Sonic Jump (universal) by Sega is the latest platformer starring the famous blue hedgehog. But for the first time, Sonic has gone vertical, instead of the typical side-scrolling action we’ve played for the last 20 years.
Like most Sonic games, there are two goals: defeat Mr. Robotnik by surviving through all the levels and defeating him at the end – and of course, coin collecting. Thankfully, these both remain integral to the Sonic experience: players will fight bosses and collect power-ups through 36 stages in 3 different zones, hunting down valuable coins along the way for the obligatory perks and power-ups found in vertical platformers and endless games.
As a game traditionalist (if there is such a thing), it’s hard for me to embrace a non-horizontal Sonic game. Sonic Jump is a great Sonic game for young or casual fans of Sonic, but for hardcore fans who’ve been playing since Sega’s console days, there’s a few things missing. Most notable among these is the sense of speed derived from learning different paths and shortcuts; it leaves each stage feeling very linear and short, with most levels topping out at 40-45 seconds to complete. Also, players can’t jump on top of enemies to defeat them, which is a jarring – and death causing – change for seasoned Sonic gamers like myself.
Don’t get me wrong - Sonic Jump plays absolutely fine – but outside of the inherent ability to double jump, it doesn’t really feel much different than the hundreds of other auto-jumping platformers in the App Store. Coins earned in races are used to unlock characters and other consumable power-ups – coins which predictably can be bought with in-app purchase. Sega does make an interesting choice when it comes to the objective/rank system: certain consumables aren’t unlockable until reaching a certain character level, which gives the game some replay value, even for those who try and IAP their way through the game instantaneously.
Sonic Jump does utilize an interesting cel-shaded design for Sonic, which gives the game a really unique feel for the franchise. Even if the gameplay is a little derivative, it’s still nice to see the Green Hill Zone and hear the classic Sonic effects I’m used to hearing in those games. And while its not as great as Sonic CD, the soundtrack is quite catchy, although it could use a little more of a song selection.
Those expecting a game with the same loop-de-loops to run and bonus stages to dominate might be a little disappointed with Sonic Jump, a perfectly capable – but very, very familiar – vertical platformer clearly engineered to please the crowd of casual Sonic fans, and help usher in a new generation of followers. A good game, but one that would’ve benefited from a little more creativity in its design.