What is Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice?
Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice is a side-on platform adventure game starring the famous speedy blue hedgehog, Sonic. Based on the cartoon series of the same name, Sonic Boom lets you play as one of five different characters from the series, as you make your way through a variety of sprawling levels, each filled with collectibles to be found, secret passages to discover, and plenty to explore.
How do you play Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice?
As a 2D platformer, the basic concept here is the same as usual - all you need to do is make it from one of the of the level to the other. However, Sonic Boom plays out rather differently to previous titles in the series. While others Sonic games have been famous for their speed, Fire and Ice slows things down a little - there are still plenty of fast paced sections here, with all the loops, barrel rolls and spectacular leaps fans will expect, but the majority of your time will be spent exploring, rather than racing to the end.
Each level here is a sprawling network of platforms, passages, rooms and springs, making it almost impossible to see everything in just one run through. You'll regularly need to switch between characters, as each has their own special power that will let you access previously inaccessible areas, or remove awkward obstacles - Sonic can dash to clear any awkward gaps, while Tails can not only hover, but he can use a rocket launcher to destroy any handily marked blocks you might come across, often opening a whole new path. With a handy map to give you a hint at where you are, and where you might be able to get to, you'll need to keep a close eye out for secret areas, or paths you might be able to take, as you try to hunt down the game's many collectibles.
The game's subtitle comes from the ability switch between a fire and ice aura as you make your way through the level - something you'll have to make use of whenever you find a water source. Switch to ice, and you can freeze fountains and slide down them; while if any blocks of ice ever block your path, you'll need to switch to fire to melt your way through.
How easy is Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice to pick up and play?
In terms of accessibility, Sonic Boom does a lot to lower the barrier to entry and make it easier to pick up and play, but it's still arguably more complex than most recent Sonic games.
To help make things that little bit more forgiving, there are no lives here, meaning you essentially have an unlimited number of attempts at each level. If you die, you're simply sent back to the last checkpoint so you can have another try - and checkpoints are regularly spaced throughout the level, so you'll never lose much progress.
Your health in game is determined by your rings - as long as you have some rings in your pocket, you have a safety net, and getting hit by an enemy, landing on some spikes, or otherwise coming a cropper won't kill you. If you get hit and don't have any rings, however, you'll be heading back to your last checkpoint. Luckily, getting hit only makes you drop your rings, rather than takes them off you, giving you a chance to grab them back - but the rings you drop will vanish after a second or two, making it trickier than you'd think to keep that lifeline. Still, getting sent back to the last checkpoint doesn't affect things too much.
If anything, it's the amount of buttons that are used that gives Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice most of its complexity. The game actually makes use of every button on your 3DS - playing as Sonic, L and R switch between fire and ice mode, B jumps, Y makes your character run, X lets you do a dash attack, while pressing A will let you fire your "Enerbeam" grappling hook to swing across gaps. The game likes to mix all of these things together, often mid jump, so you might jump off a spring, be flung into the air, have to change to fire to pass through a frozen obstacle, press B to do a homing attack against an enemy, and then press A to fire your Enerbeam, and swing to safety. Sometimes there can be a lot to think about, and making sure your fingers get to the right buttons in time can take some practice.
While there are a number of optional objectives you can try and complete in each level, none are really necessary - all you have to do to unlock the next level is to reach the end of each stage, no matter how long it takes, or how many lives you use. There are, however, some "boss fights" against perennial series baddie Robotnik/Eggman that are a lot more challenging. You'll have to race Eggman in his mech around a complex track, performing all sorts of tricky jumps, and beat him to the finish after three laps. This can take some doing - and you'll need to beat him before you can carry on through the game.
For the youngest of players, while most of the cutscenes are fully voiced, the odd tutorial/hints the game gives you are delivered only through text, so a basic reading ability would be a plus, if not a requirement. Sample sentences include:
- Use Fire to light the wick!
- Sometimes, multiple wicks need to be lit at the same time. Follow the fuse and light all the wicks before the first wick times out.
With nothing in the way of any form of mature content, Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice is thoroughly family friendly. There's no sex, swearing, violence or gore to speak of here at all - and all the enemies you have to attack are robots.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo 3DS