Since it's not a whole lot more than an airbrushed version of the Wii release, Sonic Colours is a faithful as a remaster gets, and that's a good thing, because its original DNA is fantastic.
- Presentation (levels)
To call the history of 3D Sonic games checkered would be a massive understatement. Like most platforming legends, the Blue Blur had some growing pains in the early days of his evolution into the third dimension, and has had some infamously bad titles since then. If you’ve never set eyes on 2006’s Sonic the Hedgehog (often dubbed Sonic ’06) count yourself lucky.
When Colours was released for the Nintendo Wii back in 2010, it marked a turning point for modern 3D Sonic games, throwing out the nonsense and cutting to the quick of what makes a Sonic game great: speed. Ultimate retains everything that made the initial release great (and a few of its hiccups) and throws in a few additions and a gorgeous graphical overhaul to breathe new life into an already vivacious game.
Right off the bat, this is a remaster in its purest sense. Barring a few new modes and cosmetic items that I’ll come to later, the only major difference between this version of Colours and the original are the graphics, which is absolutely fine because good-guy-Sega isn’t selling it as a full-price game. Oher devs considering remasters, please take notes.
Now, Colours was a gorgeous game by just about anyone’s standards originally, especially for something that released on the Wii, so all Blind Squirrel (the studio behind the remaster) had to do was throw in some bloom, a little anti-aliasing, a couple more polygons onto the character models, and boom! Visual masterpiece.
The colours are wildly vivid, as they should be, and the levels themselves are some of the most creatively designed in Sonic history, especially when they’re running at a smooth 60fps. Each one has a distinct look and feel, tied into offering different ways to approach levels, which is great for keeping things fresh in the late game. What’s doubly impressive is that if you’re taking levels on at Mach speed, you really only get to watch the backgrounds blur around you for a few seconds as you zip past, and they still look stunning.
What’s the story?
As with a lot of Sonic games that don’t take themselves too seriously, the story serves more as an excuse for gameplay to happen, a reason for Sonic to be dashing through increasingly colourful and convoluted levels. Which is totally fine. That’s all it needs to be after all.
Eggman has built a giant amusement park in Earth’s orbit, featuring giant rollercoasters, a tropical carnival and an entire mountain dedicated to sugary foods. The Doc announces to Earth that he’s through with his evil ways, and that this park is totally free to visit and is an atonement for his villainous past. A likely story. Sonic, smelling trouble, grabs Tails and heads spaceward to investigate.
Turns out he was right, and Eggman’s cooking up a plot that hinges on the Wisps, aliens he’s captured and is using to power some device hidden within the park. Sonic’s job, naturally, is to free the wisps, stop Eggman and toss out as many corny one-liners as he can while he does it.
No, it’s not Citizen Kane. But it’s totally serviceable for a Sonic game, with cutscenes thrown in every few levels so that you get some time to catch your breath. The dialogue is at best mildly clever and at worst groan-inducing, but if you’re a fan of the Blue Blur you’ve probably come to love his corny jokes and too-cool-to-care attitude. If you’re not, the gameplay is great, I swear.
My one criticism here is that the story cutscenes haven’t received the same airbrushing as the levels, and barring some framerate upgrades thanks to the modern hardware they’re running on, they’re pretty much exactly the same as they were on the Wii. Bottom line: they look bad, and this is made even more obvious when they’re juxtaposed by the gorgeous levels. That said, they’re few and far between, and also relatively short, so they don’t overstay their welcome.
Gotta go fast, again
In terms of the boost-Sonic formula, Colours ran so Generations could run even faster. You could argue that we really have Unleashed to thank for boost-Sonic but the less said about that game the better.
In a nutshell, your goal is to race from one end of a gorgeously crafted level to the other as fast as possible. Simple as that. Levels are designed with branching paths and secret shortcuts that reward multiple runs, and their always a way to improve your score. The soundtrack remains as amazing as it was originally, barring some less-than-stellar remixes.
For the most part, Sonic controls really well, with well-timed boosts and homing dashes endlessly satisfying to pull off. When things become a bit more platform-y than speed-running it gets a bit floaty. Sonic seems a bit too slippery and inconsistent with his acceleration for some of the more challenging platforming, but that’s a fairly rare issue.
The real standouts here are the wisps. They introduce new and interesting ways to play. For example, the Laser wisp lets you zip through enemies at light speed, and the Spike wisp lets you spin-dash up walls. For the most part, they’re great, offering dynamic ways to tackle levels and uncover secrets and items. The only downside is that they’re drip-fed to you through the whole game, so you only get the full colour wheel by the end of it. That may be fine for replay value, but it’s a little frustrating to see a locked power-up on your first run and know you’re only going to be able to use it if you come back later.
Barring the finale, the bosses are nothing to write home about either, and they’re often reused in some way or another which is a little frustrating.
New additions include some minor cosmetics you can dress Sonic up with, and a Rival Rush mode, which pits you against Metal Sonic in a race to the finish. It’s great as an additional challenge, but I wish it was available for more than six levels.
Sonic Colours Ultimate Verdict
Since it’s not a whole lot more than an airbrushed version of the Wii release, Sonic Colours is a faithful as a remaster gets, and that’s a good thing, because its original DNA is fantastic. Levels are endlessly creative and offer a plethora of ways to be conquered, and high-tailing it down an enemy-filled corridor with the Blue Blur feels just as satisfying now as it did eleven years ago. It was one of the best modern Sonic games then, and it’s one of the best modern Sonic games now.
- Sonic Colours Ultimate was reviewed on a PlayStation 4
- Review code provided by Gamefinity