The modern gamer is often wary of anything Sonic related, considering the terrible reputation that the brand has carried as of late, with the first of the Sonic BOOM series, Rise of Lyric being released unfinished and almost nearly unplayable. But rest easy friends, because Fire and Ice for the 3DS does not follow that same pattern. Players will get to run through a colorful world trying to go as fast as possible with Sonic and friends, and maybe even have fun while doing so. In the game, you can switch between the elemental powers of fire and ice, which allow the player to either phase through or freeze blocks of water. This allows the player to platform or find secret areas where collectibles would be hiding. In addition to the fire and ice powers, the player can switch in between Sonic and friends who all have unique abilities as well.
Several levels in each world follow a specific formula; Get through obstacles to get to the end of the level and find the hidden collectibles throughout. The game doesn’t stretch far past this formula, going as far as making it fairly obvious which abilities have to be used by giving them a flashy label. For example, in one of the first levels, the game tells me which blocks I’ll need to freeze and which ones I will need to melt through. It comes across as a hand-holding technique that takes away my ability to think critically about how to progress. This is apparent in the unique abilities of the cast of characters. The game tells me exactly when I need to switch to Amy to use her hammer ability or Sonic for his dash abilities. There is never a point where I am given an opportunity to experiment with the unique abilities that each character possesses.
Then, there are times in the game where the game plays itself, where you don’t even need to touch a button. I am referring to the boost that allows Sonic & Co. to move at their top speed, running through loop de loops and defying gravity. The only problem I seem to have is that unlike classic Sonic, where such scenes were placed sparsely throughout, they happen so often that it just feels like I’m only playing 3/4 of the level. If the boosts were a little less densely packed, I think they would add to the experience, rather than take away from it.
Going into the game, you could probably guess what is going to happen in the story. Eggman is using some device to try and take over the world, and Sonic & Co. are going to track him down and stop him. There is nothing particularly wrong with that manner of narrative; it’s just a rather simple concept that has been done before. They do make up for it with the well-written banter among the characters in the cut scenes, having each character have his/her quips. They even throw in some fourth wall jokes that surprised me, so I enjoyed a lot of the character interaction in the game, despite the story being lackluster in itself.
The game looks and sounds good enough; there is a lot more effort & time put into this game than some other Sonic titles. The game doesn’t make a great impression, though, as the level design and sound design are quite forgettable. The background of each level seems to lack the inspiration that the early Sonic franchise and even some later games encapsulated so well. Instead of each separate level feeling like a new path to adventure, it feels like it’s the same path with the obstacles shuffled out of order. Though maybe that could have been forgivable, if the music wasn’t so bland. The Sonic Team has been known to put out great songs, perhaps some of the catchiest in video game history. Fire and Ice seem to lack that life in its music that previous games have had. I should iterate that the sound and visuals are by no means bad, it just fades from memory after a while. I won’t be humming any tunes from Sonic BOOM: Fire and Ice anytime soon.
Thanks to SEGA for providing a digital review copy of the game.