Review: Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice (3DS)
I can literally save your time and money by summarising this review with a single image, however, that’s not how I roll. Up until now, I never really understood the extent of Sonic’s fall from grace. I’ve read many reviews and heard the chatter, but there was always this little voice in my head wondering if the games were as bad as people claimed them to be. From my experience with Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice, people weren’t sugar-coating anything.
Saying something nice first
To say things are pretty bad is an understatement, so I’m going to try and bring up a positive first. I really enjoyed the mini-games and races. I’ll elaborate on them later on, I just wanted you to know that there is a slight glimmer of hope featured in this game. Sadly, I’m going to have to cut some legs from this point on.
What happened to Sonic!?
So, the last time I played a Sonic game was way back on the Sega Genesis. I haven’t played any of the games post Sonic 3D Blast, which was eons ago. As I said, I knew about the fall, I just didn’t know how bad it was until now. Right off the bat, I can tell you that the story, characters, dialogue and voice acting is atrocious. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I played a game with a story this dumb. Here’s the gist of it.
The game starts off with Dr Robotnik talking about ragnium, a kind of energy that he plans to harness in order to defeat his ultimate enemy, Sonic. It then skips to a scene with Sonic and Amy walking in a snowy clearing to plant a “science pole thingie” (that is what Sonic calls it, I kid you not) to evaluate the rather disturbing weather phenomenon. As Amy is about to knock the pole into the ground, the two are inexplicably given powers that allow them to freeze or melt water. In almost no time, both know how to use their new powers, which Tails explains is connected to their communicators. He then updates the firmware on their communicators so that all members of their crew can use these fire & ice powers, “because it’s science” – Come again, Tails?
So what does that have to do with the story? Well, it turns out that the weather problem is caused by fire and ice geysers that are appearing all over the islands. It’s up to Sonic and co. to close them all and fix the bad weather before it destroys everything. Here’s the kicker though, you never ever see bad weather in the game. No jokes, it barely snows, you even visit a tropical island that’s still sunny. There is no indication that the world Sonic needs to save is in weather peril. None. Also, there’s next to no context regarding what’s happening around you. Things just happen, for the sake of happening. As for Dr Robotnik – whose evil plan is so moronic that I can’t believe it was passed – his giant evil plan is to collect ragnium, that’s causing the ‘crazy’ weather by the way, to make an ultimate racing bot that is faster that Sonic in order to humiliate him.
Everyone, just shut up!
What makes everything even worse is the really poor dialogue and voice acting. It’s very cheesy and makes me wonder who the game is aimed at. It’s dumbed down to a point where I’m sure children can understand it, but also filled with lines meant for adults. So I’m not really sure who the game is aiming to please. If it was meant for kids, then I’m afraid to say, they won’t be able to play it, because it requires some serious swift skills. If it’s for adults, then why are all the characters depthless and sound like they come from a 90s Nickelodeon cartoon?
That was just the first layer
So now I’m through with the story, and on to the rest of it. As a game, I have a lot of concerns and issues. First and foremost, the control setup is crap and would’ve benefitted greatly from a custom control option. Unfortunately, there is no option to fiddle with the controls, so you have to suck it up and deal with a steep learning curve. Second, I find that the levels are overdeveloped and designed. Large portions of the game require the tricks of another team member, which slows you down. Run around as Sonic and you’ll eventually smack into a wall that Amy needs to hammer away, or Knuckles needs to dig through.
There’s a huge emphasis on finding all the hidden bits and bobs, which is great, but only if they’re fun to find. Most of the time they’re not. Later on in the game you can switch between all five main characters: Sonic, Tails, Amy, Knuckles and Sticks. Each has their own unique abilities that can overcome obstacles. However, finding these hidden items usually means straying from the path, which interferes with the fluidity of the level and overall game. Another hassle are the fire and ice abilities. You must switch between the two all the time to overcome certain problems. Melt a wall to pass through or freeze a river to cross it, etc. If you don’t change in time, you could muck it up and it’ll slow you down. In a game that’s meant to be all about speed, it sure does a great job of slowing you down.
The game is also divided into various different islands, each with their own distinct vibe. There’s a frozen mountain, a tropical island, a haunted place, so on and so forth. I do like the visuals of each location, but I don’t think it’s pushing any boundaries, just coasting through on “good enough.”
Enjoying the mini-games and races
What I did find enjoyable were the mini-games placed in the game. Other than the main levels, there are two Tails specific level types, Sonic races and a kind of speed challenge. The Tails levels were short, tight and appropriate for all ages. In one, you pilot a remote submarine which has to dodge mines and collect a puzzle piece. The second is where you control tails in a hovercraft and have to dodge icebergs and bombs.
The Sonic races, which forms part of the MP portion of the game (which I am unable to test out as the game isn’t out yet) is actually quite fun againts the in-game bots. The levels aren’t too complicated, but requires some fast input, constantly keeping you on your toes. It’s also one of the few times that actually shows how fast the blue hedgehog actually is. The speed challenge kind of reminds me of an endless runner, only it has an end. It also shows off Sonic’s speed rather well. I like these additions and think there’s some room for improvement.
After all that, I’m finally at the end. Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice is a game with a fair amount of game time and needs to be replayed to get all the hidden items, it’s whether or not you want to play it. If the story, characters and voice acting doesn’t get to you, the frustrating controls and level design might put you over the edge. I, quite frankly, did not enjoy the majority of this game and will probably avoid it if I can.