I love you, Sonic
There were so many points in this game where I thought to myself, "If only they did more of this." Or, "If only this was just a little more polished." Or, perhaps more dismissively, "If only this made more sense." I am a sucker for Sonic. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was the first console game I ever played, and I've given every Sonic title a fair shot since then. Frontiers was no different. I went in with hope and an open mind and that's exactly how I walked away after beating it, because I believe if they double down on this open world, multiplex theme park of a game, it could be fantastic.
The best part about this game is actually the cyber world – the levels you dip into to gain an S rank and fly through terrain that harkens back to the 16-bit days. These levels allow you to accumulate keys, which enable you to then unlock chaos emeralds. I found these levels to be visually stunning in some cases, and often times graced me with the best music the game has to offer (Cyber Space 1-2: Flowing is my jam!). Each level is thoughtfully designed, with multiple paths, secrets, and challenges that encourage multiple runs and experimentation. They demand speed and technique, and provide a welcome dopamine drip that I just didn't quite get from the five islands that make up the open world main game. The cyber space is full of life, whereas the open world islands...you have to search for life beyond the spatial puzzles littered throughout. While those puzzles are often enjoyable, they do begin feeling like chores after 15 hours of play.
What I found most baffling was the main story. It's a mixed bag. There's a decent amount of narrative, but it's not particularly engaging and certainly not memorable. There's very little character development, leaving me with no more understanding of Tails, Amy, and the like than I had after playing any other Sonic title. There's one character in particular who's mysterious nature implies there's much to be uncovered about you, them, and the world you find yourself in. However, by the end, I was left puzzled with their revelations. Even the bosses – known as "titans" – didn't make all that much sense to me. You primarily fight them to gain gears, to unlock portals to cyber space, and/or access to islands. What they, and their history, means to Sonic and his purpose is still foggy to me.
Go fast, have fun
All that said, the variety is what kept me going. The variety found in cyber space levels, puzzles throughout the open world, and ways in which you traverse terrain. It some respect, it's almost a soothing game. I cruised around much like I would in a Grand Theft Auto game – aimlessly, with confidence that I'd run into some situation or scenario worth investigating. There's a lot to explore but not a lot to uncover. If going really fast is your thing, and you fancy mini-games as your primary game, you won't be disappointed.
⭐⭐⭐ : Okay
In conclusion, Sonic Frontiers is an okay game that offers a fairly fun and lighthearted experience. Its ease of difficulty, level design, puzzles, and familiar faces will suffice for many. However, the game's story, character development, end game, and combat are all weaknesses that detract from the overall experience. Each of those aspects, if iterated on, could turn around a sequel that might be vastly more impressive. But for now, if you're looking for a casual new spin on Sonic, pick up Frontiers. If you were hoping for a deep and immersive open world saga that brings the franchise to new and exciting territory, you may want to hope for the best come the next.