Capsule Review: The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog

A light-hearted murder mystery visual novel punctuated by an auto-runner minigame.

A surprise free release for April Fool’s 2023, this is a full (if somewhat short, clocking in at under two hours) game that’s much better than one might expect from that setup.

The game is primarily a point-and-click visual novel with a mystery story that plays like a greatly simplified Ace Attorney. Read through dialog making occasional dialog choices, click around a scene collecting clues, interrogate characters and occasionally choose from your collected evidence to refute their claims or advance your own theories, then move to the next scene and repeat. There’s also a minigame that comes up repeatedly during interrogations: Your character thinking through their arguments is represented as an auto-runner where you collect rings and avoid hazards as Sonic, and you need to end each level with a sufficient number of rings to advance the story.

The visual novel side of the game is pretty great. The situations and dialog are funny, the characters are well-captured and fun to hang out with, and the mysteries are small in scope but engaging and clever. The auto-runner is a jarring inclusion - that sort of reflex-testing gameplay is about as far as you can get from the point-and-click-and-read experience the game otherwise presents, and it adds punishment the game otherwise lacks: making the wrong dialog/evidence choice just gives you different (and sometimes funny) dialog and then you can immediately choose again, but failing an auto-runner level means restarting it. Thankfully, there are optional assist features that allow you to tune the difficulty of the auto-runner down to trivially easy, so even if you struggle with this sort of gameplay, it’s not a hard wall - but you still have to sit through the levels as there is no way to simply skip them.

I don’t want to complain too much about a free game, but I really don’t understand this design decision. The auto-runner would have been a cute optional minigame you could play from the menu or something, but cramming it on the main path of a visual novel is just bizarre. But then, would it even be a Sonic the Hedgehog game if it didn’t pad its runtime with weird off-genre gameplay that isn’t what you came for?

That aside, The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog is an enjoyable snack of a game if you like the Sonic cast or simple mystery games. It’s free and a short time investment, and even if you dislike the auto-runner it won’t block you. If you’re curious about the game, it’s worth checking out. I had a good time with it.

I Stopped Playing When: I finished the game.

Docprof's Rating:

Three Stars: Good. I liked the game enough to finish it (or just play it a bunch, for games that don't end). I recommend it to most genre fans.

You can get it or learn more here.