This weekend on the Summer Game Fest Play Days occasion, the closest factor to an E3 conference that occurred this yr, there was one game that got here up in dialog greater than the rest on the show: Sonic Frontiers, Sega’s reply to the query “what the heck do we do with Sonic now?”

After strolling away from the 30-minute Sonic demo playable at Play Days, most individuals I chatted with had been in settlement with the web’s strongly adverse response to the latest gameplay reveal video. “Sonic looks rough” is a sentence I heard loads over the 2 days. Only one individual I talked to had a legitimately good time with it, and even that got here with heavy caveats. So by the point it was my flip to take a spin with the blue blur, I reckoned it was both going to be the worst Sonic I’ve ever performed, or a misunderstood masterpiece.

Sonic Frontiers is neither of these issues. It does seem like, as soon as once more, a nasty 3D Sonic game, but it surely’s essentially the most fascinating type of unhealthy Sonic has ever been.

The demo kicks off the one manner {that a} Sonic game most likely should not: slowly. Frontiers wastes no time mimicking Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s construction, beginning with a tutorial island that walks via the fundamentals of puzzles, platforming, and punching. But where Zelda instantly units Link free in an open world, Frontiers confines Sonic to small arenas with nowhere to go however ahead for some time.

Open vary

After about quarter-hour of that, Sonic Frontiers pans out and reveals off the massive world I’m now allowed to discover. Finally I may do the one factor I’d been clamoring for since I picked up the controller: lower free and run just like the gosh-dang wind.

Running is the one a part of Frontiers that’s an unqualified blast. Sonic’s default run pace is extra like a puny jog that is solely good for fight and puzzles, however slam down the proper set off and he immediately begins burning rubber. Sega will get to have some enjoyable with pace right here in a manner that’d simply really feel ridiculous in a Zeld game. Sonic runs straight up most rock faces (sick), can wallrun throughout gaps, and bounds effortlessly over rolling hills like an electrical present following a wire. For just a few blissful minutes, I felt just like the quickest factor alive.

If that had been all Sonic Frontiers is—a playground to discover and exploit the supernatural physics of being Sonic the Hedgehog—I’d be on-board right away. Just imagining a Sonic game impressed by the enjoyable of constructing momentum and sliding down hills in Tribes: Ascend places a smile on my face. But the chunk of Frontier’s overworld I explored is polluted with distractions designed to kill momentum. Even with the newfound energy to run in any path, Sonic’s nonetheless stuffed with linear “obstacles” that basically play themselves.

sonic frontiers

(Image credit score: Sega)

Bump right into a springboard and I’m on a one-way journey to a different spring, which ends up in two extra that finally land on a grind rail that ends at some golden rings or an improve materials I earned by doing simply shy of nothing.

The chunk of Frontier’s overworld I explored is polluted with distractions designed to kill momentum.

A little bit of nothing will be cool moderately. It’s good to take a breather and watch Sonic grind via a twirly loop for just a few seconds, however that describes nearly each platforming problem I got here throughout in my half hour of Frontiers. Tossing Sonic round on tracks like a residing pinball felt kinda cool in 2D, however I by no means jived with their translation to a few dimensions.

It does not assist that the numerous rails, jumpads, and pace ramps are positioned haphazardly and visually conflict with the remainder of the world. It’d be one factor if the overworld was styled like a contemporary tackle Green Hill Zone, but it surely’s decidedly real looking. It’s actually bizarre to gaze on the earth-like mountains and meadows of Frontiers and spot the identical outdated cartoony junk that Sonic’s been platforming on for 30 years magically floating in mid-air, belting out the identical outdated goofy sound results in opposition to a lowkey piano observe. Even worse is how usually these garish objects would out of the blue pop into existence as I ran by them.

Rough stuff

Frontiers additionally takes cues from Zelda’s environmental puzzles. I solved three or 4 puzzles within the roughly quarter-hour I had in the primary overworld, in order that they undoubtedly weren’t brain-twisters. The earliest was so simple as turning a statue that was going through the fallacious manner. A later puzzle requested me to observe a path of squares on an LED grid (which I failed as soon as as a result of Sonic’s motion is a bit squirrely in small areas).

I additionally fought just a few bosses that kind of jogged my memory of the traditional guardian issues from Zelda, besides the second was gigantic and seemingly manufactured to be particularly defeated by Sonic the Hedgehog. Not solely does it slam down ramp-shaped arms good for reaching its prime weak spot—it even shoots blue rings at Sonic that do nothing however give him a pace enhance. Pretty sinister stuff! The scale of the eight-story boss struggle was neat at first, however that pale the third time I used to be inexplicably knocked off target whereas operating up an arm and needed to do it once more.

I didn’t have an excellent half-hour with Sonic Frontiers, however a few of that may be chalked as much as the demo itself being a poor, usually bewildering demonstration of the game. Frontiers began off on a nasty foot by displaying Xbox button prompts that did not match the PlayStation controller I used to be utilizing. That added a little bit of confusion to early fight and motion tutorials, however no biggie. 

sonic frontiers

(Image credit score: Sega)

Then I observed the intense, virtually dizzying movement blur that might not be ignored each time I moved the digital camera. The blur was so noticeable that I think about the slider that controls movement blur was overclocked previous its most, however I can not know as a result of it wasn’t adjustable within the demo (it is also not as noticeable within the clips offered by Sega that seem on this article). Senior editor Wes Fenlon theorized overtuned movement blur might be an try to cowl up an inconsistent framerate, however Frontiers ran fairly easily to my eye, so the blur both did its job or seemed that manner for stylistic causes.

The final bug I encountered turned out to be a false alarm—in the course of a dialogue between Sonic and Amy, the game out of the blue pale to black, revealing moments later that an invisible timer had expired and my time with Sonic Frontiers was over. Little did Sega realize it had programmed an appropriately abrupt and complicated finish to an equally confounding videogame demo.

I believed for positive that attempting it will kill my curiosity in Frontiers, however now I’m really curious to play extra. I need to know if there are another biomes, maybe ones with sufficient open area for a globe-trotting marathon. I need to know if six extra months of growth will clear up all of the bizarre technical points earlier than its “holiday 2022” launch (no less than on the PC model where {hardware} limitations needn’t exist), or if Sega will merely let Sonic Frontiers’ launch slip into 2023.

Hey, that is essentially the most I’ve thought of Sonic since I owned a Gamecube! So I suppose mission completed, Sega?