Old-School Sonic fans have been clamouring for a great Sonic the Hedgehog game; something that instills the nostalgia of those halcyon days. For those people, there’s the impending release of Sonic Mania. That’s a Sonic game that takes the blue blur back to his roots, looking and feeling very much like a Genesis sequel that never was.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t space for a fantastic new take on Sonic the Hedgehog. A brand new, modern Sonic adventure would be appreciated. Unfortunately, Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice is not that game. Of course, that’s exactly what anybody’s who’s played any of the previous Sonic Boom games would expect. This is Sanzaru’s second Sonic outing since the woeful Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal, and while they’ve learned from some of their mistakes, they’ve unfortunately gone ahead and made some new ones.
Shattered Crystal was criticised for being slow and monotonous, and that’s not really changed. While there are fleeting moments of great level design, the platforming often devolves in to a dull repetition. It follows the basic template set by Shattered Crystal. You’ll play as Sonic and four of his rebooted buddies: Sonic has his dash and spin; Tails is able to glide for short distances and is also has a laser gun; Amy Rose has a hammer that she can use to knock down barriers; Knuckles is able to burrow in to specially demarcated bits of ground, and Sticks can throw a user-guidable boomerang for hitting switches.
You’ll need to use all of these abilities as you switch between each character on-the-fly to explore levels, collect the stuff that’s littered everywhere and make your way to the end of the level – hopefully with a cache of rings in tow. There is a new gameplay hook, not so subtly given away by the game’s title. For reasons that are explained through painfully unfunny and tedious dialogue, Sonic and his pals have been granted the powers of Fire and Ice, and need to switch them up to get through and over certain obstacles.
Switch to Ice, and you’re able to freeze blocks of water as you run over them, creating new pathways. Run in to a frozen block, and yes, you’ll have to switch to fire to pass through. It’s a little like a watered-down Ikaruga in that sense, though lacking the fine and intricate design you’d get in a game from Treasure.
The main platforming seems to draw much of its inspiration from Donkey Kong Country – from the overworld, to the level design, and the glut of hidden collectibles strewn over each level. That design ethos is at odds with the very core of what makes a good Sonic game, and at odds with itself. While the game wants you to explore levels to find all of the hidden collectibles, it also rewards you for finishing levels within a time limit. This forces you to replay levels –when they’re tedious, dull and not very fun to begin with.
The monotony of it all is broken up with a few mini games that you’ll select from the overworld, but they’re not any better. Some have you exploring labyrinthine undersea levels in a submarine, trying to find collectibles within a time limit, while others have you shooting at icebergs from a hovercraft, trying to get to the end of a level within a time limit. If there’s a saving grace at all, it’s the bot racing levels. Every so often, Dr Robotnik will whisk Sonic away for a race against one of his robots. These faster-paced track levels require finger gymnastics as you jump, spin, and switch powers on your way to victory. Sometimes, you’ll get a 3D running level, wich can be an exercise in frustration. On the little 3DS screen, its a hard to see exactly what’s going on as you barrel through the level in three dimension. A single death – something that can happen quite easily – means restarting the level from scratch. The occasional boss battles – which use both of the systems screens for a bit of verticality – are usually fun too, but they’re rather easy, and last just a few minutes before it’s back to the drudgery of the core game.
There’s a story here, but it’s scarcely worth repeating. Great big fissure of magical fire and ice energy have opened up everywhere, and it’s up to Sonic and his furry friends to close them up, following a small, but possibly insidious robot around who seems to be the cause of it all. The narrative is told through animated cut-scenes that look like they’ve been ripped straight from the TV show – bringing with it the rebooted Sonic characters’ repugnant, annoying personalities. I love a bad joke as much as the next Dad, but the dialogue delivered here has all the wit and charm of a kick to the face.
Last Updated: September 27, 2016