Review: Sonny26 Jan 2017 0
Released 12 Jan 2017
The year is 2007 and a Flash-based online role-playing game named "Sonny" is a big hit. It was a heyday for browser gaming. This was, of course, long before Flash became a pejorative and Google Chrome started blocking it by default. Anyway, Sonny was created by Krin Juangbhanich and published by Armor Games and featured a main character, appropriately named 'Sonny', who comes back from the dead in a post-apocalyptic world filled with zombies. Oh, yeah, and he has no memory. He must fight his way through waves and waves of enemies, gain XP, gather new weapons, and generally kick the crap out of various foes. In 2009 a sequel, Sonny 2, came out.
The gameplay was roughly the same though the story changed. The games have been played millions of times online and are generally well loved. Meanwhile, in 2017: Armor Games has released a third Sonny game, this time on iOS. The new Sonny is a reboot of the series, so to speak, and by the same developer as the first two games. Will it live up to its classic DNA, satisfy today's more choice-laden gamers, and serve as a worthy successor to the franchise? Read on.
I'm not going to sugar coat it, things are pretty bleak at the start of Sonny. A zombie infection has cropped up and is spreading unchecked. Sonny is trapped on a boat and in the midst of full-on zombification when his friend Louis injects him with a secret serum that allows Sonny to keep his mind, though he loses his memory (again). Sonny still looks like a zombie (which means he's more ripped than a Greek god) and has some super zombie powers—zombies pack quite a punch in this game world, just go with it—but remains largely human.
Sonny makes his way to shore and then onward and inland where he'll meet new friends like Veradux and Dr. Herregods (old friends for longtime fans). Together, they must fight off both zombies and Zombie Pest Control Incorporated (ZPCI)—there's something not quite right about those guys—in a mission to discover what happened to the world, who is behind it, and what role Sonny will play in the aftermath. There's no question our part-zombie hero is special and key to what's going on. The only question is will he be able to fight his way through the obstacles to the truth and survive?
The operative word here, and in the game, is "fight." There's a lot of fighting and Sonny is a turn-based combat game first and foremost. The story is like a post-apocalyptic, zombies-have-risen, RPG wrapper. You get pieces of the narrative between fighting for your lives against increasingly dangerous zombies. You'll move through successive fights at eight different game world locations as the story pulls you inland. You'll even get some nuggets while fighting. I guess what I’m saying is that the story doesn't get in the way of fighting.
That's not to say the story is poor, not at all. Sonny's story is delivered with snappy—though sometimes overplayed—dialogue and graphic-novel quality art. My favorite method is the well-aimed commentary that is delivered as one scene turns to black and the game is about to turn a corner. These lines can often apply to not only Sonny's situation, but our world as well.
Sonny isn't attempting anything new or particularly complex with its combat. Fans of the franchise, and RPGs and roguelike games in general, will know what to do without much direction. You'll enter a series of fights which will have one or more waves of enemies (a blue bar at the top of the screen will help you know how many to expect). You'll pick a foe and pick a power with which to bash it. It isn't mindless hack-and-slash, however, picking the right power at the right time against a particular enemy makes a big difference and there are several variables that influence success. Some fights are very challenging and will force you to adopt a new strategy to win.
When you win you earn XP for Sonny and friends. Leveling earns you points to spend on Sonny's robust skill tree. There's a lot of powers from which to choose, especially when you get to add a second tree later in the game. Besting enemies also earns you cash—U.S. dollars are still worth something apparently because you can spend that cash to buy new weapons and equipment for Sonny and crew. Shopping is pretty easy, you just hit the "Shop" button and buy what you want. No need to find a merchant or the like. Get in, get out, get back to fighting.
As you might expect, the fighting difficulty scales up as you move through the game. You'll encounter new and more terrifying zombie monsters and they'll kick the crap out of you. You'll go at them again and…dead again. This is where the "Train" feature comes in quite handy. Training lets you beat up on some lesser zombies to earn quick XP and cash. This is perfect to get you over those storyline humps by giving you the opportunity to pick up a new power or weapon to give those zombies what's coming to them.
As I mentioned there are a ton of powers and you'll likely start out grabbing new ones left and right. Eventually, however, you're going to settle into some set tactics and you'll look at your powers and have levelers remorse. Fear not, good gamers, Sonny offers a respect option. Who doesn't love a well-timed respect? For the uninitiated a respec allows you to effectively recreate your character and pick skills and apply skill points as if from scratch. For a modest fee (cash only) you can respec to your heart's content.
One last feature about combat I really dig and want to mention is evolving powers. At one point in the story Dr. Herregods will make a discovery not really a spoiler, discoveries are kind of his thing) that'll really up the awesome for Sonny—an evolve bar. As you fight this orange evolve bar charges up, bit by bit. When it becomes full you get to pick one of your powers and apply an additional benefit to it every time it is used for the rest of the fight. Yes, it's temporary but can make a huge difference in that fight, especially when you're in a long combat and can get a bunch of evolve buffs going at once.
Sonny is a fighting-focused and fairly laid-back RPG. There is a solid story but you won't be making gut-wrenching decisions that drive the plot of the game. There are tactical considerations to be made but you won't be maneuvering for higher ground or taking cover from foes. What you will be doing is picking cool powers and buying better weapons to take the fight to zombies and ZPCI grunts that want a piece of Sonny and gang.
Those fights are challenging and some in particular will require trial and error and swapping of powers—maybe even a respec—to figure out. The use of status effects and specific debuffs and damage types is often the answer. You'll still likely get stuck here and there and find yourself grinding for levels using the train feature. While this can be a bit frustrating, fights are fast and you can earn XP pretty quickly, so we're not talking grinding on the scale of Diablo 3 or World of Warcraft.
Each of the eight locations offers nine or ten storyline fights, so Sonny sports some solid content. The game is also great for bursts of play, a fight here and there, or a much longer play session. This isn't always the case for an RPG and if you don't often have the opportunity to get fully engrossed in a game, it can be a big selling point.
So who should buy Sonny? Fans of the franchise certainly. If you've played before and enjoyed the game rest assured that the new Sonny is indeed a worthy successor. Gamers looking for a lighter RPG with an emphasis on combat will also find this one well worth their time, especially if they enjoy leveling a character and experimenting with a bunch of different powers.