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Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice

Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Sanzaru Games
Release Date: Sept. 27, 2016

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3DS Preview - 'Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on July 1, 2016 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice builds on the animated TV series, introduces more adventure, speed, exploration, and an all-new fire and ice gameplay element that helps propel the action.

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It was overshadowed by its console counterpart, but Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal was released for the 3DS in 2014. It was a combination of Sonic the Hedgehog and a Metroidvania-style game, with a focus on large maze-like stages where swapping between characters was a central point of progression. It was better received than its console brethren, but there were some complaints about the title's pacing and structure. Its sequel, Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice, has been in development for some time, and it seems like a good part of that is due to making sure criticisms from the first game are addressed.

As in the prior Sonic Boom game, Fire and Ice features a cast of multiple playable characters. Our demo focused on three: Amy, Sonic and Tails. You can swap between the three characters at will and, each has their own abilities. Amy has a high-powered hammer, Sonic is fast and has a charging dash attack, and Tails can hover and has a laser gun. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses. While swapping characters is a big part of the game, it isn't designed that you're swapping characters constantly. Instead, most stages are designed with a specific character in mind, and while you can swap, you'll probably spend most of the stage as that character. The developers didn't want to lock you into only one character per stage, especially because other characters can unlock secrets, but we're told they wanted to keep the  pace flowing smoothly.


All characters, at the touch of a button, can swap between Fire mode and Ice mode. Fire surrounds them in a glowing orange aura, so characters can set things alight just by being near them. In comparison, Ice lets you walk over water by freezing it solid. Our demo at E3 2016 only focused briefly on these powers, so it's tough to say what their use will be in the full game. Our presenter was rather quiet on the subject except to promise that the fire and ice mechanic isn't just there for freezing and melting water.

The gameplay in Fire & Ice is interesting. It's clearly speedrun-based more akin to something like Sonic Generations than the previous Sonic Boom title. The level we played was designed to emphasize chaining abilities in rapid succession for the greatest speed. Sonic has to quickly swap between all his abilities to keep going without losing momentum. The level design is more akin to the older Sonic games; the first level we encountered was large with multiple routes and hidden paths that could lead to collectibles.

In addition to the main gameplay modes, there will also be some non-traditional stages. We're told those will mostly focus on Sonic's genius sidekick, Tails, and his inventions. We saw one, which focused on Tails' personal hovercraft. In this stage, the game changed to a top-down perspective and played very much like an old-school shooter. You had to avoid icebergs and shoot enemies while collecting energy for your hovercraft. Taking damage drained your energy, and your energy also went down over time. It's a simple minigame that's an interesting diversion from the main gameplay.

Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice feels a lot like the developers took the criticism from the first title to heart. The gameplay is faster and closer to the traditional Sonic gameplay while maintaining the exploration and character-focused gameplay of the previous Sonic Boom title. Part of the way through my first level, I was stringing together combos of moves in a way that felt both fun and fitting for the fast-paced Sonic franchise. Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice is due out Sept. 27 exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS.



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