Sonic Dream Team

Sonic Dream Team

A quick-witted, fun 3D platformer that returns Sonic to his 3D roots.

A quick-witted, fun 3D platformer that returns Sonic to his 3D roots.

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Review game Sonic Dream Team, A quick-witted, fun 3D platformer that returns Sonic to his 3D roots.

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Following the release of Sonic Superstars, a new full-sized Sonic game, Sonic Dream Team, an Apple Arcade exclusive, may not initially appear to have much to offer. There are just twelve stages in all, and the only controls are a D-pad and two buttons. The fact that it’s exclusive to Apple devices—at least for the time being—makes it unappealing to some people. Nevertheless, Sonic Dream Team more than justifies its existence; in fact, its excellent level design and short missions make it one of the most entertaining, imaginative, and fun 3D platformers I’ve played in a while.

The narrative of the Sonic Dream Team begins when Dr. Eggman discovers a gadget that allows his dreams to come true. Since defeating him will require Sonic and friends to navigate four dream worlds, this is obviously bad news for reality. Sadly, the narrative is unmemorable and is voiced over still photos in a lifeless manner, akin to a radio play with comic book panels. It took me about five or six hours to finish all the levels, but despite its short runtime, the levels in between those cutscenes are more enjoyable than many much longer games.

Every world has a unique collection of enemies and interactive features, and they are all visually stunning. This covers everything from the Dream Factory, which features conveyor belts and pistons positioned over lava pits, to the Scrambled Shores, a tropical area full of enormous inflatable structures. The third world, called Nightmare Maze, was my favorite. It’s like a vibrant version of an M.C. Escher drawing, and it has gravity shifting that allows you to run up the walls and onto the ceiling to reach new areas in inventive ways. The fact that the other three Sonic settings are more or less conventional feels like a lost opportunity because this is the only world that truly utilizes the dream concept. Furthermore, the soundtrack is, at best, auditory wallpaper and, at worst, a tedious annoyance, unlike in many other Sonic games.

There are just three levels in each world, for a total of twelve in the campaign. Although that might sound like a meager offering, they are all expansive, open playgrounds with lots of branching paths and unique areas to explore that provide a change of pace from the typical platforming. Examples include a room with nothing but rails and pits and a long, spinning tube covered in thorns that you must run over. Because of this, it’s fun to zip through and explore each one of them.

The sensation of speeding through the world is amazing because of the fluid and rapid movement. There are many different paths you can take in each level, and they all include rails and springboards to propel you forward and maintain your momentum as you jump between platforms and dodge obstacles. It’s still possible to time an obstacle incorrectly or misjudge a jump, but unlike in other Sonic games, you almost never run into a spike wall or blockade intended to prevent you from moving forward quickly. You won’t lose much progress because Sonic Dream Team’s checkpoints are forgiving, even if you run out of rings or fall into a pit.

As you advance, you’ll be able to play as two additional pairs of characters, each of which grants you access to a new ability that is exclusive to them, although you can only play as Sonic and Amy at first. The ability of Sonic and Amy allows you to fly through strings of floating rings that can take you anywhere, high or low. Tails and Cream can also fly for a short while, and most levels have floating yellow hoops that refuel that ability in midair. Lastly, Knuckles and Rouge have the ability to scale specific walls. Depending on the character you’re playing as, using each of these powers to open up new paths and opportunities in the levels is fun.

You need to gather a certain amount of orbs to unlock new levels, but after just one playthrough of the previous level, you’ll never have enough to advance. This requires you to replay levels you’ve already completed, which can be extremely frustrating in some games but, fortunately, isn’t an issue with Sonic Dream Team at all. The way the missions operate, which makes them more akin to a Super Mario Galaxy stage than a standard Sonic world, actually made me enjoy replaying levels.

At the beginning of each level, you choose a mission that, when completed, will grant you an orb. There are seven missions in each level, the first of which usually asks you to simply complete the level in order to unlock the exit. In this first mission, you can explore and gather items at your own pace; however, other missions have timed objectives that allow you to speedrun the level in an exciting way. In other missions, you are dropped in a walled-off area of the level and given the task of gathering “orb shards” that are strewn about. These missions force you to slow down and investigate carefully planned areas that you might otherwise miss while moving quickly through the environment.

This is a blast, thanks to the varied missions and excellent level of design.

Gaining access to new characters also lets you play through earlier levels’ missions that utilize their unique skills, which is a good incentive to come back to them later. For example, you may need to gather an orb that is at the top of a wall that only Rouge or Knuckles can scale. Even with its ostensibly small number of stages, Sonic Dream Team is a blast to play thanks to its fantastic level design and those varied mission requirements. Every time I had to revisit a level to finish a mission, I never got frustrated because it was always enjoyable and new.

Every world culminates in a boss encounter, which, while masterfully designed, comes across as a bit underdeveloped in actual gameplay. For example, the first boss is an enormous inflatable crab that resembles a balloon animal; to defeat it, you must pop its various body parts. That is an amusing concept for a silly boss battle; however, the encounter concludes prematurely as the crab can be defeated with a mere four blows. Like with most of the other bosses, it just feels unsatisfying.

Since it’s an Apple Arcade title, it works with the majority of Apple products. The iPhone’s touchscreen controls function well; they’re not as accurate as using a physical controller, but they’re still quite functional. But as I progressed to some more difficult missions, I found that the iPad’s touch controls were generally unsatisfactory, and the buttons were placed too far apart for my comfort. Using an Xbox controller with a MacBook Air was my preferred setup since it defies any preconceptions about mobile devices by having the game feel and look like a console title. When the camera pulls back for a wide view, your character on a phone display appears almost microscopic, so having a larger display is also helpful. It is very convenient to be able to pick up and play on any Apple device you have lying around because your save also syncs via iCloud.


Sonic Dream Team manages to cram a surprisingly high level of enjoyment into a small number of levels. Even though you play through the same areas repeatedly, it manages to feel new from beginning to end by giving you a variety of missions to complete. Its missions are interesting enough that, as soon as I defeated Eggman, I returned to complete the few I had missed. Even though the story and music could have been presented more effectively, and the touchscreen controls become less convenient as the difficulty level rises, Sonic Dream Team has quickly become one of my all-time favorite 3D platformers.

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