind you we are expected to believe. From what? Supermarket trolley attendants?
Sonic Forces is a culmination of all Sonic Team's bugaboos, the biggest and hairiest of them being their indecisiveness. Unable to have faith in any of their new ideas, they crowd them out of sight with old ones, 'cos they're afraid of disappointing established fans, which is like not using Canestan cream because you're afraid of disappointing your vaginal bacteria. The fanbase is the key to all of Sonic Team's issues; even Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast is close to twenty fucking years old, and anyone who was into that is now pushing thirty and demanding that their beloved Sonic games have a maturer tone so that they can play them and not feel like pedophiles for doing so. And while there's a lot of overlap between stuff for kids and stuff for adults these days, come the fuck on. Fuzzy animals fighting a mad scientist with the power of friendship? It's not Harry Potter; get your fucking dicks out of it. And just because you fucked up Sonic Boom doesn't mean you had to go, "Whoops! Guess rebooting things didn't help; time to put our dicks back in it!"
But you know what? I have found it gratifying to piss all over a game that's shit for nice, straightforward reasons, like the developers being completely fucking inept, not because it got ass cancer from all the corporations raping it. I can at least suggest ways to fix Sonic: shift priorities, cut the useless chaff, withdraw dicks. I don't know where you'd begin fixing something like EA; at this point, it'd be like taking a giant rampaging hippo who has been engineered from birth to feed on money and trying to wean it onto Hobnobs.
- Fruit of the forest: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- The most alarming thing about Charmy the Fucking Bee is that presumably somewhere there's a whole hive of the motherfuckers
- Next week: Ass Cancer Awareness Special