Sonny Review: Strategic Combat Right In Your Pocket

Credit: Armor Games
Credit: Armor Games /

The post-apocalyptic RPG game Sonny has garnered a cult following as a Flash game for nearly a decade. The next chapter in the series brings its tough, strategic combat onto iOS.

Developer: Krin Juangbhanich

Publisher: Armor Games Studios

Platform: iOS

Release Date: January 12th, 2017

The popular cult-hit RPG series Sonny has for nearly ten years made its home in the all but diminished world of Flash games. Although for many Sonny has probably flown under the radar, the game has garnered a rabidly dedicated cult fan base over the years. On original sponsor Armor Games’ web portal both the original Sonny and Sonny 2 have been played over 30.5 million total times. Working with sole Australian developer Krin Juangbhanich, Armor Games Studios has now rebooted the Sonny series for iOS mobile devices.

Although Sonny 2‘s story ended on a cliff hanger, Sonny for iOS is not a continuation of that story. Instead, it is a reinterpretation of the universe, utilizing many of the same characters but following a different (and complete) storyline. The story is set in a cliché post-apocalyptic universe filled with zombies and creatures of all kinds, from exploding mech spiders to monstrous zombie trees.

The player controls Sonny, a recently deceased man who was given a special serum before he could turn into a mindless undead monster. Instead, he is a powerful, sentient zombie on a quest to exact vengeance and save the world. The story brings Sonny and his ragtag crew all over the vastly different areas of the world, meeting both new friends and foes along the way.

Credit: Armor Games /

This story is told through a series of visually gorgeous, graphic novel style cut scenes and dialog sequences. If you are a fan of gritty comic books, the art style of Sonny will be right up your ally. The game’s zones and characters are rendered in such a way it feels like you are playing an interactive graphic novel. The (often humorous) dialog sequences are partially voiced over, and the game features a well-composed and fitting soundtrack. This adds an immersion factor that is often forgotten in mobile gaming.

While the game features a fully fleshed out storyline, Sonny‘s primary focus is on its turn-based strategic combat system. So much so that the game doesn’t feature any true overworld: all playable interactions revolve solely around party management and combat. There is no world exploration, no talking to NPCs, no quests. The game features a linear set of battles you must complete across eight different zones, with the story being told through cut scenes between battles.

Credit: Armor Games /

Sonny rewards strategic combat choices over more traditional RPG level grinding. While you do gain experience in battle and level up, enemy creatures generally will not out level you if you solely play through the story battles. Sonny’s combat utilizes a time-based battle system. You get to choose your battle action when your action bar is filled. However, time freezes when it’s a characters turn and continues after the action has been completed.

You have a wheel of up to eight upgradeable abilities to equip. Your pool of available active and passive abilities is determined based on your skill tree choices. Every time you level up, you get a point to spend on either a new ability or upgrade an existing one. These abilities have varying effects, ranging from offensive and defensive to support and crowd control effects. The effectiveness of these abilities is also effected by a number of different stats, such as power and critical hit chance.

Credit: Armor Games /

At two later points in the story you also gain the ability to select two new classes for Sonny, which add additional skill trees to gather abilities from. The game gives you a full view of what each class’s possible abilities are beforehand. But once you make your choice there is no going back without starting a new game. It can be a bit daunting to choose between five completely different classes that will vastly affect your strategies moving forward.

If this wasn’t enough strategy for you, Sonny adds even more depth via mid-battle ability evolutions. In battle, Sonny has an additional evolution meter that, when filled, enables you to evolve an ability. This allows you to choose from one of three randomly selected affixes to add to that ability. These can range from being offensive in nature such as increased damage, or more defensive such as gaining a one-turn shield after attacking. While the idea is intriguing and definitely adds additional strategy, the RNG factor is often frustrating. Getting the right evolution can often make the battle a breeze, while oftentimes you get nothing useful at all.

Credit: Armor Games /

Throughout the game you can only control Sonny in battle, but can have up to two accompanying allies. Your allies have their own unique abilities and specializations. However, it will take some trial-and-error to learn exactly what these skills are and what their cooldown timers are. These other party members don’t have a customizable skill tree like Sonny does. You also cannot control what abilities your allies use each turn; they are completely controlled by the A.I. Oftentimes this ends up being detrimental to your battle plan. I’ve run into numerous situations where the A.I. chooses everything but the ideal move, which can sometimes end up killing your entire party.

Nearly every fight requires careful thinking and planning. One incorrect move can lead to a quick death.

The only thing you can customize about your allies is their equipment. These items are either bought with in-game currency from a shop available at each zone, or randomly obtained off of defeated enemies. Equipping and upgrading the proper items is another crucial aspect that can determine your success in battle. They will often include damage reduction for certain spell types that are the only way to ensure your survival against powerful enemy attacks. These items are also a sure-fire way to boost certain stats like speed, which effects how quickly your ability meter fills up in battle.

All actions in battle are animated, but in a rather unimpressive manner. Your characters remain in a stiff, upright standing position, even as they move to strike their target. The ability animations themselves are pretty generic and leave much to be desired, even for a mobile game. I also found it disappointing that the characters in your party look the same no matter what items you have equipped. Sonny is always shown as an unarmed, shirtless zombie, even if you have him equipped with full body armor and a weapon. This only adds to the feeling of items being pure stat holders.

Perhaps the most important feature of the game is the ability to respec your skill tree. The majority of battles will require you to change-up or fine tune your strategy. While the respec cost increases over time, it’s not enough to hinder your progression. This player friendly feature is critical to the core strategy of the game. Sonny wants you to explore different ability combinations and develop different methods and strategies to win each battle.

Credit: Armor Games /

The ability to respec also allows Sonny to maintain the difficulty level that it does. Did I mention this game is challenging? The battles start off pretty straightforward, introducing you to the combat system and how you can string together different combinations of abilities. But around Zone 3 the game’s difficulty level spikes dramatically. Nearly every fight requires careful thinking and planning. One incorrect move can lead to a quick death. There is no penalty for failing, so trial-and-error will become your friend.

More from Reviews

This is where Sonny differs from so many other turn-based RPGs where you can just grind experience and out-level your opponents. While grinding levels technically is an option through Training mode, it’s highly inefficient and time-consuming. At most you might want to grind out one, maybe two levels a zone if you need to. It will take careful planning and a little luck, but you can beat most zones with little to no level grinding.

Sonny features a demanding, strategic combat system while still being highly accessible on a mobile platform. The game’s designed in a such a way that you can quickly play a few rounds of battles here and there, appealing to a casual gaming audience. The punishing combat is not for the faint of heart though: defeating the story will require patience and significant effort. It is also worth noting that Sonny is a one-time purchase title. It has no advertisements and no in-app purchases, which in this day and age is refreshing to see in a mobile game. You will certainly get your money’s worth with Sonny. Just be prepared to put your strategic thinking cap on!

Sonny is playable on any iOS device and is available for sale on the App Store for $2.99.

Sonny is a solid and artistically appealing RPG focused on a challenging combat system that will truly make you think about every move you make. The game’s structure makes it easy to play for a short bursts at a time: perfect on a mobile platform. The difficulty progression and in-depth combat is punishing but rewarding. The evolution system is a bit too RNG-based, and not being able to control your party members can be infuriating. Flaws aside, it is a well-crafted and unique RPG that both newcomers and fans of the Sonny series can enjoy.. Krin Juangbhanich. . Sonny. 7

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.