Sonic Colors: Ultimate Review — I Guess You Go Fast
To say Sonic the Hedgehog has had his ups and downs over the past 30 years would be a massive understatement. It would gloss over just how deep the lows and towering the highs have been through the lifetime of the series.
Sonic Colors is considered one of the better Sonic games since its release on the Wii in 2010. It received much critical acclaim at the time and has remained a touchstone in the Blue Blur's repertoire within the fan community.
Sonic Colors was released at a time that the series was at its worst. Sonic and the Black Knight and Sonic and the Secret Rings on the Wii are far from palatable. The generation started with the disastrous Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), which is still truly one of the most broken games to come from a big publisher in the past 20 years. The handheld titles at that time were great, while the home console titles have been forgotten for good reason.
Unfortunately, Sonic Colors Ultimate is another one to add to the pile.
Sonic Colors: Ultimate Review — I Guess You Go Fast
I looked forward to Sonic Colors: Ultimate with optimism. I'm a huge fan and will give any Sonic game a fair chance regardless of its reputation; I'm one of those people that will argue there's some fun to be found in Sonic 06's dedicated stages even if you have to sell your soul to get around its jank. There's some fun in there, I swear! At least in Chaos City.
With that in mind, I did not enjoy my initial hours with Sonic Colors: Ultimate. Having missed the game when it came out and going into Sonic Unleashed just a year later instead, I don't have any particular nostalgia for this title.
That lack of rosy reminiscence may be why I absolutely hated the second and third areas that unlock in Colors, Sweet Mountain and Starlight Carnival, the first time around. Aside from some odd-off acts in these areas where you actually get to go fast for a notable amount of time, the game's platforming is slow, clunky, and thoroughly unenjoyable.
Though I may not have had "fun" in those moments, the more I played, the more I enjoyed Colors as a whole, and the more I became determined to collect every Red Star Ring despite the game's screeching and undeniable faults.
Sonic Colors forces you to suffer through the first half of the game without every Wisp, the primary gimmick in this entry to the series. You pick up a Wisp, you can use its ability for a short time.
There are nine Wisps in Ultimate, one over the original release to allow for even more varied routes, and each one has its own ability. Yellow turns Sonic into a drill to dig through terrain, cyan turns him into a laser, blue functions a bit like the P-Block in Mario.
The wisps open up new routes and even pave the way for Red Star Rings, but I often found myself wishing they weren't a mechanic at all. They regularly feel cumbersome and break up the momentum in the "bad" way — with the exceptions mostly falling to the drill, spike, and laser Wisps. The frenzied purple Wisp is cool but unnecessary. I'd rather run and platform than stop for a quarter second each time it noms something.
The uneven nature of the Wisps is mirrored in the game's acts, which, in Sonic Colors: Ultimate, vary so much in length that it feels like a waste of a load time. Heck, actually completing some acts quickly takes less time than it takes to load in and out of them.
The difficulty and controls are also all over the place. Completing most acts is easy, but some are made so slow by design, with some "help" from the game's floating controls, that they just aren't fun. You can come back to them later with more Wisps unlocked for shortcuts, but it's frustrating that so many acts can be so utterly devoid of actual entertainment value.
I can say all these negative things, but I'm still compelled to 100% the game. Maybe it's masochism or maybe it's Maybelline, but whatever the reason, I refuse to drop Sonic Colors: Ultimate before getting every Red Star Ring, completing Eggman's Sonic Simulator in full, and just eating every bit of content here for breakfast.
That all might sound good, but I have no intention of returning to Sonic Colors: Ultimate once everything is said and done. While there is fun to be had here, there's nothing that truly stands out. The acts that are actually fast and fun are buried by acts that.. well, aren't fast and fun. The music does not stand out by any measure, and each of the seven areas are as forgettable as the last.
I'll come back to any Sonic game that has at least a couple stages I really enjoy, just for the thrill of going fast. It feels odd to say that I won't be doing so with Sonic Colors: Ultimate.
This is a game that is indicative of its time, an era where Sonic games were many but of such stunningly low quality that even something mediocre could seem great.
Sonic Colors: Ultimate Review — The Bottom Line
- The upgraded visuals look fantastic
- Plenty of content for completionists
- Varied routes in most acts thanks to the Wisps
- Rival Rush mode is pretty fun
- The new customization options are novel
- Too much slow platforming for a Sonic game
- Two sets of reused bosses
- Immemorable acts and music
- You never really get to go fast while feeling like you're in full control
Let's not pretend we don't know what the Sonic the Hedgehog series is like, nor what fans play them for — to go fast. You do not go fast often enough in Sonic Colors, nor here in Ultimate. Even with practice, there are not enough uninterrupted points of extreme speed.
One could argue you don't go fast all that much in Sonic Unleashed, either. Or Sonic Adventure or Adventure 2. Or Sonic Boom. Or... Well, you see what I'm saying. There's always that balance between arduous and speedy gameplay that somehow just keeps bringing players back to go faster until they reach their personal peak.
The instances where I personally feel inclined to do this in Sonic Colors: Ultimate are so far and few between. It's fun, but it's not the sort of fun that brings me back to this series far too much for someone my age.
[Note: Sega provided the copy of Sonic Colors: Ultimate used for this review.]