The surprise reveal. I’d almost forgotten what one of those felt like. With influencer hyping, marketing strategies, and more than a smattering of leaks, modern media (gaming and otherwise) has become something of an obstacle course for anyone hoping to enjoy something with next-to-no pre-existing knowledge. And a surprise reveal from a brand behemoth such as Sonic the Hedgehog? Surely not?
The Sonic social media accounts are well-known for meme’ing along with their audience, so when they posted on 31st March about a big reveal coming the next day (April Fool’s Day, no less), I think we all suspected to be well played. Perhaps a new animation, or some cut-out masks, or some other distraction? But no, what we got instead was The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog (TMS for ease) – a fully playable point-and-click adventure game stuffed with fan service and one of the more coherent plots from a recent Sonic game.
TMS sees you taking the role of a Sonic background character of your own naming, interacting with some of the most famous names in the Sonic Team roster to figure out just who murdered Sonic the Hedgehog. The game itself clocks in at about two hours from start to finish, and to cover the plot in any great detail would probably give a bit too much away – although it’s safe to say that it’s a stripped-back story devoid of data realms, Iblis Triggers and all the other MacGuffins that have featured so prominently in more recent Sonic fare. The simplicity is refreshing, and the writing of dialogue & prompts follow much of the humour of the Sonic Twitter accounts – it doesn’t take itself too seriously and the levity of it makes for some funny moments.
Gameplay follows the standard point-and-click formula, clicking around rooms to find clues, which in turn lead to the opportunity to interrogate suspects. Interrogations feature “Thinking” mini-games reminiscent of old-school special stages, one of many areas that the games’ fan-service comes through in it’s design. The game-within-the-game tasks you with collecting rings to finish your thought, and then use that thought to outsmart your suspect. It breaks up the flow without being too tricky to continue the story on the whole – some later rounds may need multiple attempts, but there’s no way of running out of “lives”. Overall, it’s pretty light and just in supports the story and wider fan service the game acts as a vehicle to.
Fan service is where the game really shines. It functions as a sort of non-serious love letter to the history of Sonic, and followers of the series will get a lot out of the posters and banners scattered around the game – particularly the ones that can be interacted with for added comments from Tails, your right-hand man for this adventure. These touches add little to the story, but in such a compact, free game released for April Fools’ Day, there’s probably more than you’d expect.
That pleasant surprise extends to the soundtrack – the music is generally a high point, reminiscent of previous Sonic titles with a particular lean towards the post-Dreamcast era. Sleuthing to a Sonic soundtrack is something worth experiencing for fans. Graphically, the game embraces a comic-book aesthetic for the most part, with Sonic Advance-era pixel style brought to the mini-game. It’s vibrant, with a nice spread of characters illustrated as not seen before. As visual novels go, it works, with some nods to previous characterisations for those in the know.
So TMS is a worthwhile play for fans – but for non-fans? I think it’s worth a playthrough. For folks who’ve followed Sonic in recent years, it’s a welcome surprise and – like with Sonic Mania – shows the strength of fan service in this beloved IP. For new entrants, you won’t find anything that represents a high point in point-and-click game design, story, or a particularly representative Sonic experience, but that doesn’t matter too much. It’s still a competent mystery title with funny moments, and that additional Sonic context just buoys the game to be greater than the sum of its parts for fans. However, as a free, short, and relatively standalone game, it’s an enjoyable experience worth a quick run through in a spare evening for most players – and a welcome April Fool’s treat from the Sonic social media team.
The game can be downloaded from Steam here: The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog