The most interesting thing about Sonic Dash 2: Sonic Boom, the sequel to Sega's popular free-to-play endless runner, is perhaps its most tangential feature.
When Ruby Urling, of the mobile game's developer Hardlight Studios, held out her Apple Watch-adorned wrist, what she showed was surprising for a number of reasons. Launching alongside Sonic Dash 2 is a very simple pedometer app featuring the blue hedgehog, made specifically for the watchOS.
This is the first fitness app based on the character, which seems odd, considering how perfect a fit the speedster is for that genre of tech. Urling explained that the companion piece to the game was born out of the announcement of the Apple Watch.
"When the Apple Watch was first announced," she said during a preview of the game, "we started to think, 'How can we find a fun way to integrate Sonic?'"
As a complement to the main game, the Sonic-themed pedometer incentivizes maximizing your daily steps by offering in-game rewards.
"The more steps you do, the more prizes you win," Urling said. Those include the rings highly coveted by the hedgehog, as well as something new to the sequel entirely: sprites.
Sprites are magical companions that will follow Sonic and other playable characters like Knuckles and Amy Rose in the game. Urling showed off a collection of the various creatures that you can acquire throughout play, as well as from achieving your step goals.
"There are 45 different sprites available at the moment," she said, each with different abilities to aid gameplay. Some sprites increase the length of your dash, while others shield Sonic and his gang more often.
Sprites are unique to the game, which is otherwise heavily based upon the Western-animated Sonic Boom cartoon. Currently airing on Cartoon Network in the U.S., Urling referred to the series as younger fans' introduction to the hedgehog, who turns 25 next year.
"The younger audience doesn't even know Sonic," she said. "That's why Sega started the TV show."
While this could be a frightening thought for many veteran gamers, the recognizability of Sonic Boom compelled the team at Hardlight to create a new iteration of Sonic Dash inspired by the property to directly appeal to a kid-friendly demographic.
Although it's the first mobile spin-off for the cartoon, Sonic Boom has already become a game franchise in its own right. Sega released the console games Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric and Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal last year, albeit with minimal success.
Perhaps that's why the Apple Watch component is what is most striking to someone who has grown up with Sonic, Tails and Knuckles. While its interface is simple — just a graphic of Sonic running across a jungle scene as your progress toward unlocking a new prize is recorded — that simplicity is appealing. It's a way to make a game that might not be tailored to older gamers relevant.
The Apple Watch companion app is exclusive to that platform and is linked to downloads of the mobile game. Sonic Dash 2: Sonic Boom is available today on iOS platforms. It will head to Android later this month.
For the obsessive step counter who has been following Sonic since the days when Sega still made its own consoles, the character's starring role in the pedometer side-piece is appropriate and entertaining. Urling thinks she knows why, and it's difficult to disagree.
"What is Sonic known for?" she asked. "He's a runner."
And now, with Sonic Dash 2: Sonic Boom, you can run alongside him, literally.
Correction: The developer from Hardlight Studios' full name is Ruby Urlings, not Ruby Hardling as previously stated.