The Sonic Boom license, and to an extent the entire Sonic the Hedgehog series in general, has a lot of negative stigma surrounding it. The undeveloped and poor releases of Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric and Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal caused many to completely dismiss the Sonic Boom franchise, and for good reason.
Consequently. those negative feelings will cause many to write off Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice, sequel to Shattered Crystal, before they even play the game. That is unfortunate, as Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice is the best thing to come from Sonic Boom yet. While not without a few flaws, Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice is a very solid 2D platformer, albeit a short one.
The game’s story is pretty basic. Sonic and co. are going around their world in order to close ragnium fissures which have opened up and given Sonic and his allies the ability to control fire and ice elements. Along the way, the group comes into contact with Dr. Eggman and D-Fekt, a rejected robot that might be the cause of the fissures.
While Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice’s writing is definitely geared towards children, it does give the occasional adult joke or one liner that makes sitting through the game’s cutscenes an enjoyable experience. The story understands its audience and does what it needs to do, so I can not knock it for being childish.
Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice’s graphics are very good. Cutscenes vary between being pre-rendered to look like the television show, and being done in engine. The pre-rendered scenes look very good for the 3DS, with the only thing holding them back being the console’s low screen resolution. Stages look good, and are able to keep it varied up enough to keep things interesting. Some examples include being on a tropical island, or being outside of a magical castle.
The game’s overworld is also immensely detailed, and shows the player moving to different places on the island, not just a straight shot to the end like in some other 2D platformers. While a few character models, specifically Knuckles, are very rough, the game usually looks very good.
The 3D in this game is also done very well. Levels have a lot of depth, and watching the playable characters jump in and out of the background creates a dynamic 3D experience. While the game did lag for me once or twice while the 3D was on, it ran smoothly for most of the game. This is definitely a game you want to play with the 3D on.
Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice plays out like most 2D Sonic games, with the exception of the fire and ice powers. Players can run, jump, and use the homing attack to fight enemies. The goal is to get to the end of the level and close the Ragnium fissure, although levels have some Metroidvania elements in them.
Characters can be switched on the fly, and can be used in certain sections of levels in order to get the player into secret areas. These areas contain collectibles such as parts for Amy’s hammer, puzzle pieces to unlock concept art, and ragnium shards, which can unlock bonus content.These things can also be obtained through challenge rooms, which are specially named mini-levels that are tougher, but give the player a collectible upon completion. All of the characters play slightly differently and have their own special abilities, which keeps gameplay varied and fresh.
The fire and ice mechanic also freshens up the gameplay. While not anything revolutionary for the series, this mechanic makes players pay attention and look forward in order to anticipate what power will be needed next to do something such as melting ice, freezing ice, or lighting and setting off barrels of gunpowder. It was an interesting mechanic that helps this game stand out from its other handheld 2D Sonic game peers, and worked even better in the 3D running sections of the game. I am interested to see if this mechanic will return in a future Sonic the Hedgehog or Sonic Boom game.
In addition to the main levels, which have the player race to the end of the level while collecting items along the way, there are also side levels in each world where the player controls a machine manufactured by Tails. The first one is an underwater level the player controls a submarine. The goal of these levels is to find all of the collectibles in them. You are on a constant timer which is slowly being chipped away, and will drastically decrease if the player runs into anything. Mini-clocks around the levels have to be picked up in order to refill your time. These levels are a fun distraction, and offer a nice-slow paced alternative to a title’s otherwise fast paced gameplay.
The game also features Tails-controlled levels that do not fare as well. In this mini-level, the player controls a little boat trying to reach the end of a level in a top-down while avoiding whirlpools and keeping the timer up. These stages play out in a top down shoot ’em up style.
Unfortunately, boat levels are marred by horrifically floaty control. When later boat levels get more hectic, they become nearly impossible to complete. These levels seem very underdeveloped, and I avoided them whenever they came up. Luckily, the player can skip these side levels, so this was not much of a problem.
Occasionally in the overworld, Dr. Eggman shows up, grabs Sonic, and flies to a place called Thunder Island. At Thunder Island, Sonic has to participate in a 3-lap race against Eggman’s bots in order to proceed. These levels are a fun and nice distraction during the main game. Players can also use bots obtained after beating these levels in online matches against other players, giving the title some replay value.
Unfortunately, while Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice’s gameplay is good, you don’t experience it for very long. I completed the main story after playing all required levels at around five hours. While I did not go for 100%, I still ended the game at that time with around 41% completion.
While the content in the game is of high quality, I wish there was more of it. Just as one starts to get the hang of things, the adventure ends, leaving me wanting more. For a game about speed, it is pretty short, and I wouldn’t be surprised if those who just blast through the game and avoid all side missions complete it in closer to 4 hours.
While I do think Sonic fans get their money’s worth, making the game longer would have made it more enjoyable. Completionists may be able to get more playtime out of this game, but for everyone else, Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice is a very quick experience.
Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice has some other small problems that put a damper on the experience. Two times when I exited a level and went back to the overworld, the top screen of the 3DS went black, mandating a restart. No progress was lost, but this still brought the pacing of the experience to a halt each time it happened.
Meanwhile, in menus, the A and B buttons are flipped from there normal functions, with be being select/yes, which incidentally caused many a level restart for me. These are only minor inconveniences, but they are problems nonetheless.
Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice is a very fun game. It will receive a lot of hate for simply being a Sonic Boom title, but you can tell Sanzaru Games was determined to deliver a quality 2D Sonic game. While not without a few major problems, Sonic fans and fans of the show will definitely enjoy this game for what it is. If one can get past the fact that Sonic Boom now has more titles in it than the Sonic Adventure series, they can find this very engaging and enjoyable handheld experience with this game.