Sonic Colours originally released way back in 2010 on the Nintendo Wii, and it was a game that 13-year-old me was hoping would be amazing, after my lacklustre journey with Sonic Unleashed. Because I disliked Sonic Unleashed so strongly (Werehog levels were a painful experience), I ultimately never gave Colours a fair chance, playing it for a short period before deciding that the newly introduced Wisp power-ups were a gimmick and quickly shifting my attention onto something else. Time heals all wounds though, so I thought in order to truly gauge whether or not the gaming critiques of the newly teenage me were accurate, that I return to the scene of the crime and play through Sonic Colours: Ultimate, the newly released remaster that brings with it not only fancier looking visuals, but also some additional content.
Sonic Colours: Ultimate takes the iconic blue blur and his best bud Tails to an interstellar amusement park, sounds like an amazing place, right? While the thought of heading into space and riding on a myriad of cool space rides sounds awesome, the reality of Sonic and Tails visit to the park is anything but, as the park is property of arch nemesis Doctor Eggman. Despite stating that he’s making up for his past indiscretions, Sonic and Tails see through his facade, as it’s soon revealed that his Amusement Park is a front for his latest evil plan. He’s enslaved the planets of an alien race known as Wisps, harnessing their energy for not only a fancy park, but also a mind control laser that he plans to use to take over the world. Sonic and Tails vow to free the Wisps from Eggman’s rule and quickly set off through each planet to shut down the generators that keep the park running.
It’s a neat little story that doesn’t offer up much more than a reason for the adventure, but it does a good job nonetheless. The cutscenes between levels throughout the game where Sonic and Tails try to translate their communication with a Wisp named Yacker are enjoyable and silly bordering on cringe in some instances, but they are undeniably charming and aid Sonic Colours in feeling like a Saturday morning cartoon. The same can be said for the scenes with Eggman’s minions Cubot and Orbot, who debuted in Sonic Colours originally. The side story playing out in their cutscenes about Cubot having lost his voice chip are childish, but it feels fitting for a narrative that doesn’t want to be taken too seriously. While I did roll my eyes at a few jokes that don’t quite land as well on a dejected university student as they likely would on a young child, Sonic Colours: Ultimate does offer up a silly yet solid plot.
As you’d expect from a remaster nowadays, Sonic Colours: Ultimate reaps the benefits of improved graphics and lighting, alongside a tasty boost in resolution and framerate (mileage varies by platform) that sees the game appear much more visually appealing than it did in its standard 480p resolution and 30fps frame rate back in the heyday of the Wii. The PS4 version of the game that I played on PS5 via backwards compatibility performs the same as it does on the PS4 Pro, running at a solid 60fps at 1440p. It looks great and performs well without any noticeable hiccups regarding frame rate.
While the visuals of Sonic Colours: Ultimate have been given a makeover, the cutscenes appear as they did back on the Wii. They are technically AI upscaled, but the effect of the upscale feels minor to say the least. It feels counterintuitive to upgrade basically all facets of the game except the aspects that pertain to the telling of the narrative, but I digress. They stick out like a sore thumb, but they are at least still enjoyable.
Also enjoyable is the Sonic Colours Ultimate soundtrack, which has seen the majority of the game’s tracks remixed alongside some new tracks that feature in the new “Rivals Rush” mode. While some Sonic Colours OST purists may be upset at the thought of their beloved “Planet Wisp – Act 1” being lost in the annals of Sonic soundtrack history, I’m delighted to inform you that the original tracks are in fact still present. The first three acts of a world play the remixed tracks (except for Planet Wisp which appear to have their remixes hidden by the paywall of the Digital Deluxe Edition…), while the remixed tracks appear in the latter three acts. The soundtrack is fantastic overall, but I do wish that some tracks weren’t locked behind paid downloadable content.
Sonic Colours gameplay makes use of the boost gameplay formula that has been a staple of the mainline 3D Sonic games since Sonic Unleashed. Sonic is equipped with a boost gauge that can be fuelled by actions such as collecting wisps or destroying enemies, which in turn allows him to not only blast away at a far higher speed, but also destroy most enemies in his way with his speed alone. It’s an ability that doesn’t get used as much as it does in later titles such as Sonic Generations for example, but it’s still extremely satisfying to use and makes Sonic feel as awesomely fast as he’s made out to be.
Levels switch between 2D and 3D segments with your aim as Sonic to reach the end of each level with as high a score as you can muster. Sonic games have always been about going fast, and the boost mechanics in place make it extremely fun to fly through levels at a blistering speed, but Sonic Colours requires more than just rolling around the speed of the sound in order to get the most out of the experience. You can boost your way through a level in a stylish fashion ignoring collectibles and be rewarded with a C or B rank for your troubles which is totally fine, but accruing a high score by collecting gold rings, red star rings and making use of wisp abilities is the key to not only unlocking better ranks, but also more content, as Red Star Rings are required to unlock multiple optional modes throughout the game.
There are also new customisation options that can be unlocked by collecting and spending park tokens, a currency that can be found throughout levels. These tokens can be used to customise the look of Sonic to your liking, with different coloured shoes and gloves and boost animations just an example of what’s on offer. The purchases are only cosmetic and do nothing other than allow you to personalise the blue blur to your liking, but I found myself embracing the ability to deck Sonic in a sweet looking pair of purple shoes and gloves.
Coming back to what I said earlier about younger me declaring that the gameplay elements that the wisps provide is gimmicky. I honestly can’t help but agree with my original sentiment. Where I diverge from my past self is the fact that I appreciate them this time around for the role they play in providing a bit more gameplay variance in a formula that is often a case of spamming the boost button as a means of progression through each level. Whether it be the drill wisp that allows you to dig into the depths of a level to mess about with alternate paths, or the purple wisp that turns Sonic into a hungry shadow beast that can eat anything in its path, they all succeed at providing a moment of difference in the gameplay. As you progress throughout the game and find new wisps along the way, they will go back and inhabit previous levels, aiding both the replayability of levels but also your ability to collect certain collectibles like the sought after Red Star Rings. Platforming overall is solid but can get clunky in some moments, and the boost while fun in straight open areas can be frustrating in others and lead to deaths that feel cheap.
Completing each core world in Sonic Colours: Ultimate is required to move along the plot and reach the final world, there are few optional gameplay modes to have a tinker with as well. Located on the menu is the Game Land world, home to the Sonic Simulator that allows you to play as a Virtual Hedgehog in a range of short and sweet levels, on your lonesome, or even with a friend. There are seven worlds in total, each with three acts. Completion of a world grants you a chaos emerald, with the ability to unlock Super Sonic on offer for those willing to collect all the Red Star Rings required to unlock all levels in the Sonic Simulator.
The Egg Shuttle can also be located from the menu, with the mode allowing you to play through each level, one after another in an attempt to beat your score. It’s a mode I played for a couple of minutes before giving up on because it didn’t really provide any sort of incentive to play through it. The last piece of optional content are the new Rivals Rush levels that see you go head-to-head in races against Metal Sonic. Having Metal Sonic as someone to race against is a perfect excuse to go through a level all guns blazing, lending itself nicely to Sonic’s “Gotta go fast” motif. Because the mode is newly added into Sonic Colours: Ultimate, it does feel a little bit out of place and doesn’t offer much as there is only one Rival Rush level in each world. The optional gameplay modes of Sonic Colours: Ultimate aren’t particularly ground-breaking or necessary, but they are solid enough and do provide more content for those that are interested.
Sonic Colours: Ultimate is a game I find myself enjoying far more than I did a decade ago, but at the same time, I’m also more aware than ever of its shortcomings. The boost formula style of gameplay that Sonic games have lovingly held onto for the last decade is still fun and frenetic, yet at the same time its fragility often shows, leading to moments of frustrating and imprecise platforming. The Wisp power-ups serve nicely to break up the otherwise frantic crash and bash nature of modern Sonic games, and additional game modes such as the Sonic Simulator do a great job of providing players with a worthwhile reason to keep playing. With solid gameplay, an enjoyable albeit childish narrative, and a killer soundtrack, Sonic Colours: Ultimate serves nicely as a game for those who love the iconic hedgehog or platformers in general. Just don’t expect it to blow you away.
Written by: @GrumpyGoron