From the moment Sonic Frontiers was revealed it instantly caught the attention of not only Sonic fans, but fans of open action adventure games in general. It raised a lot of questions. Would this be Sonic’s return to form? Would this be the good 3D sonic game fans have been begging for? And would it be a completely open world where we could just run and run endlessly? Thankfully we didn’t have to wait too long for many of the answers and now that the game is in my hands, I was pleased with how Sonic Frontiers delivered on most of what I wanted from a new 3D Sonic title and had a number of new surprises thrown in to keep it feeling fresh in comparison to other games in the franchise.
Sonic Frontiers is a 3D ‘open-zone’ game where you take the reigns of the iconic blue hedgehog. After Sonic and his friends are pulled through a mysterious wormhole and separated, Sonic needs to traverse the game’s Starfall Islands to uncover the secrets of this world, the plot of who is behind a mysterious robotic uprising and also locate and rescue his missing friends. The zones themselves are quite large and each are full of points of interest and puzzles, meaning there’s always something in the world to do at just about every moment.
The game is split into multiple explorable islands, each with their own design and biomes to explore. Being able to explore a new zone every few hours throughout the length of the main adventure certainly helped keep the visuals fresh throughout the mostly repetitive core gameplay loop that makes up Sonic Frontiers. Each of the islands are also designed with fun at the forefront of their design. And when you get to blast through the zones, performing combos, quickly dashing from area to area using Sonic’s unlocked skills, that’s exactly what it is. The world design doesn’t make a lot of sense, with plenty of grind rails and bouncing platforms existing just about everywhere and even defying physics hanging in mid air, but it does provide for some fulfilling traversal.
While I mentioned Sonic Frontiers’ core loop is quite repetitive, that’s not to say that it is bad by any means. I actually quite enjoyed it’s simple to understand but constantly improving progression mechanics. Sonic Frontiers is very much a collectathon by design. Traversing through the zone and defeating certain enemies will earn you Portal Gears, these gears are then used to access the game’s Cyber Space levels where by completing challenges within those will grant you Vault Keys, these Vault Keys are then able to be used to unlock the Chaos Emeralds scattered within each zone that can then finally be utilised to defeat each island’s Titan boss. Having the systems all play into one another was a really clever way to provide a sense of constant progression and delivers a wide range of things that can be tackled on each island at any one time. Even outside of the objectives that will progress the main adventure, the islands are still packed with plenty of smaller puzzles, time trials and combat encounters across the map.
One of the key highlights of Sonic Frontiers are the Cyber Space levels. These stages are accessed via portals from the islands once you’ve gathered the required number of gears. Their designs are inspired by the previous classic Sonic games and pay tribute to many of the areas and level designs from the entire franchise, providing short bursts of nostalgia and some really rewarding gameplay. Some even shift the perspective of the main camera to provide a 2D perspective to really pay homage to Sonic from the 16bit era. Each of the Cyber Space levels can be completed within a couple of minutes and contain numerous challenge objectives along with an overall ranking. The better you do, the more Vault Keys you’re able to obtain which is why the levels are designed to be short, highly replay able and competitive by nature.
Overall, Sonic Frontiers is a great return to form for 3D Sonic adventures. It features a slightly more mature story, an easy to grasp core gameplay loop and multiple islands filled with fun and replayable stages that really make you feel like the blue blur himself. While certainly not a perfect game, it’s the type of game Sonic fans have been waiting many years to get to enjoy and there’s plenty of fun to be had.
A PS5 review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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