07 Sep 2021 12:39 PM +00:00

Sonic Colors: Ultimate Review - An Entertaining Return for Our Blue Hedgehog

If you asked me what I remembered about Sonic Colors before starting Ultimate, I’d have been at a loss. I enjoyed beating it on Nintendo Wii a decade ago but that one joke about copyright infringement aside—my memory’s blurrier than Sonic blitzing through Green Hill Zone. Released in 2010, Sonic Colors is widely considered to be one of the series' best 3D outings. There's little surprise that Sega’s brought it back to celebrate Sonic’s 30th anniversary through Sonic Colors: Ultimate. Bringing us a remastered package across PC and consoles, Ultimate’s easily the definitive version of Colors, even if it’s not exactly perfect.

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Sonic In Space

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Like any Sonic game, Colors tasks you with stopping Eggman’s latest scheme, and this time he’s opened "Dr. Eggman's Amazing Interstellar Amusement Park" in space. Allegedly built out of remorse for his previous crimes, it's quickly revealed, to our shock, that he’s capturing Wisps, an alien race who he plans to harness their energy from. Joined by a Wisp called Yacker, you set out to free them and restore the galaxy.

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In many ways, Colors provides a much-needed return to basics. There’s no highly-padded cast of friends accompanying us or darker storytelling here, Colors is just Sonic and Tails taking down Eggman’s latest plot for world domination. Backed up by enjoyable (though often cheesy) humour, there’s a light-hearted adventure within, one that makes for a great introduction to Sonic for younger audiences.

To stop Eggman, you travel between 6 different planets which feature 6 individual stages a piece, before taking on a boss fight. Each area offers a mix between 3D platforming and more traditional 2D segments, all of the signature Sonic mechanics are present here. Between collecting rings and racing to the end of a level, you’ll run, jump, slide under platforms and perform homing attacks against enemies, often so you can reach new areas and hidden secrets.

Will Of The Wisps

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Like most games in the Sonic series before it, Sonic Colors Ultimate does feature its own gimmicks. Here they're primarily in the form of Wisps, who provide new abilities once you’ve unlocked them. For example, White Wisps build up Sonic’s boost attack to charge through enemies, Cyan let you quickly bounce through areas with laser precision, while Yellow transforms you into a drill form. Admittedly, some feel awkward to use but most introduce good variety into levels. Crucially, Wisps compliment gameplay instead of dominating it (looking at you Werehog), so they never feel that out of place.

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I played the PS4 version (via PS5 backwards compatibility) of Colors: Ultimate, and it mostly ran well. At 60fps gameplay and 4K resolution, Colors’ worlds have never looked more vibrant. Unfortunately, cutscenes remain largely unchanged, so visual quality dips significantly. While developer Blind Squirrel couldn’t avoid that without fully remaking cutscenes, the visual presentation feels uneven as a result. There were some (very) brief framerate drops and an instance of soft locking, but nothing like the problems we’ve seen in the Switch edition.

If you’ve played Sonic Colors before, you’ll find Ultimate’s core gameplay almost identical, though Sonic now has unlimited lives and there’s a new Wisp type this time around. There’s still a fun gameplay loop throughout and by sticking to Sonic’s core mechanics, Colors pays off without ever getting too ridiculous. It’s not perfect, mind. 2D platforming segments feel awkward thanks to fiddly inputs, and the initial three bosses are repeated later on, but these issues don’t tarnish the full experience.

Here We Go Again

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Even though completing the core campaign only takes 5 hours, Sonic Colors ultimate offers significant replay value. Each stage contains collectible red rings, but not all of them can be collected until you’ve unlocked certain abilities. They unlock levels in Game Land, Dr. Eggman's artificial planet of arcade games. In Game Land you’ll find 2D retro-styled stages which give you a Chaos Emerald upon completion, though unlike other Sonic games, they’ve got no story relevance. They just unlock a Super Sonic costume.

There’s significant focus on other customisation options, too. You can change Sonic’s shoes and gloves to different colours, and can add auras (for example, floral aura adds flower petals to Sonic's movement). These are purchased with Park Tokens, which are earned by getting an S or A rank upon level completion. This adds yet more replay value into the mix.

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Verdict

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Sonic Colors: Ultimate is a rare Sonic game which is sure to appeal to existing fans and newcomers alike. Players who previously experienced it on the Wii won’t find much new here, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had in revisiting it. Sure, there’s a few flaws with the wider visual presentation and finnicky 2D sections, but Sonic Colors: Ultimate presents an entertaining package that still comes recommended.

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3.5/5

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Reviewed on PS5 through backwards compatibility.