Screenshot via Sonic the Hedgehog YouTube

Review: Sonic Dream Team

Don't sleep on Sonic Dream Team.

The Sonic franchise has taken many forms, from 2D to 3D, and even a point-and-click game. This time around, we’re dealing with Sonic Dream Team which is a platformer available on various Apple devices through its Arcade.

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As a fan of the series, Dream Team‘s concept piqued my curiosity. To my surprise, I’m subscribed to Apple Arcade, allowing me to download the game without forking out any cash. What I discovered is a sterling Sonic platformer that’ll unfortunately fly under the radar for most, despite providing the kind of gameplay fans are always desperate for.

Sonic Dream Team (Mac [reviewed], iOS, iPad, AppleTV)
Developer: Hardlight
Publisher: Sega
Released: December 5, 2023
MSRP: Free for Apple Arcade subscribers

Eggman, Cream, and Sonic in Sonic Dream Team.
Screenshot by Destructoid.

A dream I don’t want to wake up from

Sonic Dream Team‘s plot is what you’d typically expect from the franchise. Doctor Eggman’s got some device or powerful object he wants to use for evil, and it’s up to Sonic and his friends to stop it. This time around, Eggman’s got the Reverie, a device that can make dreams come true. The story is mostly told through comic-book-style panels that are gorgeous and feature voice acting, which is something I appreciated.

All the Sonic heroes that have become staples of the franchise are present (unfortunately, including the annoying Knuckles), and you can play as them. As the game’s title suggests, you’re thrust into a world that feels fantastical and sometimes downright psychedelic. There is variation in the kinds of environments you encounter, and they each come with their unique style of beauty without deviating from the overarching theme.

Choosing characters in Sonic Dream Team.
Screenshot by Destructoid.

The environments were pleasing to look at, and I enjoyed exploring the settings of the different stages. My favorite was Nightmare Maze, which contains waterways you can use to access some of the hidden areas of each level.

Dream Team is not a game that attempts to push graphical boundaries, but at the same time, it doesn’t attempt to mimic the pixel art of the early games either. Instead, we have slightly blocky visuals that look a tad better than what you get from your average lower-budget game.

There’s no need to discuss graphics all too much because that’s not what draws fans to the franchise. Far more than graphical quality, a good soundtrack is what characterizes a Sonic game. Sonic Dream Team doesn’t fail on this front, and while there’s nothing there that comes close to classics like the Star Hill Zone, the tracks don’t disappoint.

Environment in Sonic Dream Team.
Screenshot by Destructoid.

The Sonic experience

In Sonic games influenced by the classic titles, there is a certain element of gameplay that’ll determine whether you love them obsessively or loathe them intensely. The games encourage you to go fast, and that’s where most of the fun comes from. However, doing so will inevitably have you crossing obstacles that you simply cannot predict.

Because of this, slowing down to get the hang of the platformer is one of the ways to conquer every level. This isn’t the most fun way to do things, and I’d argue that it’s not in the spirit of the game. Instead, you’re supposed to lose, learn where the obstacle is, and then tackle it without getting tripped up the next time around.

This style of gameplay will have you dying dozens of times, but that’s part of how you learn levels until you can complete them as fast as possible. In fact, you’re frequently asked to do precisely this, with some levels challenging you to complete them within a set amount of time.

If you’re a fan of this style of gameplay, Sonic Dream Team will satisfy you, and I had great fun learning the tricks necessary to cut down my completion time. The difficulty level in terms of the environmental design is moderately high – not impossible, but not something you’re going to breeze through either. In the later levels, I got my butt kicked more times than I’d like to admit.

Cream scared in Sonic Dream Team.
Screenshot by Destructoid.

Sonic Dream Team gets the gameplay right

Sonic Dream Team features a few game modes. Most of them follow the regular style of gameplay you’d expect from the franchise – go fast in a relatively linear fashion while collecting rings and defeating enemies. Others require you to beat the clock and some force you to slow down to explore the different environments to find all Dream Orbs.

Each of the game modes are enjoyable, and thanks to good level design, I don’t mind trying different objectives in the same locations. The ability to play as different characters isn’t an arbitrary addition, as they have varying abilities, allowing you to get to previously unreachable places.

The levels are a good length, about as long as those in classics like Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Completing the game will take you about six hours, though that number can change drastically depending on your skills and whether you’re slowing down to explore.

For the most part, Dream Team runs smoothly, though it isn’t void of technical issues. Annoyingly, it froze a couple of times and even made my Macbook crash more than once. Granted, my M1 isn’t exactly the latest machine on the market, but it shouldn’t be having problems with a mobile game like Sonic Dream Team.

Sonic and Eggman's hand in Sonic Dream Team.
Screenshot by Destructoid.

Weird and wonderful

The Sonic franchise has been around for decades, and through the good, bad, and terrible, it’s managed to maintain an avid fanbase. At this point, it’s hard to separate how much of this love is nostalgia and how much is a genuine appreciation for a franchise that debuted as an original, exciting platformer.

With the game released on Apple’s devices, it’s probably going to be missed by many who would have had a blast with it. It has a weird story with surreal settings and gameplay that’s too good to be stuck where it currently is.

Sonic Dream Team deserves appreciation. In short, it’s not the worst, but it’s certainly not the best either, with just enough here to satisfy classic Sonic fans and those seeking to experience the hedgehog’s adventure in 3D.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]

Slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy them a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.

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Smangaliso Simelane
Staff Writer - Smangaliso Simelane is a writer with a passion for all things related to video games. He has been writing about video games since 2020.