There’s a lot to be said for April fools’ jokes in gaming, so when March 31st came around, I was expecting something. Sega saying they were killing off Sonic, their beloved mascot character was easily something my tiny brain could determine was a jape. Until it turned out to be a legitimate game.
The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog is a free visual novel created by the Sonic Social team, signed off on by Kazuyuki Hoshino of Sonic team, and published by SEGA. The premise is that Amy Rose’s birthday party is taking place on a murder mystery train. You play as a timid food vendor and are told to ensure everyone is well “taken care of.”
Someone will “die,” and the culprit must be found. However, upon discovering Sonic’s body, it becomes clear there is a more nefarious plot at work, and it’s up to you to help solve the mystery.
Without spoiling anything, this story is amazing. Characters have loveable and charming responses to each other, and ongoing gags are harmless yet hilarious. References to Sonic lore that may not have been touched upon are both outwardly acknowledged and subtly touched upon.
For instance, this game includes Blaze the Cat, a character not seen in the series meaningfully since Sonic Generations. However, in the background of some set pieces, you may see fan-inspired characters, such as a “blink, and you’ll miss it” reference to the player avatar from Sonic Forces.
Despite all the light-hearted entertainment, there was a point in the story where I genuinely started to feel invested, like this wasn’t just some silly murder mystery game, and that they really had a story to tell, with emotional depth, character examination, and a true love for the characters and morals that the Sonic franchise should stand for, the sort of feeling that you used to get watching the Saturday morning cartoon show or Sonic Underground.
The design work on this novel is some of the best I’ve seen from this series. Everything is filled to the brim with color and intricately designed to evoke both Sonic the Hedgehog’s most nostalgic outings and a murder mystery story. Every character has an outfit that tells you their role and personality and stays true to their in-universe self. On top of that, you have embellished scenes with ridiculous amounts of embellishment, even if only for the benefit of a small gag. @Deegeemin on Twitter is the lead artist, and I would say they and their team have gone above and beyond for this venture.
Good day to take the train!
The music is actually really good, I wasn’t expecting the music to reach the levels of Sonic’s storied giants like Jun Senoue, but it turns out he was involved. Troupe Gammage and Joel Corelitz arranged a score that was fitting and affectionate to the detective genre. Where they shined, though, was in the final gameplay segment that I cannot talk about but trust me, it’s amazing!
Gameplay is split into two parts, finding clues and then interrogation. The latter parts require you to run through a gauntlet of spikes, traps, and attacks to collect a certain amount of rings to put your thoughts together. These segments are essentially an overhead version of the special stages from Sonic 2. While playing these sections, I found myself pushed at times to progress, but not to the point of frustration ever.
I felt accomplished, which is great! These sections were clearly not an afterthought, which is a miracle given a high-profile visual novel game like Digimon survive didn’t feel its gameplay sections required any love (Still not bitter).
As of writing this, I finished the game in 2 hours and 20 minutes, so while a short game, I know that this game has left a lasting impact. About the same length as a Phoenix Wright case, I felt as though I’d just finished a really good comic or manga arc. I would gladly have played much more of this, but the game does not overstay its welcome and provides a really nice read. I would highly recommend picking this up on Steam; after all, it’s free!
I think that about wraps it up and remember everyone, always look in the trash can!
Who will you be?