Reviews | Written by Chris Jackson 13/11/2022

SONIC FRONTIERS

PLATFORM: PC, PS4/5, SWITCH, XBOX ONE/SERIES (REVIEWED) | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

By now, pretty much anyone with even a passing interest in videogames can probably tell you the basic premise of a Sonic game - run really fast from left to right, smash your way through hordes of robotic enemies, collect loads of gold rings, get to the end of the level and move on to the next one. Sonic Frontiers takes a radically different approach; for the first time in his 30-year existence, Sonic has arrived in Starfall Islands, a collection of five “open zones” waiting to be explored. Each zone is filled with all of the usual trappings of a Sonic game, from bouncy springs and boost pads to grindrails and precariously-placed platforms, along with an insane amount of collectables that allow Sonic to access side-scrolling levels, unlock new abilities and beef up a handful of stats.

“Sonic as an open world RPG” works much better than you might expect. Your main objective – as it always has been – is to collect enough keys to access the Chaos Emeralds which, in turn, will eventually take you to the the island's boss. Your main (but not only) source of these essential keys is a series of portals which house the game's “standard” levels, of which there are around thirty and can reward players with up to five keys each. While traversing the overworld in search of these portals, you'll find countless simple and quick to complete platforming sections (which, slightly frustratingly, often don't pop in until the last second, so you'll be running past what you think is an empty space only to find yourself slamming on the brakes to turn around and see what's going on) along with “challenges” which uncover new sections of the map and give you an idea of where to go next. There are enemies dotted around the map too, of course, which require a little more effort to deal with than a simple bop on the head. Sonic's arsenal has been massively enhanced with a variety of special attacks which can be used in several different ways, with each enemy type requiring a unique approach to defeat. The larger minibosses are particularly fun to tackle, like the Sumo which sees Sonic catapulting himself around the insides of an electrified MMA-style cage to push his opponent into the walls, and the gigantic end-of-level Titans bring a slight Shadow of the Colossus flavour as Sonic scales their towering forms to defeat them.

How well this all comes together, and indeed how much enjoyment you're likely to get from the game, largely depends on how keen you are on open world games. There's plenty of classic side-scrolling Sonic action, but the focus is very much on exploring the islands and clearing icons from the map, something more akin to an Assassin's Creed game than old-school Sonic. The muted colours, sombre music and Sonic's more grown-up personality give Frontiers a strange sort of vibe – not a bad one by any means, but it's certainly different to what many will be expecting and could take a bit of getting used to. Having said that, if you're on board with the game's premise then you're likely to get a good 25-30 hours' worth of addictive exploration-based adventuring from it. Four stars for the open world fans, maybe three for everyone else!