Sonic Colours Ultimate Review (PS4) – A Wisp’d Opportunity
The blue blur returns in a retread of one of his best. Sonic Colours Ultimate: The Finger Guns Review.
There’s something to be said for Sonic Colours being perhaps the only game in the back catalogue of 3D Sonic games that’s worthy of a remaster. If you look back through the smorgasbord of garbage that SEGA have churned out in support of their oldest mascot, you’d be forgiven for thinking that not a single one deserves that HD lick of paint offered to Colours, and you’d be absolutely right. Yet Colours just about escapes falling into eternal obscurity with Advenure, Sonic 06, The Black Knight, Secret Rings, Unleashed, Forces, Lost World…it goes on. And on. At this point I’d take a 3D Blast remaster, but Colours was the obvious choice, chiefly for it not being absolutely terrible.
That’s not to say Colours is actually all that great. It isn’t. It’s just better than literally everything else and unfortunately, this Ultimate version does little to convince me that my favourite hedgehog has any kind of future worth getting excited about with Sonic Team.
I consider myself a die hard Sonic fan, I have been my whole life. So when I get into negative territory, it’s not out of want but for necessity. I can see the sparkle in Colours, and it’s all over the game. Particularly the presentation, the story, the always committed performances and the humour, lost in a muddle of gameplay mechanics that work well, but not together. The sum of its parts rule is a mantra of the 3D Sonic games, and the Wisps, whilst inventive and fun in certain areas, take the meaning away of what a Sonic game should be.
Colours is at its best when Sonic is flying through loops and tearing through robots without a second thought. When you know what you’re playing is unmistakably Sonic the Hedgehog, it flies. When your bosses are giant mechs with easy to follow routines, it’s a Sonic game. The height of enjoyment comes from nailling a run with a beautiful S rank awaiting you at the end of each level, knowing you’ve torn through it exactly the way you would expect Sonic himself to do so when he’s not being held back by your controls. When the colours (heh) pop off the screen with aplomb and it all just comes together in a joyful Sonic feast there’s plenty of reasons to celebrate why Colours is the only 3D Sonic game ever worth going back to. If it puts a smile on your face, it’s doing what its supposed to be doing and Colours provides such moments in spades.
Until it doesn’t. The flipside of those moments still rear their ugly head throughout, kicking you to the curb when you’re sailing through levels in a joyful exuberance. When Sonic slows down, when Sonic has to walk and jump and navigate up platform areas, it’s dull, lifeless and a complete slog. Dare I say boring? The game knows you’re here for those moments you’re breaking the sound barrier with Sonic’s relentless speed so why am I jumping up platforms, slowly waiting for them to rise or fall in order to get to the good bits? It’s like the game doesn’t want you to have too much fun.
*Every* level has a segment that it just didn’t need and it’s at the detriment of how well Colours handles its more exhilarating moments. If you’re jumping into Colours for the first time with the Ultimate version, you’re going to be surprised with how poorly these areas are handled. Sonic still handles poorly, is slow to react to jump commands and seldom lands where you want him too. Colours is eleven years old and the complaints I have about controlling Sonic were deftly similar to the complaints I had about Sonic Forces.
They’ve never been improved and this remaster is testament to the fact nobody can seemingly be bothered.
Still, they’re somewhat brought to life in certain levels with the Wisps, creatures that live on the planet Sonic and Tails have been zapped to in order to take down Robotnik (sorry, Eggman) once again. Each of the Wisps have a different power and as such, allows Sonic to navigate through levels with a multitude of new mechanics that break up the monotony.
The Wisps certainly offer interesting ways for Sonic to get around, even if they aren’t all particularly fun. The White Wisp allows Sonic to accelerate at super speeds, destroying anything in his path. The Cyan Wisp will turn Sonic in a cyan laser, moving across the stage at super speed. The Jade Wisp will transform Sonic into a Jade shot, fly around and phase through solid objects to reach hidden areas. The Pink Wisp will turn Sonic into a pink spike that can roll up walls and ceilings. The Green Wisp turns Sonic into a green hover form to reach higher areas and avoid obstacles. The Orange Wisp turns Sonic into an orange rocket to reach super high areas blasting into the air. The Blue Wisp will switch blue rings and blue blocks to open new routes, turning Sonic into a blue cube to stomp enemies. The Yellow Wisp will transform Sonic into a yellow drill, allowing Sonic to dig through the ground or torpedo through the water. Finally the Purple Wisp will transform Sonic in a hungry purple frenzy, eating anything in its path.
You’ll meet them individually throughout the campaign and they can only be used where you find them, so don’t expect to be able to call up on them in different areas, regardless of how helpful they could be if you were able to call on them whenever necessary.They also don’t last very long, so it’s difficult to experiment with their abilities, which seems to negate the point of them. Everything they can provide Sonic with in terms of abilities we’ve seen before, so there’s little, if anything, they really bring to the table that one could call ‘unique’, it’s perhaps the novelty of seeing these abilities in a Sonic game that doesn’t wear off. Out of the box thinking in a 3D Sonic game? I’ve never seen the like.
So it’s not without its frustrations, but Sonic Colours Ultimate is a decent enough package to justify its existence. The visuals are solid (though these are strictly previous-gen releases, with PS5 and Xbox Series getting a shiny new Sonic in 2022), even if, bizarrely, the cutscenes haven’t been remastered at all from the now eleven year old version of the game. The soundtrack remains an absolute barnstormer if you can stomach the happy go lucky pop metal extravaganza of Sonic video games and there’s no doubt it’s the best of a really, really bad bunch of games that haven’t ever had any kind of direction.
Looking ahead to the rest of the year, there’s no reason why Sonic Colours Ultimate should be on the top of your list to play anytime soon, but it’s a nice trip down memory lane for the hardcore fans. There’s nothing to see here for newcomers.
And well, more than anything else this release begs the ultimate question;
How the hell are we still waiting for a Sonic Mania sequel?
Sonic Colours Ultimate is a solid if unremarkable retread through perhaps the only 3D Sonic game worth remastering. The visuals are just shiny enough to warrant a remaster, with a pumping soundtrack and inventive mechanics through the Wisps. Newcomers will find far more exciting and original games elsewhere, so the term ‘for the fans’ has never rung quite so true.
Sonic Colours Ultimate is available now on PS4 (reviewed on PS5), Xbox One and PC.
Developer: Sonic Team / Dimps / Blind Squirrel Entertainment
Disclaimer: In order to complete this preview, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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