This 3D platformer which doesn't always hit top speed, but there are plenty of enjoyable elements in here
SONIC FRONTIERS is clearly inspired by some of the best games of the last five years and on the whole is a smooth fast, fun experience, with the odd speed bump along the way.
When the game was initially revealed fans were quick to draw comparisons to BREATH OF THE WILD, and there is definitely a clear inspiration here, but it's mixed with some hub world platforming that's closer to SUPER MARIO ODYSSEY than the Zelda action adventure.
Sonic and his pals are pulled into a scary vortex and thrown onto the Starfall Islands, each hub island with its own collection of platforming challenges and puzzles to solve.
Sonic's friends have been trapped in Cyber Space and it's up to the blue hedgehog to collect their memory tokens to restore them by zipping on grind rails, bouncing through the sky, racing through speed rings and securing the missing Chaos Emeralds.
All by yourself
It's a pretty grim world you find yourself in, filled the remnants of a collapsed civilisation, but Ian Flynn's writing gives Sonic a refreshingly optimistic and empathetic world view.
It's a pretty basic formula that gives you plenty of opportunities to point yourself in one direction and just go explore and that's one of it's strengths, something it shares with BREATH OF THE WILD.
See something cool on the horizon? Boost over there and check it out picking up tokens and rings along the way.
Each hub island is a large playground to explore, the Sonic Team were pretty adamant about not calling it an open world game and it's not, but it'll take you a couple of minutes to travel from one side to the other.
There are some excellent battles with mini bosses that look more than a little bit like the Angels from Neon Genesis Evangelion each with their own unique weaknesses.
Take the Sumo where Sonic ricochets off the edges of the ringed arena to bounce the enemy into the electrified fence, or the Shinobi that has you dodging large slashing attacks.
Or the gigantic flying Fortress which circles menacingly around the central volcanic vent, which has a conveniently placed tail Sonic can race along before attacking the main body.
Each mini boss will drop a cogwheel token which unlocks the other challenge littered across each island, Cyber Space levels which are modern takes on the classic Sonic format.
Entering Cyber Space is great, you'll race through Green Hill Zone and other classic inspired courses completing four tasks, finishing under S rank time, clearing with a minimum number of rings, finding all five Star Rings and just getting to the end.
While the Cyber Space courses are some of my favourite bits of the game there are a number of pathing glitches that mean if you don't move exactly as expected you'll come to a dead stop.
Each course varies from fully 2D sidescrolling experiences to a mix of 3D and sidescrolling and it's when the camera automatically moves around that I ran into issues.
If you don't maintain a direction, and sometimes it's not the one you'd think, your line is ruined and you can kiss that S time goodbye.
Hit those goals you'll get your next collectible item, Vault Keys which unlock the Chaos Emeralds scattered across the map.
Collect them all
Are you noticing a trend here? Collect one thing to unlock something else that lets you collect another thing.
Luckily the game is really pretty generous with the currencies, you'll never really be that short of what you need to move on.
You can build up Sonic's damage, defence speed and ring capacities by you guessed it collecting items throughout the world.
Frustratingly increasing your speed or ring capacity requires you to manually turn in batches of cute Kokos at a time, I'd prefer it be more like the automatically redeemed defence and attack upgrades.
Tick off all the laundry list of tasks and then you're onto the big boss and you'll be catapulted into a nu-metal soundtracked battle as you fly around burning through rings which acts as a countdown timer for Super Sonic.
Here is where I hit the biggest hurdle in the game, it's not always clear what the game is asking you to do and I was stuck repeating the same parry over and over again losing rings every time I was hit, because I wasn't sitting right where the game wanted me to be.
It'd be nice if there was some sort of pity tutorial or guidance once you've failed it a couple of times, because I had to put the controller down and come back to it later.
Difficulty didn't change this boss battle gameplay, it just seems to adjusts your damage output, and in a phased and scripted battle like this it just meant you were moving through the phases slightly quicker.
Gladly there is only one of these major bosses per hub island, so most of the time playing you'll be doing something else, like racing through the hub world watching platforms and environments pop into existence.
Most of the time the game looks pretty nice, but when you're moving at speed or even during a scripted camera dolly shots you'll see more than you fair share of pop in.
It's not a deal breaker, the game runs smoothly, but it does make me wonder how this game performs on some of the less powerful platforms like last gen consoles and the Switch.
SONIC FRONTIERS is a perfectly enjoyable game despite it's flaws, it's not really taxing outside a few badly designed user interface decisions and set piece boss battles.
Kids will get a kick out this game and there is reasonable amount nostalgia for older players but crank the difficult down and go as fast as you can if you want to get the best experience.
A copy of SONIC FRONTIERS on PlayStation 5 was provided to SIFTER for the purpose of this review.