The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog came out of nowhere: a visual novel “murder mystery” adventure starring many colorful characters from the iconic Sonic the Hedgehog series. However, what could’ve easily been a half-hearted attempt at an April Fools’ joke is a surprisingly solid adventure for both VN and Sonic fans. It’s a free game that’s approachable enough to pick up for a short yet entertaining whodunit.
The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog takes place on a fancy train called the Mirage Express. The main character, default name Barry, is starting their new job on the helpfully automated Mirage Express under the guidance of the friendly Conductor. The train is also the site of Amy Rose’s birthday celebration, and the giddy birthday girl has invited several of her close friends to participate in a murder mystery party. These guests include staples from the Sonic series, such as the innocent genius Tails, the brusque-yet-secretly-kind brawler Knuckles, the mischievous master thief Rouge, and the bluntly taciturn Shadow. Joining them are less prolific but equally memorable Sonic characters, such as the trying-to-be calm and collected Espio, the enthusiastically supportive Vector, and the dignified interdimensional-traveling princess Blaze. Of course, the heroic speedster Sonic the Hedgehog is also in attendance!
Things go well following Barry and the Conductor collecting everyone’s tickets. It isn’t long until the party is in full swing, with everyone getting into their assigned murder mystery roles. However, the train enigmatically starts up, and shenanigans get out of hand when it looks like Sonic might be “murdered.” Only Barry seems to realize the actual severity of the situation, with everyone else still assuming it’s part of the mystery game. As the energetic Amy ventures ahead to discover what happened to Sonic, Tails and Barry team up to interview party guests and uncover clues. Can they piece together what’s happening, or will everyone fall victim to a murderer’s scheme? More importantly, is Sonic going to be okay?
To say more about The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog‘s plot would spoil it, as the game isn’t long. However, the story is surprisingly self-contained, and uncovering its riddles with such a colorful cast of likable characters is enjoyable. I’m not even the most knowledgeable person regarding Sonic the Hedgehog, having only vague knowledge of characters such as the ninja chameleon Espio. However, I enjoyed interacting with everyone in the cast! The narrative is well-written and engaging, with entertaining dialogue among the characters. I can easily picture long-time Sonic fans enjoying the game just as newcomers will. Barry’s “only sane one” reactions to all the craziness around them is a delight too!
The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog‘s gameplay is standard fare for the visual novel genre. You-as-Barry interact with characters during story scenes, providing a plethora of dialogue choices. There’s a point-and-click portion where you gather clues in a given location before approaching a character for an interrogation process. You’ll question the character on a specific plot point, with the game helpfully informing you when you’ve collected enough evidence. Then you present your findings to help prove your points, getting the character to reveal the truth eventually. It’s straightforward to pick up without real punishment if you need to try again.
Upon presenting clues, Barry must “think” about what they represent by playing a racing game as Sonic to acquire a specific number of rings to advance the story. These thinking segments are for gamers more familiar with the Sonic series. However, they align with the game’s casual feel overall, as you can activate an assist mode to tailor their difficulty to your preference. The further you advance in the story, the more challenging these segments become. Eventually, they culminate in a fierce “final” boss battle against a surprising foe. It’s a fun way to add a style of interactive element that you may not expect in a VN, and these segments are enjoyable in their own right.
Visually, The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog is a colorful game with a bright, cartoony aesthetic. I love the backgrounds and how the characters pop into focus on the screen. The artwork for story scenes is a visual delight, and the character designs for original characters, such as the Conductor and Barry, fit nicely into the series’ overall graphic tone. If I have one complaint, it’s the “double-image” effect — an overlying copy of the same object a few pixels to the side — on items of importance in the backgrounds. I couldn’t tell if it’s intentionally to draw players’ attention their way, but it certainly is distracting. The game’s soundtrack and sound effects are fitting, particularly in the thinking portions where faster, more iconic beats in the vein of classic games of the Sonic series play and you hear the “catching” sound effect whenever Sonic grabs rings. The launch trailer is an accurate depiction of the visuals and soundscapes. The script and dialogue are wonderfully written, with nary an error.
The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog is a very entertaining, casual-paced visual novel based on a beloved video game franchise. I enjoyed my time playing it, and I’m impressed by the level of detail and care put into a free title. The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog is one April Fools’ Day joke that’s so much better than one initially expects it to be, and a part of me hopes there might be more games of this ilk in Sonic the Hedgehog’s future.