Over the past few years, Sonic the Hedgehog hasn’t had the greatest streak in video games. Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric was quite simply one of the worst games in the character’s history, and other games, like Sonic: Lost World, haven’t been able to effectively recapture the magic that he’s been known for in games like Sonic Generations and Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed.
But there is hope. Sega has the promising Sonic Mania coming our way early next year, along with a new Project Sonic game that looks to be a successor to Generations. In the meantime, we have Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice, a game that is based on the animated series of the same name (like Rise of Lyric), but, fortunately, sticks with the tried and true side-scrolling antics we remember from earlier games. It isn’t quite perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction, and that’s what Sonic needs.
The game has a huge emphasis on speed, and that’s something that is surely Sonic’s forte. He and other characters can be used throughout the game, with their abilities coming in handy for accessing new areas. For instance, Amy can use her hammer to knock down barriers and move into otherwise inaccessible places, and so on.
In addition, you can now utilize fire and ice abilities to get past hazards and create new walkways in order to access later parts of the stage. This does take a little getting used to, as the ability can be slightly confusing at first with the face button controls on the 3DS. However, you’ll soon find that it fits lovingly into the world of Sonic, with very little error after that. It’s a neat idea.
There are also some inspired boss fights that utilize these abilities, with multi-layered enemies that require you to use a number of these talents to bring them down to size. It can be slightly frustrating at first figuring out the pattern, but then you get it and you see the genius of these segments.
Along with main story missions, there are also side missions to help earn bonus goodies for your team, along with great on-rails segments, where you blister through a 3D race, as well as multiplayer match-ups where you can challenge local opponents. There are no online races, but this is still a neat idea, and reminded me of the local co-op featured in games like Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and 3.
The gameplay, once you get over slight disorientation at first, is good fun, and reminded me of the Sonic games of old, as you successively bop on enemies’ heads and uncover secret areas to get that much further to completing a stage 100 percent. It can be a little tiring to find everything required to beat a stage, but it adds a decent amount of longevity to the game, so the more the merrier.
Where the game comes up slightly short is in its presentation. Well, actually, Fire & Ice’s graphics and sound are alright, but when elements of the show are featured, it can be a little bit tiring. For instance, the dialogue is beyond groan-worthy for older players, although kids who like the show will feel right at home. The character design also could’ve been a little bit better, as, aside from stoic images featured on the touch-screen, it can be hard making out details from characters on the screen.
However, the level design is excellent, as there’s a lot of ground to cover, secrets to find and enemies to take down. I found it to be a nice break from the previous Sonic Boom adventure, which got a little bit on my nerves.
While Fire & Ice won’t rank amongst Sonic’s finest games, it’s definitely an improvement over his last few duds, and gives him just the right amount of momentum going into the new year, where Sonic Mania is likely to take many fans by surprise. And then we got Project Sonic, which should finally send our hero careening happily through loops again. Here’s hoping this is just the beginning of his monumental comeback.