Not a shattered mess, but certainly a lack of vision.
Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric managed to hit me hard, and I was reluctant to even start thinking about the Nintendo 3DS game. My history with handheld Sonic games has been sketchy, and the last couple of titles didn't blow me away. Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal sadly continues this trend, even though it has some genuine ideas going for it.
Where Rise of Lyric tried to give us this full 3D open world, Shattered Crystal sticks with the humble 2D sidescrolling format. You will platform your way through a variety of levels, and this is very different experience than you would normally expect. Most of the levels in Sonic Boom are more widespread and open, which makes way for exploration and more diverse gameplay possibilities. I would put it closer towards the Metroidvania-esque games in that regard and that is a welcome change for the franchise. You can't fast forward any longer and depend on your fast reflexes to guide you. You will be required to do a whole lot more searching and look closely what these levels have to offer.
The game offers four playable characters and it is where the game finds ways to make itself intriguing. Sonic can dash and destroy special boulders, Tails uses vents to reach higher locations, Knuckles can dig and has some powerful attacks and newcomer Sticks brings her magical boomerang for puzzles and enemies . Through most of the stages, you can stick with the character you enjoy the most. Those special moments though require a quick tap on the touchscreen and Shattered Crystal will quickly change to the character you need.
It isn’t all well and good though. The levels are split up by checkpoints and these are activated by using the Enerbeam Slingshots. Once you jump on a slingshot, you will not be able to return from where you came - you are transported to a new section of the map and if you were still looking around for secrets, you are out of luck. The only option would be to restart the level entirely and that isn’t something I would consider fun. The full freedom to explore is kind of tarnished since half of your time is spent looking at every cranny of the map anyway.
There are two other level types thrown into the mix and these focus more on speed. There are Versus races, in which you will have to outperform a foe. The level designs are somewhat simpler and you will have to use the obstacles to your advantage. You are also given ample time to react, which makes a bit easier than your typical Sonic game. The other type are tubular levels and it is here that the camera has been put behind Sonic. You are stuck on this map and have to simply speed up and change lanes to survive. They are simple from the outset, but they are very enjoyable to say the least.
While you will have fun for the first 80 minutes or so, the real glaring issues start to appear shortly after. You will start out as just Sonic, but all the other characters are unlocked way too fast. The initial exploration levels will give you the feeling of something bigger, but there aren't an amazing amount of stages to be found here. To get the full experience out of the title, you are required to replay stages multiple times to find all of the secrets. It is needed to unlock the final stage and this is something you will not really care for. Even with that, the game is way too short and the more casual player will kind of zone out after 2.5 hours. The game doesn't know how to keep its momentum going and that is biggest shame of it all.
The graphics aren't amazing and you won't be really blown away by them. The environments and characters are well enough put together, but you will stay more for the colors than anything else. The game's soundtrack is more enjoyable than Rise of Lyric and it's easy to remember a song here and there. There aren't many standout tracks, but nothing bad. I hated the story though and that is mostly because the premise blows from the very first moment. Amy is being kidnapped by Lyric and Sonic needs to save her. There is a few witty lines here and there, but it is mostly uninspiring and daft dribble that does nothing for me. Usually I would just skip them, but guess what? You can't do that in Shattered Crystal.
Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal is in essence a fine game. It has fun exploration elements and neat gameplay ideas, which makes the ride more fruitful than Rise of Lyric. When you start to pull the game apart piece by piece however, the true terror really starts to show. The story is awful, the progression is inconsistent and the game is way too short to even consider it right now. With more polish and a longer development cycle, Shattered Crystal could have been very enjoyable. Now it is just what it wants to be: An okayish tie-in to a new Sonic cartoon.