Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice
Sonic fans approach each title with a level of skepticism these days due to an inconsistent history, but with the Sonic Boom games that began releasing in 2014, many have avoided them altogether. The drastic character redesigns and the shift to focus on elements other than speed turned many off to the attempted change. With Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice for 3DS, Sega and Sanzaru hope to change that common perception of its latest series of games.
When Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice was announced in 2015, it was scheduled to release by end of year, but to line up with Sega's new prioritization of quality over deadlines, the team delayed it by a full year. I had the chance to go hands-on with the latest build and while I don't think that those who completely disliked Shattered Crystal will do a 180° on the Sonic Boom sub-series, the gameplay trends much closer to the classic gameplay that popularized the series.
I played through two levels of Fire & Ice. Each level starts you off as Sonic, but you can swap to Tails, Amy, Knuckles, or Sticks to take advantage of their unique abilities. Using things like Sonic's air dash, Tails' flight, or Amy's hammer, you can access different areas in the level. These optional areas contain branching paths that extend the length of the level, but you can main-path the levels just as easily. Sonic and his friends are much speedier this time around, which gave it a feel that is intentionally more classic-leaning than the last games with the Sonic Boom name.
The main mechanic of Fire & Ice is swapping between Sonic and his friends' fire and ice abilities. Using the shoulder buttons, I swapped these powers to do things like freeze water areas to turn them into traversable platforms, or melt ice to open up paths. During the boss fight I played, I switched between Sonic and Amy. As Sonic, I dodged the attacks of the giant tiki monster's hand and then countered with a homing attack, then swapped to Amy to hammer the ground to build a platform for Sonic to jump up and attack the monster's head. I didn't die, but the boss fight presented a decent level of challenge.
Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice still doesn't look like the game fans of the series are wanting, but it looks a lot closer than the 2014 releases did. With the game containing an increased emphasis on speed, I'm looking forward to seeing how the final product comes together. Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice hits Nintendo 3DS on September 27.