- Developer: Blind Squirrel Games
- Publisher: SEGA
- Release Date: 7/9/2021
- Price: £34.99 / $39.99
- Played on PS5 via backwards compatability
Introducing Sonic Colours Ultimate PS5 Review
Sonic made a fantastic transition into 3D, with the widely beloved games Sonic Adventure 1 and 2. But up until 2010, the blue blur’s 3D outings always tried adding variety with a focus on different playstyles. Sonic Colours strived to change that, with a mix of the high octane boost gameplay Sonic Unleashed brought to the table, and slower, more methodical 2D sections with the new Wisps. As a kid, I loved this game. So, does Sonic Colours Ultimate do the game justice? Or is this yet another inferior remaster? Read on to find out!
Reaching for the Stars
The story of Sonic Colours is the one aspect of the game I will fully admit has not aged well. Or, rather, it wasn’t exactly great in the first place. The basic premise is that Dr. Eggman has built a (seemingly) harmless interstellar amusement park. It doesn’t take a detective to figure out that there’s a sinister side to the park. As such Sonic and Tails head over to investigate it. They find out that Dr. Eggman has been capturing aliens called Wisps to harness their energy. So it is up to them to free all the Wisps and discover what Dr. Eggman is using their energy for.
It’s a relatively simple story that mainly serves to give the series some of the most imaginative level designs yet, as well as give an explanation for the various power-ups Sonic will use (more on that later). There’s even some neat environmental storytelling in areas such as Planet Wisp – a part of the theme park still under construction, where you can see the Wisps’ homeworld slowly being destroyed by Dr. Eggman’s construction efforts.
The real issue however, is the writing. A few jokes are pretty funny, but the problem is, the game does not know when to stop running with them (if you’ll pardon the pun). This lead to some pretty cringe cutscenes even back in 2010, and they fare no better today. Thankfully, there’s only a few cutscenes per world, none of which are particularly long. So even if they are a bit groan-worthy, they’re never the focus of the game.
Colour the Universe
I am happy to report that the core gameplay is just as charming as it was back on the Wii. Boosting, drifting, quickstepping, and homing attacking through the game’s 7 worlds is still a blast. Beyond the White wisps which let you boost, the game’s other 8 wisps serve as timed power-ups, allowing you to do a multitude of things. For instance, the Yellow Drill wisp lets you drill through soft terrain or water, the Pink Spike wisp lets you climb up walls and perform the iconic spindash, and the new Jade Ghost wisp lets you phase through certain terrain to find new collectibles.
Unlike most Sonic games, this is one that focuses very heavily on score over speed. Typically, each world will have 2 or 3 major acts which have wonderful setpieces, healthy amounts of 3D, and sometimes introduce new wisps. The other 3-4 acts tend to be shorter, mostly 2D affairs that focus on using wisps in creative ways. You can tell they were created with a lot of re-used assets to extend the game’s rather short runtime, but the game has plenty of replay value besides this to back it up. Of course, each world has a boss – most of which are pathetically easy, but they’re not “bad” per se.
Each stage has 5 red rings hidden throughout, as well as Park Tokens. These are new to the remaster, and allow you to buy (rather superfluous) cosmetics for Sonic. The Movie Sonic cosmetic looks pretty decent, but most of them feel incredibly tacked on. There’s also a ranking system that is based on how good your score is, and a new… rather disappointing “Rival Rush” mode. It is, in essence, a glorified Time Trial where you race against Metal Sonic, but bafflingly, there is only one of these per world. On top of that, some of the stages selected are mind boggling. Starlight Carnival’s Rival Rush is set in Act 1, a stage which is full of automated running sequences, meaning it hardly feels like a race.
The Colours Don’t Feel So Right
There is also a mode called “Game Land”, where you can play through bonus stages (unlocked with red rings) with a friend via local co-op. Unfortunately, this is where this review will take a rather negative turn. Upon playing just one level of this mode, my game crashed, and subsequently corrupted my nearly 100% complete save file. This is not an isolated case either, I have seen this happen to many people, and this was not even the first crash I had encountered.
This remaster, regrettably, is just full of bugs and is extremely unpolished. I had dusted off my Wii to replay the original a couple of weeks beforehand, and that only made the issues more glaring. There’s subtle issues with art direction, such as Tropical Resort being oddly dark, or Starlight Carnival being blindingly bright, but then there’s common issues anyone would notice. Music just not loading and sound effects randomly playing in only either the left or right audio channel, wonky collision with slopes, loops and rails, graphical issues such as flickering graphical effects or the extremely obvious pop in, and of course the aforementioned crashes and freezes.
Everything about this remaster just feels remarkably unfinished. Some of the new Jade Ghost wisp areas feel like they’re in beta, letting you go out of bounds with ease. The Rival Rush pop up looks like an ad made with Microsoft PowerPoint. The options menu doesn’t let you turn down the sound effects separately from the music despite the game’s frankly awful sound mixing, and hitches every time you select a new page. The load times are longer than on the Wii. The cutscenes are just AI upscaled 480p videos, making the old character models and shimmering stand out even more. I could go on and on. This game deserves more.
A facet of the remaster which is far more subjective however, is the music. Sonic Colours features one of my favourite soundtracks in gaming ever, and sadly, I think most of the remixes miss the mark. I will admit, the boss tracks, Terminal Velocity, and most of the Act 2 tracks are actually pretty good – some of which I even prefer to the original. But, the Act 1’s and 3’s are plagued with some baffling instrumentation and mixing. Tropical Resort has this honestly distracting piano in an otherwise great remix, meanwhile Sweet Mountain’s brass legitimately made me laugh the first time I heard it.
There’s not even an option to turn off the new music. Along with the boosted resolution, framerate and texture quality, toggleable music is becoming a standard with remasters, so it’s a strange choice to omit the option. Especially considering you can turn it off for Planet Wisp by straight up not buying the pack. (Which I would recommend, as it sounds way too overproduced and completely ruins the serenity of the original).
Another thing you can’t switch off (beyond the tutorial Navigator – meaning you have to start a whole new game to turn off the tutorial prompts. I am not kidding.) is the new Tails Save feature, which replaces the lives system. Collecting Tails tokens in stages will allow you to fall into a bottomless pit and then be carried back to the last safe platform by Tails. On paper, this is a neat idea, but 1) sometimes Tails straight up doesn’t appear, leaving Sonic to die just like the franchise and 2) it completely invalidates the needs for checkpoints – unless you die by getting hit without having any rings, but this game is so easy I seriously doubt that will ever happen to you.
Non-Stop Speed (Except for Acts 2, 4 and 5)
What really pains me about this remaster is how well the game itself actually stands up. The level design is so imaginative – you will find yourself riding rollercoasters and homing attacking asteroids, attacking enemies on bridges of light while an intergalactic war is seemingly being waged in the background, going from running on water to running across a planet’s rings – it’s such a fun ride. Even the slower paced levels, while they can be a bit blocky (or in the case of the autoscroller yellow trampoline levels, straight up bad) the wisps ensure that this is the most fun 2D has been in a 3D boost Sonic game.
And it’s not like I hate every addition. Beyond customisable controls (though I really would have liked if you could have also used the d-pad for movement!), the game adds a new “Sweet Spot” to the homing attack. Essentially, if you homing attack at just the right time, you will gain a slight amount of boost. This adds a little decision making to every attack you do now. Do you want to just quickly homing attack since you’re good on boost? Or maybe time a few sweet spot attacks to gain boost in levels or areas which may not have even had boost capsules in the original?
After some patches, I can see this being a genuinely good way to experience the original. This was one of the best looking games on the Wii, so just making it run better and at a higher fidelity was all that was needed. (There was certainly no need for the garish bloom this remaster adds.) But, in its current state, returning fans will probably be put off by how flawed this is in comparison to the original, and newcomers will get a distorted view of what the original game was.
This was one of my most anticipated releases this year. I really wanted to love this, but the fact that I had to stop myself from going overboard and listing every single glitch I ran into speaks wonders about how unfinished this remaster is. It’s not the glitchiest game out there, but it is certainly not the “Ultimate” way to experience one of my favourite childhood games.
- The higher resolution and framerate make the game’s visuals shine even more
- The new Sweet Spot homing attack is a neat addition
- Very glitchy and unstable
- Weird artistic and musical choices
- Most new additions are rather underwhelming