Sonic Colours: Ultimate Review

Despite my penchant for Sonic titles, the Wii-era ones mostly slipped me by.  Sonic and the Secret Rings was decent, if different, but the likes of  Lost World, Black Knight, and Colours for some reason never entered my orbit. Thankfully, that can at least be partially rectified by Sonic Colours: Ultimate – a nicely up-spuffed version for our modern consoles. After spending the last few nights with it, I can finally see what all the fuss was about, and feel it stands among at least the 3D Sonic games as one of the best.

Now, you know what to expect going in; high-octane action at breakneck speeds, with all manner of rollercoaster-type set pieces and level layouts, interspersed with the occasional awkwardly slow platform section and bugs that cause our favourite blue blur to fall off the map. Colours handles these last two points better than most though, with very few instances of either. Later levels definitely have a few too many slower sections, but even then they are kept fairly brief, while the bugs were also pretty rare. Only a handful of times did Sonic plummet to his death out of my control.

Those rollercoaster, high speed segments more than make up for any of the above mind. Ever since Speed Highway in Sonic Adventure I’ve loved this aspect of the 3D Sonic games, and Colours brings some of the best examples to the series. Almost every other level has at least a stretch where Sonic is pelting along, occasionally looping up, over, and under before flying off to an unseen area to carry on. Sure, the age old complaint of us not really having much in the way of interactivity is still partly true, though here we can mostly move him between three lanes to grab rings, avoid badniks, and find alternate routes. It’s great to watch and play, and these alternate routes often hide the elusive extra Red Rings (five per level) that are needed to unlock extras later on. I’m not one for collectibles mostly, but these Red Rings always get me and I genuinely look forward to going back to find the other 90-or so out of the 180 on offer.

Sonic himself controls very well for the most part, with fairly responsive movement and auto-aim for jump attacks. Again, when things slow down he can feel a little heavy and awkward to use, but these moments are kept brief. The real star of the show here though are the Wisps; a range of alien creatures that bestow Sonic with limited-time abilities. These colourful aliens are used to further explore the levels, beat enemies, and for certain set-piece moments to great effect.

From the orange Rocket-type, to Laser, Cube, Spike, and more, each one serves a different purpose. Learning what best to use is key, but as they only last for a short while  and we can only hold one type at a time, it’s possible to go too early and not use them effectively. Colours does a pretty good job of placing them where they’re needed though. Usually if there’s a pod for a Wisp, there’s something nearby that’ll need it. I was initially unsure just how much they’d add to the game – let’s face it, Sonic doesn’t have the best track record for gimmicks – but they are used really well here, with most of them realty opening up the play space nicely. A couple, such as Spike or Berserk, are a little fiddly to use at times, but I put that down to my need to get used to them more than anything.

On the initial playthrough there will be some areas locked off as we have yet to find the correct Wisp’s in the story. These are clearly noted by a closed pod with a lock symbol, once more encouraging repeat plays as we progress to see about getting those extra Red Rings. Levels are short, most beaten in around 60-90 seconds, so going back to find more routes in rarely a chore.

I’m not sure I can say the same for the bosses. In typical 3D Sonic fashion, they are a mixed bag. Some are easy enough to play, with us chasing them on a narrow track avoiding obstacles before jumping to hit them three times. Others felt a bit more hit and miss, with luck seemingly playing a part in whether I got hit or not. The final boss and the preceding stage were particular pain points for me. The latter was a single run affair, and a single hit without rings forced a full restart. This was probably the most frustrating area of the game, even though the level itself wasn’t overly long it was too easy to be caught out by errant enemy bugs. The final boss had a similar issue but stretched out over a much longer time frame. It also wasn’t the most exciting final fight, so to get to the end only to get hit and have to start all over was annoying.

Luckily, these two moment s represent the exception to the rule. For the most part Sonic Colours is classic  Sonic fun with the added bonus of some neat powers that allow the levels to have that bit more diversity to them. Added to this remaster are six Rival Rush challenges that pit us against Metal Sonic on one stage in each area. I’ve not managed to beat him yet in the few I’ve unlocked (done so with those lovely Red Rings), but I’ll have him one day… There’s also a new Jade Wisp that allows us to float up and move through certain solid objects. In all honesty this was my least favourite one to use, but it’s not without its charms.  There’s also the Sonic Simulator levels to beat in order to unlock Super Sonic, once again further levels locked behind Red Ring collection. There’s a lot of stuff to see and do in Colours even if the main story mode might be only a few hours long.

Of course, I can’t end without shouting out the lovely up-spuffed visuals and audio. With 4K support on Series X, it looks bright and colourful, exactly as it should. The level designs really pop out, and it runs almost flawlessly. There have been some reports of performance and visual bugs that developers Blind Squirrel have pledged to fix, but I saw none of that in my time with the game. The remixed audio is also excellent, with yet another banging soundtrack to go along side Adventure and  Mania as some of the series best. In fact, the only slight on the presentation front is the low quality cut scenes. These seem to be taken from the Wii version with the bare minimum upgrade to them. The audio levels drop massively between them and the game, while there’s artifacting galore. It’s a shame as the actual CG renders are great, but are not represented in the best fashion.

Conclusion

As a lifelong Sonic fan, I’m glad I was finally able to play Colours, and in the best possible fashion thanks to the nice audio/visual upgrade. The core gameplay is great, and the Wisps add far more than I thought they would to proceedings. Some of the classic issue with 3D Sonic games remain, but these are limited in what is otherwise a great time.

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox Series X/S. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
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Good
  • Great upgrade to the visuals and audio
  • Levels are fantastically designed
  • Wisps add a lot to the experience
  • Lots of extra content to get stuck into
Bad
  • Still some classic 3D Sonic issues
  • Some late difficulty spikes threaten to spoil the fun
8.7
Great
Gameplay - 8.5
Graphics - 9
Audio - 9
Longevity - 8.3
Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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