A whole bunch of books came out in May, but are any worth the ink they’re printed with?
In October, we reported on the announcement that Egmont would be partnering with SEGA to release a slew of new activity books for May 2014. Because of my insatiable need to own Sonic books, I put down my money for the ones that came out at this time and can now weigh in with my absolutely professional (citation needed) opinion. Are these books worth your time, or are they best left gathering dust on the shelf?
Now, let’s get one thing out of the way; these books are very much aimed at kids. As such, unless they’re blatantly lazy on a level that cannot be excused, I’m not going to hold it to the same strict standard I would of a book aimed at older fans (for example, Pix ‘N Love’s The History of Sonic the Hedgehog). That said, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to be thorough with my analyses.
As a side note, if you’re a fan of E-123 Omega and like to collect merchandise of him…you can ignore these books. He doesn’t make an appearance at all. Even Chaos got a single sticker at least.
Sonic the Hedgehog Joke Book
The Cover: The art itself is used nicely, although I can’t help but think that I’ve seen it a lot before. That would be because it was a very common style to use on the stationery that came out way back in 2012. That’s more of a nitpick than anything though, especially when the background is nicely stylised. What isn’t such a nitpick is the use of text on the cover. It’s all nice and well having a sample of the content but not when it looks so obnoxious on the front. That said, one of the other books shows a preliminary cover that looks even more obnoxious, so I guess I’d rather this than that.
The Inner Art: I’m sure it would look fine. Repetitive given how every single page has the same sort of layout, but fine. The problem is that Sonic art doesn’t look so nice in black and white. Because of this detail, it’s really rather dull, especially when certain characters sort of blend in to the backgrounds that they’re put on. To top it off, the paper quality is poor as well. Remember when you were a kid and you got colouring books with that really coarse stuff that felt shoddy to the touch? That’s what the pages of this book are made out of.
The Content: It’s a joke book. There’s jokes. There isn’t anything more to it than that. It wouldn’t even be so bad if they were Sonic-themed jokes. Instead, most of the jokes are the same generic jokes that you’ve seen in every joke book, with some being modified slightly to include Sonic elements. What else can I say about it?
Overall: Just…no. If you want jokes, you can get any other joke book out there and you’d pretty much have the same thing.
Sonic the Hedgehog: Sticker Mania!
The Cover: The cover shown in the October news article was very much a preliminary cover. Now the emphasis is on the abundance of stickers, with Sonic being swamped by dozens of square stickers (all in the book, so it’s not false advertising at least) and only Eggman, Tails and Knuckles standing out on top of them. It’s busy, but it’s actually pretty cool and it shows off the content at the same time. An addition since the announcement is a little thing in the corner indicating the heavy use of Sonic Lost World in the book. I’ll go more into that later.
The Inner Art: Like many books recently, the art is all stock art. Despite this, at least it’s used appropriately and doesn’t go into overkill per page. The consistency of the layouts and styles accompanying the art and activities are particularly effective in making the book coherent where there would otherwise be a risk of making it a random jumbled mess. Not the hand-drawn meticulousness of yesteryear, but still sleek and stylish. It helps that the paper quality is up to standard this time as well.
The Profiles: Weirdly enough, there are four pages dedicated to small profiles of the characters. When I say small, they really are small, only covering four stats; name, species, key feature(s) and skill(s). There’s nothing really new here (unless you didn’t know that Jet had advanced piloting skills or that Big had a keen sense of smell*), but at least they’re accurate for the most part. The only obvious factual error is the fact that Blaze doesn’t harness Chaos energy (it’s Sol), and I’ve seen far more errors in books aimed at fans of the series.
The Content: Most of the book is taken up by random common activities given a bit of a Sonic twist. You have your mazes, your pseudo board game races, your word searches, that one square draw activity that makes no sense, trivia quizzes, character recognition and all that jazz. Because of the Lost World tie-in, ten of these pages are themed after that game specifically (although one Wisp game mention other characters coming to rescue them from a chemical factory. Isn’t that Sonic Colours?). Not exactly a good advertisement of how the game is for little kids, but it’s raising awareness at least.
The Stickers: As it says on the cover, there are indeed over 1000 stickers. At least with this book, the vast majority are related to the Sonic franchise (some are not for one or two activities). Okay, there are quite a few duplicates, but at least it means you can have your favourite characters on multiple items if you wish to use them (because really, who’s going to use the stickers in the book itself?). The downside is that most of the stickers are very small in size, about 2x2cm. But hey, there is that one aforementioned Chaos sticker!
Overall: If you like stickers, and you like Sonic, then decide for yourself if £6.99 is worth it for a bunch of them. For the young’uns, there’s plenty to do in the book, character info that’s actually dependable and it actually looks nice. Honestly a decent pick-up, although I’m not sure how the price tag compares to other books of a similar nature.
*This technically contradicts Sonic Chronicles since he was oblivious to smell there. Not that anyone really takes Chronicles as a measure of canon.
The Cover: Before we begin an actual analysis, let’s go over where this came from; in the initial announcement, there was mention of a book called the “Super Sonic Poster Book” which would also contain activities. We can reasonably assume that Totally Sonic is what that became, as this is the only book with any kind of posters in it. It’s definitely downplayed though.
With that out of the way, the cover is far more open compared to the others. For the most part, it’s a Sonic render on a blue background, with Tails, Knuckles and Amy packed away at the top. It’s nice, but I wonder why they made it this way compared to the other two.
The Inner Art: Go back and read the Inner Art analysis for Sticker Mania, it basically covers this book to a tee. The one thing I would say that differs is the fact that the spine on this book is stapled, and therefore weaker than both the Joke Book and Sticker Mania. It’s justified though; anything with posters inside tend to have stapled spines, although this one encourages the reader to cut the posters out. Huh.
The Profiles: Definitely bigger here than in Sticker Mania. In fact, I’d say that half the book is profiles. There are six “standard” stats; Species, Height, Age, Personality, Likes and Says (aka a quote). Some profiles omit a stat or two, Blaze switches Likes for Dislikes, and the Chaotix just don’t abide at all (preferring to go with Species, Job, Personality, Likes and Skill…and the skill isn’t the same kind of skill as in Sticker Mania. Alrighty). Despite the slight inconsistencies, they’re more in depth with the raw stats and other character trivia, and they’re once again robust in accuracy. Okay, it only says Blaze is friends with Cream and Sonic, and Sonic is said to be Rouge’s rival, but nothing on a fundamentally erroneous scope. One thing I would raise an eyebrow at is the fact that there’s no Babylon Rogues here, whereas they got profiles in Sticker Mania.
The Content: Surprise, this book also has a small range of stickers! It’s definitely a smaller range and less thorough than Sticker Mania, and there’s even an issue of a red ring render accidentally getting on Amy’s image. To be fair, this is just a bonus, not the main point of the book.
Totally Sonic also does the activities in a different way. Instead of having a whole mass of activities with mostly random ideas and themes running through them, they format in a very specific manner; there’s an activity linked to a set of characters profiles. For example, Knuckles has an activity focused on him, as do most individual characters, with the occasion activity attached to a whole group of character in the cases of the Chaotix (and they totally used this opportunity to slip in a codebreaking puzzle. At least they’re paying attention to the content they put in), Rouge with Metal Sonic (that’s a weird choice) and the Deadly Six. Because of this, there’s not as many activities, but they feel like they gel with the book more.
The Posters: Four doubled-sided pages slap bang in the middle means that there are eight posters in all, and they’re actually pretty nifty. The two Lost World posters aside (which are basically the promo shots used for the game’s marketing), they actually try and use the assets available to them in creative ways. And they definitely feel like poster quality in design because of it. I’m still not certain on the way they ask you to detach the posters. I guess a little kid might easily rip them if they tried to pull it out, but they’d still have to ask an adult to cut them out.
Overall: Another decent book for kids with some content that older fans might be able to get use of. The formatting choices made may make it slightly emptier on the stuff to do, but it simultaneously makes it more useful to go back to. Again, it’s a matter of whether you can justify the price tag for the content.
So, I’d say two of the books are worth at least a cursory glance, while one of them is to be avoided completely. What of Secret of Sonic the Hedgehog, the book most likely to be appreciated by older fans?
Well, while that was slated to be released in May like the other books, but for whatever reason appears to have been pushed back to the end of August. There’s a little bit more new info we can glean as well; Waterstones’ listing has a price of £6.99, the same as Sticker Mania and Totally Sonic, and one pound more than originally stated. In addition, it has a page count down of 64, making it the longest of all the books (Sticker Mania only clocks in at 48 pages, and that’s pretty thick for an activity book). It’s still advertised in the back of the other books as being available, which might mean the change was pretty recent. In any case, I’m going to keep an eye on that one given my satisfaction with the majority of this batch.