Everyone’s favourite blue hedgehog turned 30 years old this year, and the occasion was marked with a couple of new game announcements. Or rather, one new game announcement, a remaster of a title previously exclusive to the Nintendo Wii and DS and yet another compilation of classic Sonic games. Sonic Colors is the latest game to receive the remaster treatment, now called Sonic Colors: Ultimate, arriving on PC, PlayStation and Xbox for the first time.
You don’t need me to tell you that Sonic’s 3D endeavours over the years have been a bit up and down: For every high such as Sonic Generations, there is a Sonic Unleashed to balance it out. Sonic Colors is one of the better ones, as those that played it on the Nintendo Wii originally would attest to. After my time with it, I can corroborate that. One other thing occurred to me though as I was playing; Sonic really is an insufferable twat.
He’s the type of guy that’s done the same as you, only better. We all know someone like that, usually a work colleague, but you may be unfortunate to have one in your circle of friends too. Literally at one-point Tails says he could eat an ice cream right about now; Sonic, naturally, says he could eat two. It’s this constant one-upmanship that makes me yearn for the silent 2D Sonic.
In my maturing years, I can start to sympathise with why Dr. Eggman is so sick of him.
Dr. Eggman however has changed his ways in Sonic Colors: Ultimate and has decided to build a theme park in space by chaining existing planets together. I will give Sonic his dues here; he’s automatically suspicious of any Eggman activity, so takes a trip up to the interstellar theme park to see what’s what. He and Tails bump into a weird alien from a race known as Wisps who – using a translator that Tails has cobbled together – tells the duo that Eggman is harnessing their power by enslaving them.
Despite this being the first time Sonic Colors has been on Xbox this isn’t the first appearance of Wisps on Xbox however. They were a prominent feature in Team Sonic Racing and acted as the pick-ups the cars would collect whilst on the track. They would allow drivers temporary offensive and defensive abilities. In Sonic Colors: Ultimate they work in much the same way; collecting them allows Sonic to use a wide range of different abilities to help him progress through the levels.
Wisps are defined by their colour: Purple Wisp grants Sonic the ability to cling onto walls and reach new areas that way, or an Orange Wisp will briefly turn Sonic into a rocket ship to fly upwards. The remaster also brings across the Jade Ghost Wisp from Team Sonic Racing that grants Sonic the power to pass through enemies and platforms. In actuality though, this one doesn’t really have much use; the levels were never designed with it in mind so it all feels a bit shoehorned in.
Wisps are the major mechanic in Sonic Colors: Ultimate, the rest of the gameplay is very much how you would expect for a 3D Sonic title. Each of the five worlds contain six Acts and one boss fight to wrap things up. After the first world, you are free to complete them in any way you like. Some of the boss designs are interesting initially but are then repeated with only minor tweaks the further you progress and quickly become stale.
Sonic can also make use of a boost feature, double jump, wall jump and the controversial homing attack. It still isn’t perfect having most of these abilities tied to the same button prompt as it can be potluck which one will happen, but for the most part, this is a very controllable Sonic game.
Sometimes, less is more. There are some brilliantly designed levels on show, where Sonic can blast through at high speed without worrying too much about deft controller touches or precision jumps. Conversely though, these kinds of levels are still present. There is a wide variety in the levels you get to play, and you will likely find yourself returning to your favourite ones just to enjoy them again: from the thrills and spills riding on roller coasters, to skidding round corners on Planet Wisp, there is a huge amount of variation and a huge amount to enjoy.
Go too fast though, and Sonic Colors: Ultimate may struggle to keep up. Even on an Xbox Series X there have been moments where the screen has frozen for a few seconds as Sonic is approaching top speed.
Then there are the cutscenes. For the most part when playing, Sonic runs at 4K and 60fps thanks to the work gone into the remaster. The cutscenes however, have received no work whatsoever, and look ghastly in comparison. Whatever resolution they were at on the Nintendo Wii is what they remain here and gives the feeling this remaster was pushed out of the door faster than Sonic himself.
As with most modern Sonic games, there are Red Star Rings to collect in addition to the regular rings. There are five of these in each act and collecting them unlock additional levels in the retro-inspired Game Land area. Complete these bonus levels and you can start to unlock the Chaos Emeralds that will in turn unlock Super Sonic. These Game Land levels can also be played in multiplayer, unlike the rest of the game that is single player only.
Also flying around the world map is the Egg Shuttle, which offers a challenge mode for the existing levels you have played. It is completely optional but offers a time attack mode for you to complete acts in the fastest time. Just a shame there isn’t a global leaderboard to see how you stack against others.
Sonic fans on Xbox have waited patiently for a really good modern Sonic game to come to their consoles after such disappointments as Sonic Forces and Sonic the Hedgehog 4. A remaster of any already existing game may not have been the first choice, but Sonic Colors: Ultimate on Xbox is still a solid entry. Fans that played the original on the Nintendo Wii may not find anything to warrant another purchase here, as the work gone into the remaster comes across as a little rushed in places. Gameplay wise however, Sonic Colors: Ultimate is up there with the best 3D Sonic entries.
Save the Wisps in Sonic Colours: Ultimate for £34.99 on Xbox