Sonic’s in trouble! Well he has been for a while now, but this time it’s due to an army of super-robots that can even outrun the blue blur himself. Set on the Island of Ragan Rock, Dr Eggman has been collecting the element Ragnium to power his army of villainous robots. In effect he has also created the malevolent D-Fekt who is intent on destroying everything around him. Good job doctor! Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice is the second outing on the 3DS and third entry overall for the franchise. Returning more to 2D action-platforming roots, Fire & Ice is aiming to break the boom trend.
Exploring Ragan Rock, Sonic and Amy have been looking for ground fissures that have suddenly being appearing across the island. Upon discovering one, they harness the power of fire and ice. Why? Well to quote Tails “Because science”; you’d be forgiven for thinking this game doesn’t take itself seriously. Sonic is fine like that as the personalities given to all characters for some may not be what you’re looking for, but for me they have some genuinely funny moments. If not Tails doing his best Jesse Pinkman impression from Breaking Bad then what about Amy hinting at merchandise for the whole gang to the camera. From beginning to end the writing gives plenty of opportunity to smile.
Beginning with Sonic you go on to unlock four more playable characters including Tails, Knuckles, Amy & Sticks all with their own unique abilities. These are then individually used to access different areas and progress. Hidden collectibles are also a big part, giving the game more of exploration factor than just simple running to the finish; which is where I’m conflicted. With boost pads, loop the loops and a designated run button, the game pushes you continuously towards picking up pace, yet with the amount of enemies you come across your constantly stop starting. Add in the exploration element (which I don’t think is a bad thing) and you have another Sonic game that doesn’t really understand its identity.
Very quickly the controls did have me pondering the design and button designation. With the B button used to jump, X to arrack, Y to speed up and A used to grapple I did find it difficult to get my actions right without some frustration. Due to the four buttons being so close and the amount you are using each I would easily make mistakes, more so when trying to speed-run a level. Switching between fire & ice abilities on the other hand works smoothly being tagged to the L and R triggers.
Themed around fire and ice with the gangs new abilities you are use the triggers to switch between the elements which in turn lets you run through ice blocks and sprint over water. The gimmick works well always keeping you on your toes and makes for some great platforming moments. The downside is the level structure feels too repetitive that the same action quickly runs out of steam melting away the fun factor. Run, jump over a few enemies, run a bit more with maybe a 3D loop to loop or grapple hook and repeat. Nothing really changes up even though it’s straightforward and enjoyable, you would struggle playing a large session without being fatigued.
Boss Battles on the counter actually make terrific use of the dual screens then combines this with the element abilities making some interesting fights. Take the first battle for instance; Unga Bunga A 100ft Robot stretching over both screens. Controlling both Sonic and Amy you switch between the pair to take down the brute. Amy uses her trustee hammer to turn Unga Bunga’s arm against him which then Sonic climbs up for to deal out the damage. This concept continues through the adventure eventually showcasing all fives powers.
D-fekt (Eggman’s crazed Robot) is pretty mindless taking control of bigger machines with intent on killing Sonic. As a character he doesn’t really engage either, making Eggman as always the true star. Mike Pollock shines again in this role showing his chops as one of the top voice actors in the industry.
Otherwise there are some cool mini-games to be tried out which are used to obtain more collectibles. The submarine levels for instance felt like something from Crash Bandicoot rather than Sonic in a positive way. I have to also mention the clever use of sonar on the bottom screen to fill in as your map. The more Ragnium you find can be used to enhance your own cybernetic suit for racing friends online. Customisation is neat although sparse meaning it’s unlikely you’ll spend copious amounts of time here.
What hurts more than anything is the music score. Whenever anyone launches an attack on the Sonic the Hedgehog series I am usually one of the first to defend highlighting the music as at least its saving grace. Regrettably this time out there is nothing I can say to defend. The generic music played throughout each level sounds like its being copy and pasted directly in from Windows Movie Maker. It’s disappointing considering we’ve had such catchy tunes like Sweet Mountain boom out from the same system.
After the universal panning of Sonic Boom for Wii U, Fire and Ice plays it safe with average controls, repetitive level structure and horribly generic music. Though the personalities are adhering with some great voice work and the controls when adjusted to work well, the game struggles with its own identity. Exploration and boss battles bring quality use of the system, still the real problem is being propelled forward at all times, yet constantly hindered by too many obstacles; thus making a frustrating morning run for the hedgehog. Time to cool off.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo 3DS code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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