Almost a year after the plug got pulled on ‘Avengers Alliance’, a true contender for its title of ‘best turn based combat system on mobile’ finally steps up to the plate, and it comes from an unexpected pedigree.
The story behind Sonny is a simple but interesting tale. Initially released as an in-browser Flash game, Sonny and Sonny 2 were met with an overwhelmingly positive response at the time of their release, but although the story to date ended on a cliff-hanger, the promised Sonny 3 never appeared. Both games are still freely available (Sonny HERE and Sonny 2 HERE) whilst this new mobile edition combines both with new material that would have made up the third title and redraws almost all assets in a new, cleaner art style for a one-time purchase cost.
Graphically, Sonny features HD art assets that look great and are drawn in a western comic book style. Unanimated, attacks see static assets moved on-screen whilst a number of flashy particle effects explode across the screen to add the necessary flourish. Stripped right back objectively, there’s not much actually on show here, with static art for backgrounds, locations represented by menus and the story forwarded using comic book panel cutscenes. Collectively however and taken in-situe, the whole thing comes together into an impressive whole. In part this goes to the use of an in-battle camera that pans accordingly and always makes the best use of dramatic timing to capture the action.
Musically the game suffers from no solid soundtrack, instead relying on occasional vocal samples used for odd sentences of cutscene dialogue (but not all, even when dialogue is presented in the same speech bubble) and a few sound effects. This is most evident when the story is being pushed to the foreground, and when ploughing through menus. Battles have their own flow that keeps a regular series of effects bouncing through the speakers of your device and makes it far from dull to listen to. It’s a weak package however in terms of sound design.
The story sees the titular ‘Sonny’ start the game as a corpse aboard a cargo ship out to sea. He and many others are the victims of a zombie attack, but before he can turn a scientist friend injects Sonny with an experimental drug that allows him to stay cognitive, but robs him of his memories. Now a zombie in body and human in mind and spirit, he strikes out to find answers to his condition, the state of this zombie-infested world and who he really is. It’s very solid in execution and told primarily through dialogue before and after combat, though each chapter begins and ends with a comic book style cutscene that sets up the next scenario. Writing is solid and characters likable throughout, with Sonny himself presented very well as a subversion of the usual zombie/superhero tropes.
Gameplay focuses primarily around combat, and this is the games key strength. Sonny has a ring onto which moves can be placed, these either target himself or enemies for a variety of effects. Moves are learned from a series of skill trees one at a time as Sonny levels up, and each immediately varies the way in which you strategize. Status effects are powerful and stack, making for combos that have a deadly effect but may or may not work on differing enemy types. Respecking can be done at a cost of in-game currency as many times as you like however, and this is a key strategy later in the game. Initially it may pay to focus on bleeding enemy damage and strikes that restore damage dealt to enemies back to your character, but later the need to stun an enemy before it attacks in a post-charging frenzy that one-hit kills you is all consuming. Sonny can also be equipped from a shop with up to four pieces of gear that can all be levelled up to a max of 5 with the same currency you use to respeck and purchase them and can be joined in battle by two other party members who are entirely AI controlled (but who you also outfit with gear). Outside of the story battles, which consist of multiple waves, stack at locations and must be cleared to progress to a new chapter/area, are training battles that randomly draw together enemy parties to throw yourself against and with which to grind. It’s an extremely sparse but satisfying approach to an RPG, focusing on story as well as combat whilst cutting out exploration and NPC interaction. Everything here is entirely menu driven.
In conclusion, Sonny is a good game, possibly a great one. It does have a number of things that can be a pain however. There’s a hard difficulty curve designed to extend playtime, a very long initial load time upon opening the app and a massive (over a gigabyte!) file size that may see some players considering deleting the game in favour of two or more others. After all, Final Fantasy IV and VI together don’t come to the same file size as this title and they’re rightfully classics of the genre. Stick with it however and the game will reward you for it.