Review: The world's best-known hedgehog is back in 'Sonic Frontiers'

Just at the same time as a children's TV show, a new game about Sonic is bringing the world's fastest and more famous hedgehog back to the screen. — Photo: Sega/dpa

BERLIN: In the early 90s, a competition kept the video game world in suspense: Mario versus Sonic. Where Nintendo's plumber scored by bouncing along, Sega relied on speed with Sonic the hedgehog.

However, Sonic’s stardom stalled over time. Gameplay changes and the jump from 2D to 3D didn’t win over too many fans, no matter how fast the blue hedgehog raced through the levels. But now there’s a new game that shows the old warhorse is still a force to be reckoned with.

”Sonic Frontiers” above all is about speed, speed, speed. The most famous hedgehog in the world of video games has always felt most at home when he could really step on the gas. In this game he storms the hills at an insane speed, messes about with huge monsters, and diligently collects golden rings.

What sounds like just a rehash of old game principles gains enormously in fun and action by jumping into a large open world that will keep fans on their toes.

Rollercoaster ride

Sonic has to deal with his arch-enemy Dr. Eggman once again. Eggman has activated a mysterious artefact, which gets Sonic involved. On several islands, Sonic hunts Dr. Eggman, fights giant bosses, and searches cyberspace for a way to stop a looming disaster.

The adventure revolves around Chaos Emeralds, mysterious portals, and cyberspace, all packed into a 3D open-world adventure. Players control the blue whirlwind through green valleys and sandy deserts. Sonic is as agile as ever — at the touch of a button, he turns on the turbo and can reach more distant places with double jumps.

The main new features are his combat abilities, which he uses to duel with large and small monsters. Similar to action role-playing games, Sonic can supplement and improve his abilities by collecting items. He can then perform zigzag attacks, strike in the air, and combine the individual attacks into so-called combos.

Sonic can also increase his life powers by collecting numerous rings. If he crashes or is defeated in battle, he loses a few rings. Once all of them are gone, the game continues from generously placed save points.

Besides the action, the little hedgehog's passion for collecting things is in the foreground. This can be a bit confusing at times. To complete a world, Sonic must find Chaos Emeralds to transform into Super Sonic, which is the only way he can defeat the mighty Titans.

But along the way he must also collect keys, seeds and portal gears. Which key or which cogwheel is suitable for which portal makes the light-hearted fun unnecessarily complicated.

Varied and fast-paced

At its core, "Sonic Frontiers" is an entertaining action spectacle. Instead of ticking off missions like other open-world games, it’s crammed with mini-games. Sonic can climb towers, race along a track or round up small, native creatures called Kocos.

The highlights of the game are the battles against the giant monsters that guard portals. For example, Sonic has to race along the tail of a cyberspace dragon or dodge the kicks of a running turret.

With its fast pace and varied tasks, it's rarely noticeable that "Sonic Frontiers" lags behind the competition technically. This inferiority is just about understandable for the versions on the latest console generation, but even on PS5 or the Xbox Series, worlds and monsters look poorly detailed.

On the other hand, fast-paced races in cyberspace, insane climbing passages and exciting fights make some of the lame rehashes of recent years pale into insignificance. Despite the points deducted on the technical side, Sonic has made a successful comeback. "Sonic Frontiers" is the action adventure fans have been waiting for.

The game is available for Windows, the PlayStation 4 and 5, the Xbox One and Xbox Series, and the Nintendo Switch for around €40/US$40 (RM159 in Malaysia). – dpa

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