While you can argue now that the blue blur isn’t in the best of spots, the release of Sonic Colours in 2010 marked the start of an upward trend for SEGA’s spiny mascot during its time. The problem, though, is that it was released exclusively for Nintendo platforms, making it hard to go back and experience one of the franchises best. Sonic Colours: Ultimate is seeking to fix that, serving itself up as a HD remaster with a few new bells and whistles for both new players and old. The end result is a package that might be a hard sell for returning players but is packed with value for those who’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing this classic.
By today’s standards, Colours has a narrative that’s nothing to gawk at, but that’s a good thing. Previous Sonic games tried to hard to include narratives with dark themes and ideas, more often than not, they don’t stick the landing and come off as edgy more than anything else. Colours is nothing more than a good old Sonic versus Dr. Eggman plot with sharp writing, entertaining characters and a simple premise. Seeking to right his past misdeeds, Eggman opens Dr. Eggman’s Incredible Interstellar Amusement Park and invites all to attend. Suspecting an ulterior motive, Sonic and Tails investigate the park to find out what’s really going on. It’s something akin to a kid’s movie but serves as an appropriate backdrop to the gameplay.
Sonic Colours falls into what most fans would refer to as the “Boost” formula, where Sonic has a boost gauge that he can expend to reach even higher speeds. Colours boasts a plethora of short and sweet levels that combine thrill inducing 3D sections, and 2D sections that require more precision and intent. While most levels tend to be a bit heavy on the latter, it keeps things interesting and challenging while they last. I say this because Sonic Colours is a relatively short and easy Sonic game, and most of its value can be found in replaying levels for better times, finding collectibles, and exploring routes you might’ve missed on your first run through. Ultimate doubles down on this with the Rival Rush mode, where you can go up against Metal Sonic in a rush to the goal ring. There’s only one Rival Rush per planet, making for six total, but each one feels appropriately challenging and worthwhile.
Each of the 6 planets on offer have 6 acts each, and a boss fight. None of these acts are particularly long, but its these short and sweet bite sized levels that lean into the kind of platformer that Sonic Colours is. There’s some really stellar level design on show here that emphasizes optimization and memorization to get the best times possible. Where the game stumbles a little bit is in its boss fights. Almost every one is disinteresting and to make matters worse, half of them are reskinned with a few new attacks.
Every location is visually distinct, and each one is home to a different type of Wisp that Sonic can use to traverse levels. These are mostly optional abilities that allow Sonic to explore alternative routes and hunt for collectibles. Each one is unique and offers something new to play around with, from the Green Wisp that allows Sonic to hover and chase down chains of rings, to the Purple Wisp which sends Sonic into a frenzy, destroying all in his path. New to Ultimate is the Jade Wisp, which turns Sonic into a ghost, allowing him to pass through walls to reach certain points that typically hide goodies or a new route to the goal ring.
Also new to Sonic Colours: Ultimate, is the cosmetics store, an in-game shop where you can buy clothes and effects that alter Sonic’s appearance while playing. You’re constantly rewarded with tokens for getting high ranks, exploring levels, and even completing Rival Rush races, and while it seems surface level at first, I found it quite fun to customize my Sonic in a way that was unique to me. There’s also a new pickup that has Tails swoop in and save Sonic from falling down a bottomless pit, mitigating some of the more frustrating platforming found in certain levels. As found in the base game, there’s five red rings to find and collect in each level and nabbing all of them will allow you to eventually unlock Super Sonic, which gives you plenty of incentive to chase after them.
Sonic Colours: Ultimate’s biggest changes, come in the form of its technical changes and visual improvements. On a PS5, Ultimate holds a steady 60 frames per second at 4K, and while it can’t compare to the juggernauts of today, it still looks great, far better than it did in 2010 on the Wii. There are small and smart changes made to some of the texture work to support the new vibrancy that comes with HDR, and everything really pops on screen. The soundtrack is also another killer piece of work from Sonic Team, featuring the same tracks that have been heavily remixed. It’s clear it wasn’t made to replace the original OST but stand alongside it. It has more of an upbeat, electronic jazz feel than the original, which works for almost all of the major themes except one as mentioned in my preview. One weird omission on this front, though, is that the cutscenes are seemingly untouched, leaving them with an almost compressed and blurry look to them.
Additionally, you can change controller bindings, adding a layer of accessibility that wasn’t previously there. I did run into a few problems during my roughly 12 hours with the game in the form of two hard crashes that required an application restart, and a few different visual and gameplay related bugs that I found frustrating. I wouldn’t say it’s bad enough that it drastically hurts the experience, but its something to be aware of going in.
THE PS4 VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL COPY OF THE GAME WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
While it might be a hard sell for those that have already experienced the intergalactic highs of the original, Sonic Colours: Ultimate is packed with value and tweaks that make it well worth your time if you haven’t jumped into it before. It sports a simple yet entertaining narrative, great gameplay and a visual facelift that unleashes the potential of its namesake. All of this combines to further cement Sonic Colours as one of the best entries in modern Sonic.
Well written and entertaining story
Same excellent gameplay and level design
Smart new additions that add replay value and accessibility