E3 is kind of like going to a wedding, they’re a pain to get to, your feet are destroyed by the end of it, and the whole thing is done and over with as quickly as it started. 2016 marks the first year of me being the E3 guy, which is exciting! Brand new games, some we might not see or hear from for years to come and since this is Sonic Retro, I’m only going to be talking about Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice.
For the first two days of E3, the Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice demo was nearly impossible to get to. Not because the game was in high demand like the neighbors across the way, Nintendo, but because SEGA/Atlus had a comically small booth with no space and somehow had six different games crammed within it. I mean just look at this madness:
I did eventually get to try Fire and Ice and this is where you’d expect me to tear it apart but… I can’t. Believe it or not, Fire and Ice is not a bad game. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it might even be good.
As you can guess by the title, Sonic and Boom: Fire and Ice’s main gimmick is the fire and ice elemental powers. Hitting the shoulder buttons will switch from one to the other instantly, allowing you to plow through levels and puzzles without delay. Fire and Ice wound up reminding me a lot of Mighty Switch Force. Bodies of water require the Ice power to freeze while frozen blocks or walls required the fire to melt. None of the puzzles were particularly mind boggling, but like Mighty Switch Force, I can see where the game could ramp up in difficulty later on.
The main levels were the perfect length, none were too short or overly lengthy either. One of the main criticisms of the original was how ridiculous some levels were and how backtracking was a mess that would require the player to do multiple playthroughs if they missed something. Fire and Ice’s level design is much smarter; while it does promote multiple playthroughs that are opened up as new characters are along, none of it felt like a slog.
Switching characters is equally as quick, though it does slow down the gameplay a tad. This was likely done to add some variety in and to make the other characters worth something, but it’s mostly one power that each one uses to progress. Sonic has an air dash, Amy has her hammer, and so on. Just like its predecessor, each character has a homing attack, double jump, and grappling hook, instead of these moves being regulated to just Sonic.
The level selection I played was diverse, the best being the worm tunnel level that returns from Shattered Crystal, which played a lot like modern Sonic games Generations, Colors, and Unleashed. While Sonic is sprinting down a straight tunnel, players have to dodge obstacles and switch between powers to continue progressing through the stage. The worm tunnel was the stage that felt the most like a Sonic game and I’d like to see more of them in the main game.
The weakest was the submarine stage, which was thankfully short. As a side level to grab a collectable, players board Tails’s submarine to navigate a cave and locate a puzzle piece at the end. Although not awful, piloting the sub was clunky at best and seemingly everything that touched it meant getting dealt damage. Thankfully it was the shortest level in the demo and over quick.
Fire and Ice isn’t perfect, it’s perplexing to have a run button in a Sonic game again, especially one where momentum really isn’t a factor. Once again, Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice isn’t exactly a Sonic game. While the level design is much more straightforward than Shattered Crystal, it’s far more linear than most 2D Sonic affairs. And while the Fire and Ice mechanic works well, I hope SEGA and Sanzaru Games can capitalize on it with clever designs later on, otherwise I can see the game getting boring pretty quick.
Overall, Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice is shaping up to be a pretty solid 3DS title. It’s not earth shattering, it won’t remedy the damage done to the brand by 2014’s drags, but for what it is, and if the overall game can continue this level of quality, Sonic Boom will walk away with at least one decent game.
And while we’re at it, you can see what I have to say about a ton of other games I played at E3 in my coverage video on Neo Reviews! I hit as many as I could and had something to say about, so check it out below: