I really enjoy the Sonic Boom television show. I think it’s fun, clever and just a really enjoyable experience to watch with my kids. I thought the first game on DS wasn’t that bad either. It felt like the developers at Sega were trying to get back to what made Sonic fun. There were hints back then of things that really made the game feel like a Sonic game and I thought with another go at it the series could be really good. Well, the developers are back at it with Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice on the 3DS, and unfortunately it feels like more of the same, yet again.
The game goes along with the animated series of the same name. Sonic and his crew of friends spend their days fighting Dr. Eggman and his group of robotic baddies. In this case Eggman has found a new source of power called ragnium and he’s mining the world for the element. It’s causing fissures to open up on various islands around the world. Sonic, Tails, Amy and the rest all have to team up and work together to close those fissures so they don’t destroy their home.
Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice is named a lot more perfectly than I think it was supposed to have been. The biggest reason for the name is a new fire & ice mechanic where Sonic and crew have the ability to phase between the elements of fire and ice. However, there are a lot of moments in the game that also flash between those elements. Sometimes the game is really good, sometimes those moments leave you feeling ice cold.
There are flashes of brilliance inside this game; occasional glimpses of the fun Sonic has been in the past. Most of those moment, unfortunately come when the game takes control away from you. Those moments when you hit a speed pad and Sonic just takes off. He starts bouncing off springs, running through corkscrews and speeding along the ceiling. It’s fast, borders on just below too fast and would have been a lot of fun if you had some control over Sonic during those moments. You get brief glimpses of that when he’s racing on pre-designed tracks against Eggman’s henchmen, but there is only one of those levels per island in the game.
Ultimately the game falls flat and just doesn’t feel very exceptional. There are multiple paths inside levels to take. Each character has different abilities that they can use to access hidden parts of levels. For example, Sonic has an air dash, Amy can hammer large blocks and Knuckles can dig through the ground very quickly. Every once in a while you get those brief moments where you start one of the characters running and you hit a patch where you dodges obstacles, bounce of robotic enemies, freeze a patch of water and then jump through another one while switching to the fire element to melt the block of ice in front of you. When those moments come together the game feels really good. It starts to feel fast and you start to remember why Sonic was fun in the first place.
However, those moments are few and far between. More often than not you find yourself blocked by a patch of ice you didn’t see, melting a block of ice that was covering spikes that was just off screen, or the lock-on doesn’t trigger properly and instead of bouncing off an enemy and destroying it you lose all your coins and get placed back on the last solid platform you stood on. The fire & ice mechanic seemed to get in the way more than it actually added fun puzzle elements to the game. It’s a shame that it just doesn’t quite work because those moments when it does are really, really fun.
Even the ending of the game felt flat. There are a small handful of boss fights in the game. Those moments see Sonic and one other character teaming up to take down a robot that has morphed into a giant monster. Those fights mostly boil down to simply running left or right to avoid and attack and then countering with the lock-on jump when the weak point shows up on the bottom screen. They’re not incredibly challenging. The last boss fight isn’t even against Dr. Eggman. It’s against his robot minion once again. After the fight he complains that Sonic has foiled his plan again and rides off in the sunset while Sonic makes some snarky remark. The only time Eggman ever really interacts with Sonic in the game itself is when he abducts him to make him race against another one of his robotic minions.
Outside of the story missions there are a number of different sidequests you can complete. Many of these involve Tails and his machines. Some levels will have you controlling a hovercraft in levels that are basically vertical shooters. Others will put you in control of a submarine in underwater levels where you have to navigate tight pathways while avoiding rocks and sunken mines. These levels aren’t necessary to complete the game and after the first time through them I skipped them during my playthrough because I just didn’t find them to be very much fun. You’re limited on time and every time you take damage the time ticks away even more quickly. Finding clocks in the levels will add more time to complete them, but I didn’t enjoy them.
Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice just feels like a few brief moments of brilliance wrapped inside a package that ultimately gets in its own way. You can speed (no pun intended) through the whole game as Sonic, never touching the side quests at all. If you do that it’ll take you between three and four hours to finish the story. You can add another two or three hours to complete all the sidequests and maybe another couple to finish finding every collectible in the level. I can see younger kids and fans of the series really enjoying the game, but if you’re looking for a really challenging Sonic experience this might not be the one you’re looking for.
Review copy of the game provided by Sega
Played through the full story
Total Play Time: 4 hours