I need to preface this review by saying how I've always been a fan of Sonic Adventure 2. Playing the game as a sweet summer child, the numerous imperfections didn't prevent me from enjoying it for hours on end. The story grabbed me. The multiplayer kept me and my friends playing long into the night. Then there was the Chao Garden that captivated me like a 3D Pokémon game.
All of this is to say, I can appreciate a 3D Sonic game. Now, I didn't play Sonic Colors back when it was released on the Nintendo Wii in 2010, so I was determined to check it out on its second time around. My inner child was wide-eyed with optimism at what many believed to be a solid instalment in the franchise getting a welcome new lease of life. Unfortunately, no sense of childish naivety could save me from Sonic Colors: Ultimate.
Watch the trailer for Sonic Colors: Ultimate below...
Look, Sonic Colors: Ultimate is not a bad game. As a 3D Sonic title, it does a decent job of expanding on the formula of getting the Blue Blur from A to B. You can take the fastest possible route, in true Hedgehog fashion, or you can slow down and explore alternate routes. Most levels offer branching paths and collectable items, giving adequate reasons to replay them, so long as you enjoyed your first run.
Whether or not you vibe with Sonic Colors: Ultimate comes down to how you find the transition from 2D to 3D. As a 2D series, Sonic the Hedgehog enjoyed huge success because of the simplicity of form the medium offered. When the Z-axis was added to the franchise, things took an unwelcome turn for the worst.
The extra dimension meant more directions to move in, and this overcomplicates the simple 'race to the finish' structure of a Sonic game. You could now be just a few degrees off, meaning you miss that platform you want, or overshoot a turn. This flawed gameplay is nothing new for the series, and is clearly present in Sonic Colors: Ultimate, which means many fans won't enjoy this game. If you've any doubt those fans still exist, just look at the success of Sonic Mania, a game that fully embraces the 2D days.
Despite this fundamental flaw, Sonic Colors: Ultimate does a good job of being a 3D instalment. This is predominantly due to the vibrant, stimulating levels. While the gameplay never feels more than fine, the aesthetic designs are lush. It's a great boon for the title, especially as most levels encourage you to slow down and explore other routes, letting you fully appreciate the environments.
As well as the fun in-game world, there's a genuine satisfaction to some of the abilities Sonic can utilise. These different powers are found throughout levels, and can grant skills like floating through levels, or turning blocks into rings, and even dashing at whiplash-inducing speeds. When used appropriately, they add a positive depth to the gameplay. There's also a two-player mode in Sonic Colors: Ultimate, although I wasn't able to test this during my review play.
Overall, Sonic Colors: Ultimate is a good game by the low standards of 3D Sonic titles. The levels are pretty and offer optional routes. The gameplay is functional but not without flaws, yet somehow still enjoyable. Despite issues, I've enjoyed my time with the game, but I doubt I'll be playing it again soon.
Pros: Pretty and expansive levels, fun abilities, potentially replayable
Cons: Flawed by 3D design, doesn't compete with 2D Sonic games
For fans of: Sonic Adventure games, Crash Bandicoot series, 3D Super Mario games
Sonic Colors: Ultimate is released on September 7, 2021 for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox consoles and Nintendo Switch. Game tested on PlayStation 4 with code provided by the publisher. Find a guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.
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