Sonic Frontiers (PlayStation 5) Review

By Neil Flynn 30.11.2022

Review for Sonic Frontiers on PlayStation 5

Oh, the grand old Sonic The Hedgehog, he's had close to 100 games, he has marched to the top of the hill with incredible outings like Sonic Mania Plus and he's marched them down again with less than average showings like Sonic The Hedgehog 06 and Sonic Forces. So where does Sonic Frontiers land itself? Up? Down? Or will it be only halfway up, meaning neither up nor down?


 

It is incredibly tough to gauge where the Sonic franchise lands next, in one instance it pumps out Sonic Mania but then follows it up with Sonic Forces, Sonic Colours Ultimate and Sonic Origins, the latter two being a half-decent remake and a compilation, but all three games still beset by flaws that seem to put SEGA's QA department under a microscope. That is why, when SEGA announced Sonic Frontiers, the usual critics couldn't quite believe what was being offered here. An open-world-free-roaming-esque puzzle solving adventure with melancholic music and a whole new world for Sonic? Through a series of paid exclusive unveilings via media partner IGN, the beginnings of Sonic Frontiers started to unravel from hostile scepticism into benign hope. Gamers around the world weren't quite sure what to think of the early builds presented by IGN when it was somewhat questionably editorially compromised by a paid promotional deal. Cubed3 had a chance to play the demo at EGX London during the build up to release and was present at Gamescom 2022 to see the huge queues waiting to play Sonic Frontiers. What was on offer was fun, fluid and surprising. Sonic controlled great, the new Cyloop function felt intuitive enough to perform and roaming around was fun. The problem is, as Sonic fans will know, that it is the hope that kills us, the expectation that a fully 3D open world Sonic The Hedgehog game could come out, bug-free, performing to next-gen expectations and most importantly be fun. It is for this reason that Cubed3 approached Sonic Frontiers with extreme caution going into playing the final build.

Screenshot for Sonic Frontiers on PlayStation 5

Sonic Frontiers drops the spikey blue hedgehog in a whole new setting of the Starfall Islands. The world is split into 5 island areas, all acting as sandbox environments with multiple pathways to be discovered and a whole slew of self-contained levels, known as Cyberspace stages, to race through. New and returning abilities are taught through a series of tutorials either in pause menus or via the in-game engine. New functions for Sonic include the Cyloop ability, which allows Sonic to leave an after-image trail of himself at the press of a button to create a circuited shape which entraps enemies and obstacles to either damage them or interact with them. This isn't something that feels unnatural, so it is quite enjoyable to execute and can be done very quickly by using the boost button. Much of the game's combat and puzzles are based around the Cyloop, if in doubt then cyloop around an enemy, or cyloop around a structure and more than likely the outcome will go in Sonic's favour. Combat is pretty much dominated by one button mashing, but there is a skill tree of tricks to unlock. These come at a cost of collecting skill points, which are fairly easy to collect throughout the campaign.
Boost formula Sonic fans will be excited to hear that the whole of Sonic Frontiers doesn't play out in just the open sandbox areas, but that there are 30 self-contained Cyberspace stages that feature returning zones from previous Sonic games. They play very much like previous 2D/3D on-rail Sonic stages from Sonic Forces, Sonic Colours, Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Generations, with grind rails to skid down and chasms to jump over. Traversal will feel familiar in these stages, and unfortunately the brevity will too, as most of them last around 1-2 minutes before easily crossing the goal ring, something that was present in most stages in Sonic Forces. The challenge of collecting 5 Red Rings also returns, but these are also fairly easy to collect and are often in plain sight or just on the pathway, removing the challenge to actually collect them. Each Cyberspace stage also comes with Missions, but these also feel a bit tacked on as they are quite easily accomplishable on the first or second playthrough, such as finishing the level in a set amount of time or finishing with a certain number of rings.

Screenshot for Sonic Frontiers on PlayStation 5

The sandbox areas are made up of various challenges that can feature giant bosses and enemies to defeat, returning characters to talk to which progresses the story, island natives (known as Koco) to rescue and puzzles to solve. Solving puzzles will unlock the map screen and getting all map waypoints will unlock fast travel for that area. Platforming challenges are also littered across the islands which can reward Sonic with any number of collectibles and in-game currencies to which Sonic Frontiers is swimming in, including Memory Tokens, Keys, Purple Coins, Red Seeds of Power, Blue Seeds of Defence and Portal Gears. Memory Tokens are used to exchange a communication with each of Sonic's friends on the islands. Keys are used to unlock Chaos Emeralds that are being kept in containers across the map. Purple Coins are exchanged for a turn on an in-game minigame where Sonic can go fishing, red and blue seeds help level up Sonic's attack and defensive powers, and Portal Gears allow for Cyberspace portals to be opened up. Needless to say, it is this variety that makes Sonic Frontiers feel fun to explore, it isn't always asking the same thing from the player and having this level of different tasks to complete keeps the gameplay loop quite fresh. The plot and premise of Sonic Frontiers is not anything to write home about; same old devious tricks from Eggman, exploitation of resources and struggling natives which Sonic feels the need to help. By all means, it isn't a terrible story, but not many are going into Sonic Frontiers looking for that as their sole expectation. Character meetings and conversations can come across rather flat and disjointed, with Sonic's supporting cast scattered throughout each island to have chats with to keep moving the plot along.

Screenshot for Sonic Frontiers on PlayStation 5

The sandbox areas are made up of various challenges that can feature giant bosses and enemies to defeat, returning characters to talk to which progresses the story, island natives (known as Koco) to rescue and puzzles to solve. Solving puzzles will unlock the map screen and getting all map waypoints will unlock fast travel for that area. Platforming challenges are also littered across the islands which can reward Sonic with any number of collectibles and in-game currencies to which Sonic Frontiers is swimming in, including Memory Tokens, Keys, Purple Coins, Red Seeds of Power, Blue Seeds of Defence and Portal Gears. Memory Tokens are used to exchange a communication with each of Sonic's friends on the islands. Keys are used to unlock Chaos Emeralds that are being kept in containers across the map. Purple Coins are exchanged for a turn on an in-game minigame where Sonic can go fishing, red and blue seeds help level up Sonic's attack and defensive powers, and Portal Gears allow for Cyberspace portals to be opened up. Needless to say, it is this variety that makes Sonic Frontiers feel fun to explore, it isn't always asking the same thing from the player and having this level of different tasks to complete keeps the gameplay loop quite fresh. The plot and premise of Sonic Frontiers is not anything to write home about; same old devious tricks from Eggman, exploitation of resources and struggling natives which Sonic feels the need to help. By all means, it isn't a terrible story, but not many are going into Sonic Frontiers looking for that as their sole expectation. Character meetings and conversations can come across rather flat and disjointed, with Sonic's supporting cast scattered throughout each island to have chats with to keep moving the plot along.

Screenshot for Sonic Frontiers on PlayStation 5

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

This has been one enjoyable ride and it is great to see how well Sonic has fared in his latest outing. Exploration is fun, running around an island and going from grind rail to grind rail. The variety of challenges and collectibles are balanced, and combat has evolved via the new Cyloop ability, although this does get a little repetitive by the end of the game. There is never really a dull moment to be had, and there is plenty of content to power through. This is a game that every Sonic fan needs to play. Hopefully Sonic Team and SEGA follow up with a direct sequel as they have the formula nailed just right.

Developer

Sonic Team

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

3D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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