I was pretty excited for Sonic Colors: Ultimate; many people claim the original is the best 3D Sonic game. Well, either this remaster messes with the game for the worst, or I have a different view of what makes a good Sonic game.
You’d think Sonic would have learned by now, that anything involving Dr. Robotnik is a trap. This time he’s been invited to an amusement park, and of course he takes his pal Tails along for the ride. Everything seems to be fine until they discover some robots manhandling what appears to be aliens. And then they realise that Eggman’s back up to his tricks again. Needless to say, it’s time to thwart his despotic plans, while also saving an alien race.
The gameplay here is typical modern-day Sonic, which is to say that it’s full of intoxicating highs and crushing lows. As you make your way through the game’s six worlds, you’ll find that there are a mix of 3D and 2D stages – some even combine both – and while the 2D stages are generally better, they sometimes have issues too. As ever, the 3D stages are hampered with controls that are perhaps a bit too sensitive at times; it’s telling that they’re at their best when movement is just limited to your pressing left and right to switch lanes.
The 2D stages, on the other hand, are brought down by Sonic’s jumping physics feeling too floaty, and the insistence of making you use a homing attack to defeat most enemies. I miss the days of just being able to simply jump on enemies’ heads. It doesn’t help that Sonic has a double jump ability, that is performed with… exactly the same buttons as a homing attack. So, expect to sometimes attempt to double jump but dash all the way across the screen to an enemy instead.
What really hurts Sonic Colors: Ultimate though, is that the quality of its 30-plus stages is up-and-down like a yo-yo. I found myself really enjoying some, speeding though them while performing loop-de-loops and engaging in a bit of measured platforming. But every once in a while you come across a stage that’s just so poorly designed that it sours you on the entire experience. It might be the camera that gives you a terrible view, or a boss that’s simply too busy – as you make your way through Sonic Colors: Ultimate, it’s basically a given that something will make you curse at the screen.
It also pains me to say that the boss selection here is perhaps the worst I’ve ever come across in a Sonic game. Making your way through the game’s six worlds, you essentially fight the same three bosses twice, and none of them are particularly fun or interesting. The final fight against Dr. Robotnik at least provides some old-school Sonic vibes, but the controls, as they do so often in the game, work against you, ruining much of the fun to be had. Games like this need controls and mechanics you can depend on, but here, it just doesn’t happen.
There is something that raises Sonic Colors: Ultimate up, however; the fact that it only places you in control of Sonic. Not once will you be forced to endure Big the Cat, or Silver, or a custom created avatar – it’s just you and the Blue Blur. There are Wisps, though: the aliens that you’re attempting to save. Find them in levels, and then with the push of a button you can transform and make use of their abilities.
One Wisp, for example, will allow you to take off like a rocket. Another makes you more spiky so you can move along ceilings. There’s even one that allows you to pretty much eat everything, with you growing in size as you go. They do a decent job of keeping the gameplay fresh, but sometimes come across as a little gimmicky. One of the available Wisps is even new to Sonic Colours: Ultimate, not that it makes much of a difference.
For those who do get on with the game, warts and all, there’s plenty to go at. Once again there are a many Red Rings to collect, scattered around stages. It’s pretty much impossible to get them all on your first playthrough, too. Instead, you’ll need to return to stages after liberating Wisps within each world. You’ll then be able to make use of new powers to access more areas. There’s also grade system that will have players returning to stages to push for the coveted S rank.
And there’s more. By collecting Red Rings you’ll unlock stages in what’s called the Sonic Simulator – beat them all and you can play as Super Sonic. Collecting Red Rings is also key to unlocking the new Rivals Rush feature, allowing you to race against Metal Sonic on select stages. Add in a new customisation element, allowing you to purchase cosmetic items for Sonic with tokens found within stages, and you have a game that’s packed full of content. It’s just a shame that it’s not all good, let alone great.
Sonic Colors: Ultimate is undoubtedly better than the abysmal Sonic Forces, a game that I was strangely compelled to play through again recently. But still, it’s far from being a great Sonic game. There are some nice new additions here, and while the cutscenes are still low quality, the in-game visuals have cleaned up very nicely indeed. It’s just a shame the gameplay is so all over the place – one minute you’ll be having the time of your life, the next, pulling your hair out in frustration. It’s tough being a Sonic fan, and Sonic Colors: Ultimate does little to ease the pain.
Sonic Colors: Ultimate Review – GameSpew’s Score