Settle down, Sonic! There’s too much in this mix, and not all of it is magic: PETER HOSKIN reviews Sonic Frontiers and Pokémon Scarlet And Violet
Sonic Frontiers (PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, PC, £49.99)
Verdict: Bounces around too much
I like omelettes. I also like ice-cream. And, yes, I’m quite partial to a glass of farmhouse cider.
But mix them all together into one unholy slop? Bleuuuurgh.
The reason I mention this is Sonic Frontiers, the latest showcase for that speedy little hedgemonster. It, too, is a mix of things that are enjoyable in isolation but rather less palatable in combination.
The most obvious ingredients are, well, Sonic himself and also The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild. Just like that persistently influential game from 2017, this one takes its famous hero and deposits him in wider, airier spaces than he’s accustomed to, with more things to do as well. It’s also got a similarly wistful disposition.
There are other ingredients, too. The supersized boss battles from Shadow Of The Colossus. The platforming from 3D Mario games. Even numerous callbacks to the classic 2D Sonic levels from the 1990s.
Sonic Frontiers (pictured) is a mix of things that are enjoyable in isolation but rather less palatable in combination, writes Peter Hoskin
But the problem is the mix. None of these moments lasts too long, and they’re always followed by something entirely different. Sonic Frontiers (pictured) never settles into being a coherent game, but shuffles between several different modes
Taken individually, these things are great fun. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Sonic Frontiers contains some of the best pure gameplay in a Sonic game… ever. Whenever you’re bouncing between floating bumpers or descending into the face of a giant baddie, it’s generally fantastic.
But the problem is the mix. None of these moments lasts too long, and they’re always followed by something entirely different. Fast, slow, titanic, small-scale… Sonic Frontiers never settles into being a coherent game, but shuffles between several different modes. It’s weird.
Oh, and it’s also wonky. Despite Sonic Frontiers being a brave new departure for one of the biggest characters in gaming, it feels oddly underpowered, and even unfinished.
Perhaps, given more time, its makers could have made a beautiful cider-omelette-ice-cream cake. As it is, bleuuuurgh.
Pokémon Scarlet And Violet (Switch, £49.99)
Verdict: Siesta time
Yep, it sure is another Pokémon game. And, as always, it comes in two forms — in this case, Scarlet and Violet — that are practically identical except for small differences between the rosters of cute little critters they contain. Once again, you will have to wander around, capture these critters, pit them against each other, etc., etc.
If this makes it sound as though I’m wearying of Pokémon, well, I guess I am. Years of more or less annual releases will do that to a guy. The scenery in Pokémon Scarlet and/or Violet, which is inspired, apparently, by the Iberian Peninsula, is sort of new — but that’s about it.
Perhaps the problem is the Pokémon game that was released earlier this year, Pokémon Legends: Arceus. That one went against the grain of the mainline titles by situating itself in an earlier time and a more expansive world. It recaptured what Pokémon is all about: the beauty of discovery.
Yep, it sure is another Pokémon game. And, as always, it comes in two forms — in this case, Scarlet and Violet — that are practically identical except for small differences between the rosters of cute little critters they contain
Indeed, the brilliance of Arceus has made other Pokémon games seem duller by comparison. The best parts of Scarlet/Violet, such as its more open landscapes, are faded versions of Arceus’s innovations.
Its worst parts, such as the strangely subdued graphics, just add to sense that this has been rushed down a production line.
It’s not all bad. Scarlet and Violet are charming in the ways that all Pokémon games tend to be charming — likeable characters, an enjoyably cartoonish plot, easy gameplay.
But none of that changes my answer to the question of which version you should buy. Scarlet or Violet? It’s obvious: Arceus.
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