Sonic Frontiers review for PlayStation, PC, Xbox, Switch

Platform: PS5
Also on: PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Switch, PC
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega/Sonic Team
Medium: Digital/Disc/Cartridge
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

No matter how long I?ve been playing Sonic Frontiers, I can?t get over how deeply weird it is ? and that goes double if I?m thinking about it as a Sonic game.

I mean, I know we?re talking about a series built around a blue hedgehog whose defining characteristic is that he goes really fast, so it?s not as if it?s founded in realism or anything. But going back to when the franchise started, these games have always been fundamentally about speeding your way through stages as quickly as you can, without wasting too much time exploring the world around you.

In Sonic Frontiers, I wouldn?t say you do the exact opposite, since there are still speed-based stages scattered all over the place, and you need to finish them to move the story along. But these stages are just a small part of a much larger game ? one that, bizarrely, is all about exploration, retracing your steps, and making sure you take the time to uncover all the secrets hidden in the world around you.

On top of this, the world seems off, at least within the context of a Sonic game. It?s as if someone took the series? usual 2D landscapes, and reimagined how they would look if they existed in a somewhat realistic 3D world. Out of that, you get swaying fields of grass, crumbling structures, a day/night schedule, and all kinds of impossible geological formations. With, naturally, a blue hedgehog and his friends as the stars.

As odd as it is, however, I wouldn?t say it doesn?t work at all. Sonic may not fit into the world perfectly, but it?s still kind of fun to wander around this desolate landscape and stumble across a target that launches you onto a series of rails that require perfect timing to jump through hoops and pick up rings.

In fact, my biggest complaint about it would be something that I imagine a lot of people would count as a plus: for the most part, Sonic goes faster here than I?ve ever seen him move. Regardless of whether we?re talking 2D or 3D courses, he speeds around almost faster than the camera is able to keep up with him. It adds a certain element of twitchiness ? like, even more than usual ? that was too fast for me, but I could see appealing to a lot of people.

Likewise, those time-based stages are like traditional Sonic on steroids. The stages feel pretty familiar, but at the same time, they up the challenge thanks to their demands for perfectly timed jumps and dodges. If you played Sonic Origins a few months ago and found the gameplay too slow for your liking, Sonic Frontiers will address those concerns and then some.

The game?s most obvious flaw is in its combat. Obviously, that?s never been the series? strong suit, but in Sonic Frontiers, they make the mistake of putting it front and centre. Alongside the usual Sonic enemies (which, again, are reimagined in a 3D world), this game features some enormous enemies called Titans and Guardians that soak up nearly all your attacks. They require you to spam your attack bottoms to hit them with everything you?ve got, and they very frequently shrug it all off as you go through battles that can take several minutes. Compared to the usual homing attacks and bouncing a few times off Dr. Robotnik?s creatures, it takes a lot longer, and even though the game has given Sonic way more attacks than you?d expect from him, it?s definitely not a high point in the game.

Still, Sonic Frontiers is certainly different from what we?ve come to expect from Sonic and company ? both for better and for worse. I don?t think anyone is going to compare it to Mario?s forays into open (or open-ish) worlds, but if nothing else, it definitely provides an interesting way forward for a series that has often seemed like it?s wandering aimlessly in search of a purpose. Sonic Frontiers doesn?t give it that purpose, but it does suggest it?s not far off from finding it, either.

Sega provided us with a Sonic Frontiers code for review purposes.

Grade: B