As a long time fan of old school Sonic the Hedgehog, I was lured into playing Sonic Colors Ultimate. Much to my own chagrin, I accepted and started playing what was deemed the “best 3D Sonic game.” Things definitely didn’t turn out as I expected.
I’ve strongly felt 3D Sonic games aren’t good, and have never been good. Arguments to the contrary have admittedly fallen on my classic 2D fan ears. Nonetheless, I put my preconceived notions aside and kept an open mind.
Unfortunately, I hated most of my experience from the beginning, even considering what 3D fans would be looking for. While I was ready to stop after the first initial levels, I continued for the sake of this review. Things did not improve.
Sonic Colors Ultimate
Developer: Sonic Team
Platforms: Windows PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One
Release Date: September 7th, 2021
Players: 1 (Single Player), 2 (Local Co-op)
Price: $39.99 USD
The story is simple and barebones, nothing more. Dr. Eggman opened an amusement park in space that has five connected planets. On the planets are aliens called Wisps, each with unique powers. By taking the power from the Wisps and creating a weapon, Dr. Eggman plans to control the galaxy. That’s all there is to it actually.
The story is standard for a Sonic game, which are typically only surface level and nothing exceptional. It’s acceptable for a Sonic story, however the cutscenes which illustrate it are awful.
The cutscene videos in this remaster are complicated. They are compressed videos from the original Wii version, which are using the in-engine textures. Essentially, you are watching a pixelated mess of outdated graphics in a remastered game.
Aside from that, the most critical I’ve ever been starts here. Gameplay, or sometimes lack thereof, is embarrassing. I almost couldn’t find the words to illustrate how frustrating the game handles, and how delayed input was until I started jotting this down.
When playing a Sonic game, I expect that I will either go fast and/or do platforming reasonably. Mechanics like Wall Jumping aren’t foreign to me; but when Sonic does it, it either works at the worst possible time, or doesn’t work when you are on a roll. This, coupled with the switching 3D and 2D segments, make a hard to understand game for your first time ever.
Button pushes and movements are either delayed or feel flighty, throwing precision (or any semblance of it) out of the window. More times than not the game plays itself by taking control of holding forward for you. In certain segments, you only press the jump button.
When I first started playing, I thought “Maybe I’m just bad,” or “Am I a games journalist?” Possibly. Fixing the controls makes this game more tolerable. Every 3D Sonic game suffers from this side effect, and it’s not exclusive here.
Difficulty isn’t necessarily hard, and even the bosses pose absolutely no challenge since you have a lock-on ability by default anyways. The entire point of your initial run is to run through as fast as possible, collect the aliens, and replay past levels to get collectibles.
Wisps offer abilities that help with traversing stages, ultimately getting collectibles from previous levels. This added flavor to the Sonic formula is fun, and one of the most fun things about it.
There are additional modes like the Metal Sonic racing and Tails Balloons, but they don’t overall change anything about the main story. Co-op is fun when doing Eggman’s Sonic Sim, which features a basic level layout, where up to 2 players locally can play.
Since this is a remaster, graphics in stages are improved for 4K with 60 frames per second. On PlayStation 4, the max it can do is 1080p, and with varying frame rates but typically close to 60fps. So optimization is decent.
Stages like Tropical Resort are colorful and atmospheric, no pun intended. On the other hand, some stages that had artistic choices used in tunnels or differently lit areas are bright in this new remaster.
When doing a side by side comparison of the original Wii version and the PlayStation 4 version, stages appear much brighter and almost lose a little bit of color in the remaster. Coincidentally, the brighter tone makes the graphics stand out, and feature more details on the ground and other machines.
Music is almost the same from the first game despite being remixed, but is still good. Grooving to a lot of the early 2010’s was a good nostalgia trip, even without having played the original at the time of it’s release. Sonic Team knows how to make and get music for their games sans Sonic Mania.
Comparatively, the sounds of jumping are annoying, probably to me alone. The “swishing” sound of jumping is something exclusive to 3D (and maybe 2.5D) Sonic games. Other sounds in the game for stages are normal, and to be expected when running past something like a waterfall.
While playing, my issues with bugs were far and few compared to others. Then again I somewhat expected them, oddly enough. I can make it through every obstacle (like controls), to enjoy it for what others claimed as “the Best 3D Sonic game.”
My overall experience with Sonic Colors Ultimate was nothing short of aggravating to say the least. While doing my due diligence, I took it upon myself to try to come to like it, since I passed it up during it’s initial run on the Nintendo Wii. This simply didn’t happen in my time with it.
Sonic Colors Ultimate was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a review code provided by Sega. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.