E3 2016: Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice Preview

June 29, 2016

Sonic the Hedgehog has got to be one of the strangest, yet most persistent video game properties around today. It’s a bit like The Simpsons in a lot of ways; its characters are iconic and recognized globally, the core media has been going consistently downhill for years, and its fan base likes to argue about the exact moment it became bad. What most people can agree on however, is that 2014’s release of Sonic Boom marked one of the lowest points the Sonic games have seen in recent years. So when a direct sequel called Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice was announced, we decided to go hands-on with the demo at E3 to see if this second bite of the cherry manages to taste any sweeter.

The central feature of the game is the new ‘fire and ice’ mechanic from which the game derives its name. By using the shoulder buttons, players can activate either the fire or ice powers as they speed through the level – which can be used to do things like melt blocks of ice or freeze water. The demo didn’t do the best job of showcasing these new mechanics, which don’t seem to add much to the game. The obstacles we saw were all very clearly and deliberately labelled, which removes any sort of puzzle solving element the game may have wished to include. It was unclear to us whether this mechanic might be used to open up the levels in other ways, such as with secret areas or branching paths. But again, the game’s demo failed to communicate the full range of possibilities for this new core feature.

Playable characters can be swapped out on the fly as you play. In the demo we were allowed to switch between playing as Sonic, Tails, and Amy – each with some unique abilities and play styles. Once again, the demo didn’t a lot to sell us on the significance of this feature. Each of the characters was able to comfortably complete the level on their own without the need for swapping out at all, leaving us only able to wonder how this character-swapping feature will impact on the full game – if at all.

The playable E3 2016 demo for Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice consisted of a single level from the title. An ice themed level to be exact, which unfortunately looked a little generic and bland to us from a visual perspective. There were some fun moments to be had in the level as Sonic rushed through loops and tunnels, but these were few and far between.

Overall Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice seems like a functional game – something that the original game didn’t manage to be. But it ultimately failed to showcase anything interesting in its demo. Perhaps, with the inclusion of some more interesting levels the game will manage to impress us more with its new features. We’ll just have to wait until the full game is released for Nintendo’s 3DS on 27th September 2016 to find out. But given the recent track record of the Sonic games, it doesn’t seem likely.