I have a few confessions to make: I love looking at the stars, and know multiple constellations and the history behind them. I want the new iPhone 13 Pro for the night vision camera. And I never wanted to be an astronaut. Weird, right? There is something about the crushing vacuum of space that just kinda eeks me every time.
I am, however, a rollercoaster junkie. I fell in love with the twists and turns of the Kamikaze at Knott’s Berry Farm when I was 10 years old and have been doomed ever since. Stupidly doomed. Like, “You really shouldn’t ride this if you have…” stupid. So, I understand the need to “Go faster, faster, faster!” It’s the rush and thrill that gives an unforgettable high.
That is what I was expecting to get when I played Sonic Colors: Ultimate, with the benefits of rollercoasters in space, and none of the lung crushing vacuum. And I did get it, to a certain degree. (I promised certain people I wouldn’t open this like everyone else: “I wanted to like it but…”) Good, bad and beautiful, Sonic Colors: Ultimate has it all.
The White Elephant- Glitches
We must, I’m afraid, get the white elephant out of the room first. Glitches. If you haven’t been living under a rock, you have likely spotted at least one, if not many, articles about the issues the pre-release game faced. I wrote about it with trepidation and I will admit, it lowered my expectation of Sonic Colors: Ultimate.
Especially of concern was the reported, and later confirmed, flashing lights that could cause seizer activity. As someone who has a history of flashing light triggered issues, I was very careful throughout my gameplay, in paying attention to what could be considered a problem. (I also had my husband on standby just in case.) I am happy to say that I didn’t experience anything that could cause seizers.
However, that doesn’t mean there were not problems. At times Sonic was unresponsive to my button mashing. At first, I thought it was my controller (I know, I know… always have it charged! You try that with a two-year-old who loves playing with every remote in the house.) So, with a fresh controller, I one of the particularly harder tracks again. It did help, but not as much as I had hoped.
Sonic tripping over an invisible barrier in the first world was hilarious, replicated a few times just to be sure, and laughed at every time. It probably could be considered frustrating if you were headed at full speed and suddenly bounced backwards. But still giggle-inducing.
The Day-One patch was supposed to fix a number of glitches, and I assume it did its job as I found very few over all. Melting Sonic into a wall a few times, and the slow loading screens were definitely still on the hunny-do list, but it didn’t make the game in any way unplayable, unlike a few other games we could mention *cough*Fallout 76*cough*
I will say as someone who is always looking at accessibility for those of us who have some impairments, playing for more than a few hours at a time caused a lot of eye-strain due to the extremely small Sonic and big, bright tracks. At times, I had a hard time focusing on him and it led to a number of whoopsies. I was playing on the Switch connected to my 65-inch TV. So, take from that what you will.
Blast-off into Hintsville
Sega knows how to craft an interesting story, and Sonic Colors: Ultimate is no exception. Blasting off in our favorite rocket ship (are you humming Little Einsteins yet?) shaped very much like the nefarious egg-head villain we love to foil, Sonic and Tails land on a wacky wild amusement park that looks like neon on steroids. Being the inner child of us all, Sonic decides to check it out.
Of course, there are robots, but they appear friendly enough. Thus follows the tutorial narrated and navigated by Tails. Honestly, he should stick to his day job. He’s cute, until you realize that he’s the real villain here, him and all of his shiny question marks. Yes, they give you helpful hints. And yes, we appreciate those hints. But we do NOT like them in the middle of our boss battle! The hangtime alone throws off the groove. And they just won’t stay gone once you click them the first time.
Sigh… There is a light, or floaty thing, at the end of the tunnel. Turns out it’s a Wisp. And what’s a Wisp? They’re spirit-like jellyfish creatures that Sonic absorbs to gain their power. While they seem to be into the whole Ghost reference, they are not into being sucked dry to power by “Baldy Nosehair.” Their term, not mine! With their individual powers and adorable mimicry in the cutscenes, these little jellies kinda steal the show. The addition to the Jade Wisp is a God-send in many levels if you can accurately use her laser precision. Trust me, playing Peggle prepared me wonderfully for her off the wall actions.
Lots o’ Laughs
There is plenty of silly humor scattered throughout the game. Tails trying his best to figure out what the heck the Wisps are telegraphing, with funny results, the background announcements from Dr. Eggman, and Sonic’s usual antics, make for some great family fun. The boss fights have some silly woven in. Even the game itself is self-aware. I’m totally wishing for a Sonic the Deadpool game now!
There is also the matter of a wonky voice chip… but you’ll have to figure that out for yourselves.
Let’s talk mechanics
Like any remaster worth its name (see FFVII Remake for details), Sonic Colors: Ultimate begins our crazy thrill ride with a beautiful cinematic opening. With the improved graphics and 4K capability, the animation prepares you for a gorgeous game, or an awesome cartoon. (Come on Sega, reboot it already!) Everything, from Sonic and Tail’s fur to the textures in the tracks, is amazingly designed, and that translates to the gameplay graphics as well. It was easy to see where they really worked to bring Sonic and the Wisps to life.
In reverse, however, it was also obvious where they had slacked off a bit. The cutscenes didn’t quite have the same quality as the opening cinematic, and it was distracting to say the least. Which is unfortunate, considering the precision work that went into the levels themselves.
Ah, the levels. Sonic has always had the need for speed, and boy can he go. Flying through the tracks, Sonic must navigate different challenges. Some tracks disappear as Sonic runs along them, others require you to switch sides at a moment’s notice. Still others are upside-down.
Each of the seven worlds has a unique theme with fun little details throughout. Sweet Mountain has truly scrumptious strawberries buried in cake! How can one play and not get hungry? Aquarium Park is a gorgeously crafted underwater world that I could see fitting right at home in a RAR Donkey Kong reboot. And of course, this all culminates into one explosive finale, pun absolutely intended.
The take away
As engaging as Sonic Colors: Ultimate’s gameplay was, there were some major drawbacks. The aforementioned hints do slow things down, and in a game where it is all about speed, it is a bit disconcerting. At times even the speed was a drawback, as the screen blurs to almost unrecognizable scenes. I’m sure there are plenty of player who are right at home with that, but for me, it was a no-go mark. The quick-switch needed in some levels didn’t always response correctly, leading me to fall off a platform or miss a jump.
Having the ever-helpful Tails put me right back where I fell was a nice touch, but if it was an area where Sonic needed to be at full speed to make a transition, his slow start could be a problem. I like my hedgehogs like I like my cars- 0 to 60 in 3 seconds flat.
Unlockable content includes customizations for Sonic, such as gloves, shoes and auras; (the flowers were very pretty!) and the soundtrack and cinematic videos.
Despite all of the mehs, Sonic Colors: Ultimate over-all was a treat to experience, and will be replayed. It is probably the best space rollercoaster ride I will ever take.
One final note: I do caution players who have the Switch copy to be on the lookout for those pesky flashing bugs. Hopefully they will continue to address the issues to allow for further enjoyment.
Sonic Colors: Ultimate receives 4 Baby Sonic keychains from me.