Review: Sonic Colours Ultimate

  • Platform reviewed: Xbox Series S
  • Platforms available: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch
  • Release date: 7th September 2021
I really like the “Sonic Movie” style available in the deluxe edition.

This is what I want from Sonic games in terms of structure. I personally don’t like to be forced to go through “padding” just to reach the end of a game, so Colours’ method of just letting you go through the main levels and defeat the final boss is perfect for me. Even so, Colours is so enjoyable that I choose to complete all I can because it’s simply fun to do.

Sonic Colours is based on the “boost formula” of Sonic Unleashed, but slightly more refined, especially on big turns. I did have a slight issue of sometimes doing a homing attack when I wanted to do a double jump, but you can set homing attack to a different button if you want to.

The big addition to this Sonic game are the Wisps, which are power-ups that temporarily give Soinc different abilities, such as shooting forward as a Laser, rolling up walls as Spike or turning blocks on or off as Cube. They integrate into the Sonic gameplay very well, although as a lot of them are designed to work in a 2D environment, it does impact the level design, as Sonic Colours has a lot more 2D segments compared to Unleashed (which isn’t a problem for me, just some people prefer the other way).

You have six zones, each with six acts. Act 1 is typically the “main event”, while Act 2 sometimes feels like a “cut” section from Act 1, as the level starts exactly where Act 1 ends. The other four acts are typically shorter, usually focusing on a particular wisp or gimmick, although sometimes these are sort of “repeated” content, as they will take part in sections of Act 1, but with different obstacles (some are completely new segments).

Where I think the levels truly shine are with the Red Rings. Hidden throughout every stage are five Red Rings. These are optional to complete the same story, but will unlock new things. These utilise the Wisps heavily, and encourage you to find different routes. Taking a slower pace to find them doesn’t feel like you’re not playing the game “properly”. You can reach sections where you can’t go back, so you will have to replay levels, so I found myself attempting to find a quicker route in sections where I had the red rings. I especially liked the more Wisp focused levels for finding the Red Rings.

The reward for these is unlocking levels in the “Game Land”, which has a “Sonic Simulator”. This included seven more zones, each with three stages. There is no “theme” to these zones, all taking place in a cubic void, but it’s sort of a whole game’s worth of Sonic levels as a bonus extra.

To me, Sonic Colours is one of the stronger Sonic games. The core gameplay is fun to play and the Wisps add to the gameplay instead of trying to provide a completely different gameplay style. I much prefer being able to complete a game and having lots of optional content on top.

All these aspects of the original game remain true in Sonic Colours Ultimate, while it makes a few tweeks. The graphics are running in HD with some improvements, such as better textures, lighting and models with more polygons (so the loops look a lot smoother), and runs in 60fps (except for the Switch version). It’s all round a better looking and smoother version of Sonic Colours.

The biggest change to gameplay is the removal of extra lives. Now when you die, you will be reset to the last checkpoint. As the original lives system was fundamentally broken (like a lot of extra life systems, you can farm lives on an easy level) and how life systems are just a frustrating form of artificial difficulty, this is a very welcome change. Replacing 1-ups in levels are “Tails Saves”, this works similar to an extra life, but drops you off just before the jump you failed, and any rings (including red rings) collected will be kept intact. I’m not massively keen on this one as it makes the main levels a bit easier, but I appreciated them a lot when looking for the red rings.

As you collect Red Rings, you will also unlock a race against Metal Sonic, and there is one race in each stage. Sadly, there’s no interacting with or fighting Metal Sonic, it’s just essentially a time trial, but it does encourage you to learn the fastest route through a level to beat him, and making use of the Wisps for speed rather than exploration.

Speaking of Wisps, a new Jade Green Ghost Wisp has been added. This lets Sonic float around, and warp to points behind walls. This created some new shortcuts and routes through levels, and some Red Rings have been moved to make use of the Wisp. I think it’s a bit strange that it wasn’t added to the final boss, as while it wouldn’t have made any difference to the gameplay, it would have made it feel more like part of the game.

Another collectible hidden in stages (and awarded based on your rank) are tokens to unlock customisation options, such as different colour gloves and trainers, boost visual style and an “aura” around Sonic. The final one lets you alter your profile picture, which is only ever seen in the options menu. I think this was originally intended for an extra time trial mode with shared ghost data, but ended up not being implemented.

The cutscenes in Sonic Colours Ultimate have had the least attention. It seems like Sega don’t have the original renders for the cutscenes, as they look like they have been poorly upscaled from the Wii’s SD cutscenes, with a grainy and pixelated look to it, creating an odd situation where the pre-rendered graphics look worse than the actual gameplay.

Sonic Colours Ultimate is a great way to experience one of Sonic’s best 3D games.

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