Although formulaic and somewhat one-note, Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice is a fast-paced platformer in a similar vein to classic side-scrolling Sonic the Hedgehog games. It combines the same enjoyable spin-dashing, looping courses, and ring collecting of old with some new--albeit vapid--ideas. The story comes down to the classic struggle of Sonic and friends trying to clean up the mess left in the wake of Dr. Robotnik’s shenanigans. The only difference, however, is the fact that mysterious rifts in the world have integrated with the tech worn by Sonic and his buddies, temporarily granting them their newfound fire and ice powers.
With a button tap, you can charge Sonic with fire or ice powers, allowing him to burn away or melt obstacles and freeze solid water for easier traversal across hazardous environments. These features are useful in more challenging sections with many obstacles that call for quick reflexes, including moments where moving pillars have to be avoided by quickly switching between fire and ice to enter safe zones beneath the hazards, but the feature is not so great when it brings fast-paced sequences to a jarring, unnecessary halt by sending characters crashing headfirst into an icy brick wall or through water into a pit of spikes.
You have the ability throughout the game to rapidly switch between different characters from the Sonicverse, including Knuckles, Tails, and Amy. Each character has their own unique special ability that can occasionally be used to access otherwise gated sections or each stage. For example, Amy’s hammer can bash walls or floors to move certain obstacles and Knuckles’ burrowing ability allows him to dig underground.
Some abilities can occasionally be used for mundane tasks like collecting items, but they rarely have any meaningful application aside from accessing hard-to-reach areas. And really, searching for hidden items is largely inconsequential, more of a temptation for completionists than a beneficial pursuit in practical terms. Like the fire-and-ice mechanic, special abilities and collectibles are ultimately underutilized.
The flow of Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice is also unabashedly formulaic. Every island Sonic visits has a handful of standard 2D levels set in seemingly arbitrary environments, like a prehistoric beach or a pirate bay. Accompanying these core areas are a few others with different formats that break up the flow of typical side-scrolling levels. These include a runner-like minigame in which Sonic auto-runs while dodging obstacles using his fire and ice powers; a side-scrolling, time-limited submarine-diving minigame used to acquire trading-card collectibles; and one-on-one races with one of Robotnik’s super-fast robots.
Minigames are fairly basic and straightforward, and only loosely related to the rest of the adventure. The attempt to fit a submarine minigame in an otherwise standard 3D platformer especially felt somewhat out of place, but ultimately these diversions serve as a nice palate cleanser in between 2D levels and make for easily replayable challenges.
Although formulaic, when it makes great use of its new mechanics and evokes classic Sonic gameplay, Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice is a competent and enjoyable adventure. The ability to replay levels and minigames to improve scores or use a character’s unique ability to explore more of a map offers enough incentive to dive back in, and the mix of classic Sonic platforming elements with newfound twists gives the game a more novel identity unto itself. Compared to the many missteps in Sonic’s history, it’s a decent example of what the series could be in a modern context. But when measured solely on its merits as a platformer, Fire and Ice is a repetitive yet competent game that's slightly above average.