I can still remember the time I played my first 3D Sonic game. It was at Hollywood Video (that’s a video rental store for you young ones out there) and my buddy was the manager, and he invited me and my friend to hang out in the store after they closed to play this newfangled game system from SEGA called the Dreamcast. Hollywood Video would have demo kiosks for people to try out the Dreamcast, and before my buddy had to get them all set up in the store we plugged one of those demo units into a tv and sat around in the back playing Sonic Adventure for what felt like (and might have actually been) all night long. I was mesmerized by Sonic Adventure. Here was this character that I loved so much from his 2D outings brought to life in full 3D, and still as fast as ever.
Well, the more than two decades since that night have been full of ups and downs for 3D Sonic games. Mostly downs. Even viewed through a modern lens the original Sonic Adventure and its sequel don’t hold up so well today, but I’d still argue that they were the pinnacle of the Sonic formula brought into the third dimension. And hey, despite their many flaws they’re still pretty darn fun even today. I can’t say the same for most of the 3D Sonic games that have come since, but I can say that the newest one, Sonic Dream Team, is the best 3D Sonic game that I have played since the original Sonic Adventure in 1999. Is that a super high bar to begin with? Not really! Which makes it all the more infuriating that we’ve been fed so many mediocre 3D Sonic games over the years.
Let’s not dwell on the past, though, and let’s just enjoy the present. Sonic Dream Team is also a game with flaws, but they’re pretty small compared to how much the game gets right. There’s a very good sense of speed here, and very cleverly designed levels with multiple paths you can take while speeding through them. It gives you that rush of making split-second decisions while the world is whirling by you, similar to the Genesis Sonic games. That said, in order to make something like that work in a 3D world the experience can often feel very guided, despite the multiple paths you can take. It’s not a huge deal because the sense of speed is so fun, and dashing into enemies or objects with your homing attack to string together a “run” almost like a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater game is extremely satisfying.
In addition to the well-designed “tracks” that have you traveling through each level at breakneck speeds, there are also large areas which are very intentionally meant for you to stop and explore in a more traditional 3D platformer sense. The game does a good job at tucking away collectibles in the nooks and crannies of these areas to reward you for exploring, and it’s neat that these “roam around” areas are so seamlessly woven into all the speedy “tracks” spread all around. It’s fun to replay each level and learn a new route or discover a new area as you slowly see how everything interconnects. There are some areas of Sonic Dream Team that fall short, and we cover those pretty thoroughly in our review of the game, but on the whole this is easily the most fun I’ve had with a 3D Sonic game in a very long time. If you are an Apple Arcade subscriber this is one you should be enjoying too.