Title: Sonic Colors Ultimate
Developer: Blind Squirrel Entertainment
Release Date: September 7, 2021
Reviewed On: PS4
I missed out on Sonic Colors when it initially launched on the Wii, but at least this trend of remasters didn’t forget about the blue blur. Being able to enjoy modern versions of some rather notable entries in this series is great, so I welcomed Sonic Colors Ultimate. Sadly, he doesn’t really stick around long enough to leave a significant impact.
Sonic Colors Ultimate is about saving these aliens called Wisps from Eggman, who abducts them for an evil scheme of his. I’ll be completely transparent here; I did not care about whatever was happening in these cutscenes after viewing the first few of them because the writing is atrocious. It came off as if this writing team had no idea how Sonic and Tails were characterized and tried to make them joke depositories with no substance. They came off as conceptual, draft versions rather than finalized characters who have been in video games for decades. Thankfully, the cutscenes can be skipped entirely, and you really aren’t missing out on anything if you do so.
Gameplay utilizes the Boost system, which has Sonic quite literally boost at top speeds, with it only usable if the gauge on the bottom left has any juice. Additionally present are the Wisps, who provide varying gameplay alterations depending on what type they are. For instance, the Cyan Wisp transforms Sonic into a laser that shoots across the stages at blinding speeds, and the Pink Wisp transforms Sonic into a rolling spike that hooks onto surfaces. The Wisps enhance gameplay variety and are mostly enjoyable, though a couple are cumbersome in execution, coming off as padding more than anything else.
The newly added Jade Wisp that transforms Sonic into a ghost is questionable at best. Movement slows to a crawl with the benefit of moving through walls, yet its sluggishness doesn’t feel justified. Obviously, Sonic titles are about more than simply going fast, but there have to be adequate reasons to slow down, and when the only pro of this Wisp is to become transparent, its lack of speed feels needless. The Green Wisp is similar, albeit to a lesser extent. It allows Sonic to float high but at a leisurely speed that doesn’t add any tenseness, excitement, or anticipation for what the stages contain.
The other Wisps are infinitely more pleasing to use, though, and don’t bore progression in head-scratching ways. Speaking of the level design, the stages are all relatively unchallenging. While reaching their end is never difficult, they contain several paths and collectibles known as Red Star Rings and Park Tokens. The former is used to unlock Rival Rush levels; races against Metal Sonic, and eventually opening up the ability to use Super Sonic. The latter is used for purchasing cosmetics.
These different paths and collectibles offer decent enough reason to replay stages which is needed given the game’s brief 5-6 playtime for the story. Although, a few of the stages did come off as unnecessary due to their runtimes being around half a minute. I assume they were forcibly designed this way to account for how there are 6 zones with 6 stages each. Still, these absurdly short stages should have been reworked because they feel more like sneak peeks rather than full-on levels.
The boss battles are even more of a joke difficulty-wise than the stages themselves. Except for the admittedly fun final boss fight, the rest don’t offer any real semblances of a challenge to an extent that left me perplexed, thinking I somehow sequence broke them or something else to that effect. They felt more like minigames, similar to more recent boss fights from the franchise, but it was undeniably pronounced here.
Aside from the stages and the bosses is the newly added Rival Rush mode where players can race against Metal Sonic in specified levels after collecting enough Red Star Rings in a zone. These races are not arduous, usually requiring a few attempts at most. Unfortunately, there are only 6 instances where races can be performed. This feels like a missed opportunity as implementing races in most stages, if not all of them, would have greatly aided in contributing to replay value. Plus, these races demand you to at least moderately know the layout of a level to succeed.
There is also a new mechanic called Tails Save, which, to be blunt, is unnecessary. After finding Tails Save tokens in levels, players will be saved by Tails after falling into a pit, negating any punishment for death. Not only does this not seem to lower your score and thereby not negatively affect your ranking in stages when used, but there are also no lives present, so this feels like an unneeded addition that actively goes against players learning stage layouts to avoid consequences.
Regarding presentation, the aesthetics of the zones are gorgeous and are among the franchise’s heights, I’d say. They greatly vary in coloration and approach, making each area memorable. The soundtrack is passable, and though there were no truly standout tracks that I can recall off the top of my head, each song fit the locales they were designated to and provided a joyous ambiance. I did encounter 2 crashes when using the Purple Wisp power-up, and since there has been severe contention over the stability of this title across its myriad of platforms, I can say that performance was smooth aside from those 2 particular instances.
Sonic Colors Ultimate‘s gameplay loop is enjoyable and boasts high replayability. However, the Tails Save implementation, boss battles, and some Wisp power utilization slow this speedy adventure down to a crawl. It’s undeniably fun but trips up the moment you find your pace. Here’s to looking forward to new Sonic adventures in the future.
Yes, that was a plea for a new Sonic Adventure.
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