The original Sonic Colours came off the back of a revamp of 3D Sonic gameplay introduced Sonic Unleashed, a change that was sorely needed after the disastrous Sonic the Hedgehog (2006). While Unleashed split itself into halves of plodding brawling and high-speed platforming, Colours embraced the latter and dedicated an entire game to what fans would call the ‘Boost’ formula. A decade later, Sega has remade the previously Wii-exclusive game for modern hardware on PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC, with Sonic Colours Ultimate.
Obviously aimed at a younger, primary-school aged audience, Sonic Colours dispensed with a lot of the heavy plotting and overwrought drama from previous entries, and brought the premise back to basics. Sonic and Tails speed through an interstellar amusement park built by their arch nemesis, Dr. Eggman. He claims to have turned over a new leaf, but of course, has secretly tethered alien planets to his park to drain their inhabitants of their energy. Taking up the cause, Sonic resolves to free the aliens (called ‘Wisps’). The plot is told through comedic cut-scenes that feel a lot like a kids’ cartoon, which will play to the younger crowd even if most of the jokes don’t particularly land for adults, and can drag on.
Sonic Colours takes place across multiple worlds chained to the amusement park, split up into bite-sized and slightly longer ‘acts’. Levels shift between 3D sections where Sonic speeds along narrow highways, able to ‘boost’ to extreme speeds, and 2D sections which often rely on careful platforming. To assist Sonic, capsules containing the variously coloured alien Wisps can be found strewn across levels, powering-up Sonic with different abilities like laser-speed, rocketing into the sky, or sticking to walls and ceilings.
The problem I always had with Sonic Colours, is that despite its earnest attempts to return the franchise to simpler and more engaging platforming roots, it almost goes too far back. While each world has a couple of acts which stand out as fun, rollercoaster-like rides, a lot of your time in the game is spent in very basic and modular-feeling platforming sections, consisting of similar basic blocks and platforms arranged in different patterns. While Wisp power-ups like the Drill can spice these sections up, allowing you to tunnel underneath a level for instance, the majority of the platforming feels unremarkable.
Sonic himself handles decently in 3D, but in 2D his momentum, floaty jump and double jump often make precise platforming frustrating, especially as his patented ‘lock on’ homing attack often interferes. It also feels weird how the game has to constantly signpost, literally on-screen with graphics, when you can and can’t use certain abilities, such as drifting along highways or precisely side-stepping to avoid obstacles, rather than being naturally designed to take Sonic’s full repertoire into account. New in Ultimate is a more forgiving life system, which replaces lives with Tails tokens, which when used see Tails catch Sonic and automatically return him to a nearby point in the level.
Sonic Colours Ultimate brings a range of remastered additions to the original, not the least of which is 4K gameplay at 60fps (most of the time), with up-rezzed models and improved lighting. It generally looks great, especially for a Wii-era game, thanks to colourful and charming design, even if the upscaled pre-rendered cutscenes still show the old 2010-era visuals. Sonic Colours also has a lot of great music, which has been remixed for this release, which still sets the pace well.
Ultimate also adds a smattering of new content, including a new Jade Wisp power-up that can be used to pass through walls by tethering a floating Sonic to floating points in a level, which is neat. A ‘Rival Rush’ mode relies on you exploring levels fully and collecting enough special Red Rings to unlock a race in each world against Sonic’s evil counterpart, Metal Sonic. These are basic runs through a single act against ghost data, essentially, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find them to add a nice tense twist to old levels.
New Park Tokens can also be collected throughout every level to unlock customisation options for Sonic, such as shoes, gloves, auras and effects for his boost. They’re nice touches even if it doesn’t really add up to a heap of new content, merely adding a bit more incentive to collect everything in every level beyond the unlockable ‘Super Sonic’, which was present in the original.
Sonic Colours is a good update of a game that was previously locked to the decade-old Nintendo Wii, and which many young Sonic fans will probably enjoy with its light humour and basic platforming. Older players may struggle, with repetitive and perfunctory sections that don’t play to the strengths of the game’s core concept. The Ultimate additions are also a little basic, and vaunted features like Rival Rush, while fun, don’t add up to a whole lot of extra content. However, when taken as a whole package, I still enjoyed Sonic Colours Ultimate. It’s since been bettered by games like Sonic Generations and Sonic Mania, but it’s still a decent game, and this remaster brings all of its fun power-ups and colourful presentation to a whole new generation.
This review is based on review code provided by the publisher, played on PS5.
-Fast action and platforming are Sonic's strong suit, employed well here -Difficulty and tone both friendly to young children and newcomers to Sonic -Nice music, colourful and fun visual style -Ultimate additions like Rival races and customisation are fun, if surface level
-Colours still provides fairly perfunctory platforming and challenge -While largely easy, floaty controls lead to frustration -Some Wisp power-ups are duds