I usually don’t get access to games early most of the time because 1) I’m currently doing this as a hobbyist type deal and 2) I don’t feel comfortable covering games in Early Access unless I like the game in question for the obvious reason of “it isn’t finished yet”. So imagine my surprise that when Sonic Colours Ultimate, the re-release of Sonic Colours on current generation systems and PC via the Epic Games Store was having an early access period of four days for those who pre-purchased the Digital Deluxe edition. I spent the weekend and some of this week playing through it because It’s one of the big games I wanted to cover this month since it’s one of the few 3D Sonic games I haven’t played and it was super short. The Stars aligned for me truly, but don’t expect it often. The basic verdict is that as a remaster, it’s kind of not ready for primetime (and we’ll get to that in a second, trust me), but it’s nothing a bit of patching can’t salvage because there’s a good Sonic game in there.
Let’s just rip the band-aid off: Hold off on getting it at this point. I played the game on PC through the Epic Games Launcher and had numerous bugs relating to textures not loading in on stages and backgrounds to the sound cutting out. Nothing game-breaking, but annoying. I strongly advise holding off on the Switch version at the time of writing because the visual glitches are so bad that they can induce seizures. Sega is at least aware of these issues, so fingers crossed these get settled because I like this game a lot.
Now that I got that out of the way, now for the gushing:
I gotta immediately talk about this game from an audio-visual standpoint. The entire underlying theme is that Eggman is making an interstellar theme park and that allows the game’s artists and composers to go absolutely ham on the aesthetics and themes. You have a planet made out of some of the best-looking junk food in video games, an underwater shogun’s palace, a roller coaster that’s housed inside of an asteroid field, the Wisp’s homeworld divided between the planet’s natural beauty and Eggman’s robots carving up and polluting it for resources, and my personal favorite: a series of starships connected by hard light bridges continuously going in and out of warp speed. It’s quite possibly the strongest, most cohesive set of levels I think I’ve ever seen in a Sonic game and I adore it. Starlight Carnival Act 1 is now officially my third favorite level in a Sonic game ever behind both versions of Studiopolis in Sonic Mania and the daytime version of Rooftop Run in Sonic Unleashed at the #2 and #1 respectively.
The game also had a remastered soundtrack, that while not as good as the original version in my ears, is still pretty banging on its own merits; seriously, name a more iconic duo than Sonic the Hedgehog games and banger soundtracks. They have the first three levels show off the remixed tracks and the other three levels in a world to have the original tracks and it’s a nice blend of old and new. There was stated to be a toggle for just the remixes or just the OG tracks, but I never found that option in the menus during the early access period.
There’s also a story in Sonic Colours about the Interstellar Theme Park Eggman is building and using the indigenous life of these planets, known as Wisps, as fuel for the parks. Which by Eggman Standards is pretty fucked up. Aside from that, it’s mostly a backdrop for the game’s setting. I will say this though: Sonic Colours has a significantly more self-aware sense of humor this time around since it marked the beginning of a new localization team and voice cast, the sole exception being Mike Pollock staying on to voice Dr. Eggman. This is a wise choice because Mike Pollock as Dr. Eggman is rad. He even does a series of park PSAs they escalate in ridiculousness, my favorite being one about a white sedan being broken into, only to discover that it’s his car being broken into. It also gives us Roger Craig Smith in his first role as Sonic and it’s a decent reminder of why he was cast to begin with. His performance, combined with the more witty writing gives Sonic the most personality he’s ever had up until that point. Hell, you can even make a realistic argument for Sonic Colours serving as a first step towards the wonderful absurdity that is the Sonic Boom animated series.
Now to talk about Sonic Colours Ultimate as a game that you play. There are 6 areas overall, the four I mentioned earlier, the starting area, which is a tacky resort, and a final area I won’t spoil. There are 45 levels between all of these areas and it took me roughly ten hours to beat according to the Epic Launcher, but that’s not taking collecting all 180 red rings and getting all the Chaos Emeralds for Super Sonic, so it’ll take a bit of extra time for file cleanup if your into that sort of thing.
Mechanically it serves as the in-between of Sonic Unleashed, the pioneer of the more speed-oriented 3D Sonic game, and Sonic Generations, the perfect blend of 2D and 3D design philosophies. Sonic Colours is mostly in 2.5D (a visual perception technique that makes 3D look like 2D), with the first act of a level feeling like a modern Sonic level and the subsequent 5 acts being much shorter and feeling more platform-oriented. I’m not opposed to this, but I just prefer the blistering speeds and tests of reflex that Unleashed and Generations offered. And then there are the Wisps themselves, who serve as power-ups. They are introduced as Laser, Drill, Spike, Rocket, Hover, Cube, Ghost, and Frenzy. Each all serves a function for getting through the levels and can even open alternate paths, which is a damn good incentive to replay levels. I will say though, Laser, Drill, and Spike are my favorites because they keep the momentum on “Gotta Go Fast”. I usually don’t like power-ups in my Sonic games, but I’ll allow the wisps for now. Mostly Because they lead to the most Kamen Rider finish to a final boss I’ve ever seen in a Sonic game and I love it.
Sonic Colours Ultimate is a game that I highly recommend…after a few patches first. It’s a good game that is hampered by a lot of technical issues, but the good stuff is damn good. Give the game a look after it’s got some patches applied. Especially if you need a breather from some of the bigger games out this season.