A fast, fun platformer that lets you play the way you want.
Sonic games have often struggled with providing the speed and excitement implied by the series’ namesake hedgehog while also accommodating meaningful and rewarding exploration, but Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice admirably accomplishes both goals in old-school 2D-platformer fashion. You can blaze through, but at almost any moment you’re free to veer off and indulge your curiosity by discovering hidden challenges and collectibles.
You never know when a quick reaction will be necessary. You may be called upon to target a foe, swing over an expanse, or use your fire and ice powers to clear a barrier at a second’s notice. Occasionally that speed works against you when unseen dangers come barreling in from offscreen a little too quickly to have a hope of avoiding them without knowing what’s coming, but this is rare, and Fire and Ice helps compensate with generous checkpoints. Sonic’s life-preserving ring system also works in your favor in these moments, instantaneously repositioning you at a point just before the trouble spot that caused a hit.
You may be called upon to target a foe, swing over an expanse, or use your fire and ice powers to clear a barrier at a second’s notice.
The designers wisely choose to make Sonic’s avatar very small in comparison to the environment, widening the field of view and thus allowing you to spot threats coming at high speed with enough time to do something about them. With so much going on, there’s thankfully little time to notice how dull your surroundings are. While the stages creatively combine exploratory and arcade action elements they have a forgettable look, with generic themes and few truly memorable moments. Most enemies are generic and unremarkable, serving mostly as speed bumps or lift-off points for jumps. The music, too, is aggressively bland… eventually I preferred playing with the sound off. I also hated almost every moment in which anyone spoke in Sonic Boom, but thankfully the inane cutscenes are completely skippable.
Sonic’s friends Tails, Knuckles, Sticks, and Amy are also along for the ride, and you can switch between them at will. Each has a useful special power to contribute, such as Tails’ ability to hover and shoot guns, but they’re rarely essential along the main routes to level exits. Their abilities prove much more useful in opening up side corridors to find hidden items. Every member of Team Sonic also has the power to shift between fire mode (used to pass through some obstacles) and ice modes (freezing water to create new platforms). The elemental mechanic is a neat idea, but doesn’t prove a game-defining innovation. Most of the time, the fire and ice switching is confined to reaction-time challenges as new dangers scroll onto the screen or to adding a dash of flavor to boss battles.
Thanks to the exploratory nature of the maps and abundant collectibles, there’s plenty of incentive for completionists to return to previous stages…
A few mandatory timed courses sprinkled in for variety’s sake aren’t particularly difficult, but they’re unremarkable enough I would have welcomed the chance to skip them. Boss fights are simple, engaging affairs that make good use of both DS screens to create a vertical battleground, and I enjoyed all of them. There are also some fairly enjoyable and completely optional stages with vertical shooter-style mechanics scattered around the map.
Thanks to the exploratory nature of the maps and abundant collectibles, there’s plenty of incentive for completionists to return to previous stages, but there’s also ample flexibility offered for players who’d rather just dive ahead. I was able to finish the main campaign in around five hours, and there were still hours worth of unexplored areas and challenges left to conquer.