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- Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog, The
Sonic the Hedgehog has dabbled in plenty of genres over the last thirty-plus years, but one place nobody expected it to go in any official capacity was adventure gaming. The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog, an adventure/visual novel released for free on April Fools’ Day 2023, looks like it’ll be any other ironic ‘dating sim’ parody of the genre from a popular brand. However, it surprises by not only being a fully-fledged adventure title, but a charming and well-written mystery worth checking out for Sonic fans and people looking to get into Japanese-style adventure games.
You play as a nameless employee starting your job aboard the Mirage Express luxury train, which has been booked to hold a murder mystery party for Amy Rose’s birthday. Among the people that board the train, one of them ends up ‘killing’ Sonic, and your job is to facilitate the solving of this mystery by assisting Tails, finding clues and figuring out who the murderer is. However, with the train suddenly going at breakneck speeds and Sonic seeming to be in pain, everything might not go according to plan…
The story plays out as an adventure game with a large emphasis on talking to characters. You can examine highlighted items in the background, either remarking on them or picking them up depending on whether they’re relevant to your investigation. Once you’ve examined enough relevant items, Tails will point out that it’s time to interrogate the people in each room on their whereabouts and alibis.
The interrogation scenes involve a mix of answering multiple choice questions and submitting evidence from your inventory, both of which are fairly easy to do since you won’t have to gather much evidence to figure out what’s going on. However, characters will occasionally demand you explain your logic, and these are presented as brief auto-runner sections where you must collect a certain amount of rings while jumping over pits and avoiding obstacles.
These latter sections are an interesting change of pace that recall the series’ more traditional gameplay in an abstracted fashion (considering their similarities to the successful Sonic Dash mobile titles and your character’s status as an everyman, that’s likely intentional). They’re more mechanically challenging than the bulk of the adventure, which could be perhaps too much for some players especially as you venture further in. Thankfully, there’s accessibility options to reduce the speed and required ring count, or even make you invincible and remove bottomless pits if it all becomes too much.
In general, making things simple and easy influences much of the game design. You’re not allowed to backtrack and your character will leave behind anything they don’t need, leaving your inventory free of clutter. There aren’t many objects you’ll need to examine per area, and you don’t need to talk to characters after their introductory conversation until Tails says you’re ready to interrogate them. This can perhaps feel a bit too simple compared to other adventure games, but it also allows newcomers of the genre to find their way into things much more easily.
With its basic structure in place, where The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog has a lot of fun is in playing around with that structure. Each area of the game focuses on a particular aspect; one area will have a character who demands you do numerous auto-runner sections, another will require you examine plenty of items to find the evidence you need, and there’s one section that ditches the formula altogether for a hilarious heist sequence.
There’s plenty of optional places to examine and brief conversations to have with the characters onboard, allowing you to take a break from the mystery and enjoy some banter for a while. It’s quite charmingly written, letting the characters be themselves (or the roles they have to play for the murder mystery party) in a more casual scenario than the series would normally allow. The mystery itself is well put together and internally consistent, making it worth replaying the game once you see how all the pieces fit together.
What’s particularly striking is how much the game feels like a genuine Sonic adventure. Although the premise is knowingly tongue-in-cheek and the tone is light-hearted fluff, the story isn’t afraid to go places that aren’t far removed from the climaxes of the early 3D Sonics with sincere, heartfelt drama. This even results in a mechanical shift that, although perhaps a bit too challenging compared to the rest of the game, feels appropriate and justified by what’s already been established.
While it may only be a couple of hours long, that sincerity results in The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog having one of the best stories in the series, and this is further aided by some great presentation. The character artwork by Min Ho Kim delivers many expressive portraits that bring out everyone’s emotions distinctly, while the music mainly composed by Troupe Gammage (Mutant Mudds, Solar Ash) and Joel Corelitz (The Unfinished Swan, The Tomorrow Children) creates a pleasantly relaxed atmosphere suited to the casual pace of the adventure.
It’s worth mentioning that the game was developed under the supervision of the Sonic Social Team handling the social media accounts for the Sonic series, with many of the development team having worked on the series in smaller capacities (Min Ho Kim previously did cover art for the IDW Sonic comics, while script writer Ian Mutchler provided storyboards for some of the Sonic Mania Adventures/Team Sonic Racing Overdrive animated shorts in the latter 2010s). As such, this game stands as the result of their efforts and passion, a unique title that shows something new can still be done with Sonic the Hedgehog even after over thirty years.
The game’s Steam page: https://store.steampowered.com/app/2324650/The_Murder_of_Sonic_the_Hedgehog/
A Twitter thread by the game’s executive producer Katie Chrzanowski discussing the game’s development and thanking the many people who worked on it: https://twitter.com/KatieChrz/status/1641963753632845824