“A delayed game is eventually good. A bad game is bad forever.” – Shigeru Miyamoto
While these words aren’t necessarily true (just look at Duke Nukem Forever), a delayed game with the purpose of fixing it’s issues can only make a better game. Such seems to be the case with Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice. A game originally scheduled for November 2015 that looked like it might be just a slight improvement over the original, but nothing major. Fast forward 8 months later and lo and behold, we seem to have a pretty good game on our hands.
The demo displayed at E3 had the first world (an ice mountain) to play through. While Shattered Crystal had about one large, maze-like level in each world, this game’s first world has four slightly smaller levels instead. Glacier Forest, Frozen Hollow, Cliffside Blizzard and Snowy Peak. These levels alone are a bit shorter than a standard 2-D level from the first game (especially if you’re just plowing straight through them), but when put together make a good amount of content. Sonic, Amy and Tails are the only ones playable in the first world. Each level shows some of the strengths of the individual characters abilities while the final level involves a little bit of teamwork.
Unlike Shattered Crystal, the levels aren’t maze-like and confusing. You can either use (mostly) one character and speed through the level or switch up characters to explore the full stage and find hidden objects and even hidden extra levels off the beaten path. It doesn’t constantly make you switch characters as much as the original and you never feel lost. Also, the game does away with the slingshot and just allows you to spring into the background and keep going. The camera is more zoomed out too, allowing for better reaction time. It has a good flow and pace that I found the original lacking.
Now, before I get into the other stages, let’s talk about the Fire and Ice elements and how they are used. Sonic and friends have an aura of either fire or ice surrounding them. While speeding through a level, you’ll need to hit either L or R at times to switch between fire or ice and you may need to react quickly. For example, you may be swinging across a chasm only to find a bunch of platforms made of water. If you fall through, you hit the spikes below. However, if you tap R to go into your ice aura, the water will freeze and you’ll be able to run across it. Opposite with fire. An ice wall may block your path and you’ll need to be in fire aura to quickly melt it and zoom by. The water wall effect is pretty neat and looks like a jello mold when your character passes through it. It’s a simple mechanic, but it adds an extra bit of challenge and makes things more interesting.
Now let’s talk about the other levels I tried out. Several of them may seem familiar to you if you’ve played Shattered Crystal. Frozen Pipeline is very similar to the tunnel mini-games you’ve played in the original. The new thing added is the fire and ice elements that make the course a bit more trickier. Darkened Depths is also very similar to the Tails sub mini-games from Shattered Crystal only with a nice, graphical overhall. A new addition to Tails’ vehicles is a watercraft you’ll be sailing along in with Crafty Manuevers, a top-down shooter where Tails will need to dodge mines and whirlpools while shooting down icebergs and collecting pink crystals. It’s fairly short and nothing to write home about.
Only I am writing about it. At home. Because…y’know. It’s my job.
Those “Sonic Rivals” style races return with Boulder Speedway. In it, you’ll be a robot racing against other robots. One of the reasons you might wanna explore the bigger levels is that Tails uses the hidden items you find in those levels to build and improve robots. These races are also where your local multiplayer comes in. The level shown gave me the choice of a Sonic-Bot or Burnbot. This first course was fairly easy and straightforward, but that didn’t stop me from failing the level twice. I will say that it could be due to the Sonic-Bot having weak stats. Burnbot felt better and was easier to maneuver through the course. It should be noted that Burnbot is the first Sonic Boom exclusive character to be playable since Sticks.
Finally, there was the boss fight with Unga-Bunga which instantly reminds me of this Bugs Bunny cartoon. The boss takes up a full two screens and is similar to boss battles featured in games like Sonic Rush. The main villain of the game, D-Fekt jumps into a giant Tiki God-like robot that Sonic and Amy need to take down. Sonic dodges Unga-Bunga’s bashes while jumping at him with homing attacks. Once dizzy’ed the game automatically tags in Amy (in a cool two-screen tag animation) and she uses her Piko hammer to smash a pillar into the air, jumping over blocks while using her fire aura to melt blocks that would otherwise push her offscreen. She then tags Sonic back in and you use the ice aura and his air boost to get up to the top of the pillar and hit Unga-Bunga right in the noggin-boggin! A few more of these and the boss is defeated.
I should end this little preview by letting you know where I’m coming from on this game to help you decide if Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice is for you. As I mentioned in my Shattered Crystal review, I thought the gameplay engine itself was pretty good, but the overly large, maze-like level design itself was poor and being forced to explore to progress along with it’s incredibly short length was a real game killer. Through feedback, Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice seems to have gotten rid of most of these complaints and offers a much more solid, fast-paced game. Each level has it’s areas to explore, but only if you want to. Otherwise, you can play it for it’s fast, platforming action. It’s no game-changer, but definitely above average. However, if you didn’t like the basic mechanics of the previous title to being with, this may not change your mind. That said, there’s no denying that the extra time in the oven has given some impressive results.
Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice will be available on September 27th in America and September 30th in the UK.