Seems like an impractical way to prevent third degree scoff marks.
Thankfully, the redesigns are not permanent as Big Red Button Entertainment (the lead design team behind the game) assured everyone that the game will not replace the mainstream Sonic series, and is meant as a separate spin-off, not as a reboot. Unpredictably, Sonic fans are still not keen on the idea, and no one can blame them after the mixed reactions of Lost World, but remember this is exactly how they felt when Sonic Colors was announced after the puke-fest that was literally any Sonic game released before 2010. You still might call out "bullsh*t, it's still going to suck", but there are 3 relevant signs that we could all be wrong and that Sonic Boom could be the next best Sonic game since Generations.
Sonic games, especially the 2-D platformers, have always been a linear affair that when mixed with an open-world hub have produced mixed results. The main problem with the open worlds in previous 3-D Sonic games is that they were basically an excuse for the developers to shoehorn in arbitrary side-quests and mini-games in attempt to lengthen the game by forcing you to play as all the characters one by one to see 100% completion (Sonic Adventure and Sonic 06 being the worst offenders). The Sonic Advance titles had an interesting mini hub world that connected all the games' stages (Sonic Generations actually borrowed this concept years later), but those ultimately felt lacking.
Sonic Boom could remedy this problem for good, and so far the open world screenshots look promising. Plus, having four characters present at all times not only means that needless game filler is no more, but it also means that full exploration of the world isn't restricted to just one character at a time, which plagued every single Sonic game that had an open world. Imagine Sonic Unleashed if the game had let you change from Werehog to hedgehog whenever you felt like it - that's Sonic Boom. Not only is it the spiritual third sequel to Sonic Adventures that almost every Sonic fanboy has been begging for for the past thirteen years, but we're finally getting a spiritual sequel to Sonic Heroes as well. And yet all we can think about is how stupidly buff Knuckles is, but there's a reason for that...
2. It's the Next-Gen Crash Bandicoot Game We'll Never Get.
Of course, who gives a two-sides of a buttocks if Sonic Boom isn't being developed by someone noteworthy? At first, "Big Red Button Entertainment" sounds like a generic shovelware producer put together at the last minute to leech off of a Nintendo console, but it's actually a company founded by former Naughty Dog art directors, Bob Rafei and Jeff Lander plus a small army of developers from well-known game studios. Rafei and Lander worked on big Naughty Dog titles including Crash Bandicoot (before Naughty Dog sold the rights to Universal), Jak and Daxter, and Uncharted - so they know how to make a platformer and to do it well.
Knowing this the redesign of Knuckles actually makes sense as Rafei explained:
"It's really important for me to make sure when you have an ensemble of characters that they all have distinct shapes so you can quickly [internalize] the variety between them. With that comes a quick understanding on who these characters are. That's why, for instance, we requested to beef up Knuckles, to make him look more like the bruiser he is."
Every character redesign reflects previous designs of Crash Bandicoot characters, whether having noodle arms or a lack of. You could probably replace the Sonic mains with Crash Bandicoot and pals, and no one would know the difference. Some might find it dumb that they could have just made a new Crash Bandicoot game, what with Sony having no plans for a PS4 game, the rumored Activison title being short-lived, and the fact that the only thing fans can hold on to is a Crysis 3 mod, but at least we know Sonic Boom is in good hands.
Every screenshot of this mod has Crash's back turned away in shame.
The way the game supposedly plays has also created an uproar among fans, because unpredictably, whenever a Sonic game doesn't feature only Sonic running fast it's automatically bad according to the fanboys. Which is a dumb accusation considering...
1. Sonic Boom Is More Than Just Speed (And That's A Good Thing).
Speed has been the biggest controversy in Sonic games - which I can agree on some levels, but when fans start complaining when Sonic is in a car instead of racing on foot you know we've gotten far too carried away with the Sonic-is-always-fast argument (every racer in SASASR is in a kart, why would Sonic be the only one not in a kart?). We always tend to forget that the original Genesis games were great not because they focused just on speed, but on platforming and fast puzzle solving as well. Enemy placement actually mattered, but after Sonic Rush they just become minor speed bumps to bulldoze through. Look at the huge gameplay differences between the retro and new Sonic levels in Generations and you'll understand exactly how the series has changed though a 20 year period. That said, I don't mind the occasional rollercoaster style Sonic game, but it's time for something more than holding down a button through an entire level.
An Action Metroidvania style Sonic game might just be the thing to spice things up, and it's the perfect excuse for the developers to incorporate old-school mechanics. "NO SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP," a Sonic fanboy will no doubt shout in my ear "AN ACTION SONIC GAME CAN'T WORK HAVE YOU NOT PLAYED UNLEASHED OR BLACK KNIGHT AT ALL STUPID?!?!?!" In reply I say get out right now. Like I said about Crash Bandicoot, it all depends on the development team whether a game is good or not, and Big Red Button Entertainment could very well pull off a great Sonic game. A hack and slash beat em' up Metal Gear Solid would've never worked if it wasn't for Hideo Kojima handing Platinum Games the helm to revamp the game. It's too soon to tell whether Sonic Boom would bomb or not, but considering how pessimistic the internet was during the announcement of Colors I'm not giving up and saying Sonic Boom would downright stink just to agree with the popular opinion.
But whether Sonic Boom stinks or not matters little to the canonicity of the franchise and absolutely nothing to the fanbase at this point. If anything the presentation should prove to be the deal breaker for this outing...because the music by Skrillex isn't, but I guess we can have everything nice.