Sonic Colours Ultimate is a bland, colourless slog

Sonic Colours Ultimate is a bland, colourless slog

Hi. I’m Benjamin Wagner, this is the blog and today I… lament. I lament Sonic the Hedgehog.

Sonic the Hedgehog, much like Donald Trump, is a controversial figure. He has a core fanbase that would do anything to protect them, even if it involves tearing down those who dare ever speak out against the one they revere so highly.

No matter how old and jaded I become, Sonic the Hedgehog will always hold a special place in my heart as it was the very first game I remember playing; sat in front of a small CRT TV with my younger brother playing through Sonic Adventure 2 and enjoying it immensely. I’ve played most Sonic games that have ever been released and have been left mixed by almost all of them. Sonic Colours on the Wii was always one I held in reasonably high regard but one I never finished for a reason that I was never really able to remember. Despite this, when the remaster was announced earlier in 2021, I was pretty pumped. Sure, it wasn’t a new Adventure game, or a remake of them, or even a new take on the Generations formula, Colours seemed like a decent way to celebrate the anniversary of the blue blur. How naïve was I? My bold statement, Sonic Colours Ultimate is an upsetting, soulless mess. I will attempt to justify this bold and upsetting claim as I attempt to review, Sonic Colours Ultimate on the PS5.

I don’t have a massive connection with the original release of Sonic Colours. I remember buying it for my youngest brother for Christmas a couple of years after it came out and we played through the first couple of zones together. And that’s about it. There was no real lasting impression but from the game. I had a generally positive impression because what we played were fairly competent Sonic stages but there was nothing to incentivise us to keep playing over the other games we had to choose from. Remember, back then I was still hardcore into FIFA and assorted racing games and much of my childhood and teens were simply wasted playing these games that I oft now ridicule. However, as I said I was excited to play this remake when I saw it announced and resolved myself to play it and enjoy the experience that I had missed out on all those years ago. Unfortunately, this game was a long way away from what I was hoping for and let me down at almost every turn. To demonstrate this, I will introduce the four disappointments I found within Sonic Colours. (Whip disappointment across the screen).

Sonic Colours: Ultimate_20211122154536

Disappointment One: Story is juvenile and pandering
Let’s start off big here. I think the story in Sonic Colours is vapid, juvenile, and incredibly tedious to play through. Just like many modern youths, there is very little substance below the surface of this uninspired and almost colourless narrative. I’m not just going to make these claims without backing them up. No. I’m gonna bitch and whine about it!

Firstly, the premise. Eggman has created an interstellar theme park in space, and it is up to Sonic and Tails to stop him. To power his creation, the good doctor has enslaved an alien race known as the wisps to do his bidding and Sonic attempts to befriend and liberate them along the way. That’s it. The story is basic and easy to understand. One thing to bear in mind is that this game was very much targeted at a younger audience. After the edgy failures that were Sonic 06 and Shadow the Hedgehog, it makes sense that Sonic Team felt the need to cut back the fat and take aim at a new demographic that didn’t have the baggage of the existing fanbase. This makes sense. It’s a shame that this story is as dull as a lecture on the growth of kidney beans. There is no real action with the majority of cutscenes attempting to rely on humour to carry them through. And, to the game’s detriment, the humour is never, ever funny. So, now, in the interactive part of this review, I want you to go to YouTube and look up some cutscene videos from this game. It’s okay. I’ll wait…

Hilarious.

You watch it? Good. Did you laugh? I didn’t. My younger brother didn’t. I think only the most juvenile of minds would be able to derive any sense of enjoyment out of this tedious affair. And you know what’s worse, some of these cutscenes last inordinate lengths of time and completely break the pace of the gameplay. I’d love to stop talking about the story here and move on to something less negative, but I can’t. Because I have more. The story? It has no stakes. You never feel as if Sonic ever has a chance of losing. Even in Saturday Morning cartoons, villains have to be a little bit intimidating. Even the classic cartoon villain Robbie Rotten is more intimidating than this modern interpretation of Sonic’s great rival Dr Robotnik. Instead of posing a threat, he is just a punchline to stupid, repetitive jokes.

I implore you to go and watch some videos on Youtube of these skits to properly show how juvenile and just plain dumb they are. Baldy McNoseHair isn’t funny. It has never been funny and will never be funny.

This story is an outright insult to anybody who is a fan of the 3D iterations of Sonic the Hedgehog and, to anybody who says that story doesn’t matter in a Sonic game, bear in mind, I grew up with the Adventure games and these were the very first video game stories I experienced. They weren’t Tolkein or Tolstoy, but they were fun, enjoyable romps with stakes. And this game utterly fails in this regard. With that, we move on…

Disappointment Two: Graphics aren’t an upgrade and the cutscenes are vile. UI is surprisingly amateurish
Remasters and remakes are often nothing of the sort; with many just being a simple up-resing of the original game instead of a complete remaster. In this regard, Sonic Colours Ultimate does initially gain the upper hand as it has been remade in the Godot engine and well done Sonic, you have beaten your old rival Mario as, compared to the shoddy Mario All-Stars hash in 2020, you done good. However, the quality of this quote-unquote graphical upgrade is… alarming at best. From what I can see, most of the problems stem from the lighting engine making the light areas look blindingly bright and the dark areas just looking a little off. I expect more of a PS4 game played on a PS5 but that could also be me expecting too much of Sega here. Blind Squirrel Games, the team in charge of this remaster, seem to have been involved in multiple high-profile releases including this years Mass Effect Trilogy remaster so I am a little surprised that the overall outcome is so… average. The game certainly looks better than the original game on the Nintendo Wii, but this should be expected. The Wii was a souped-up Nintendo Gamecube in terms of power, and it didn’t support resolutions above 480p. Despite this, in terms of the consistent art design, the Wii game arguably looks better. After looking at comparisons of the two games, the original game was much darker in terms of colours and fidelity, but the newer versions does lead to occasions where the game looks washed out and just a little lame overall. If this was it though, I would be fine and I could ignore it. However, the cutscenes are a massive problem. They. Look. Hideous.
I don’t understand why you would make a game and then half-ass the cutscenes. It just makes the whole product look cheap and like the developers really didn’t care about the product they were making. These cutscenes have been ripped straight out of the Wii original and planted into the remaster and this is pretty heinous. This is not a company with no money or a franchise with no fans. This is one of the most iconic characters of all time and I just don’t get why the effort wasn’t put in to celebrate him. It’s like Sega is simply playing a game with the hearts of Sonic fans worldwide and this, I cannot abide.
Speaking of playing games, that moves us onto…

Disappointment Three: Gameplay is inoffensive but never ascends above meh. Controls are lacklustre.
One thing I expected this game to nail, was the feeling of Sonic but no. This game just feels… off most of the time. First, the good. When Sonic is rushing through a stage in 3D, the game feels good, just as good as it did in Unleashed and Generations and is a really good implementation of the Sonic boost formula. However, this is only a very small portion of the game. I would even go as far to say that the best stage in the game is probably the very first one. Most of the stage is in 3D and the different paths you can take to collect the collectable red rings and park tokens create a really fun experience. The shame is that most of the game struggles to replicate this feeling as instead of doubling down on what makes 3D sonic gameplay fun, the game instead litters the experience with numerous 2D sections which create a gameplay experience that ends up stilted and different from the one that I would choose. It doesn’t help that most of the 2D sections end up in slow, deliberate platforming sections which Sonic’s movement controls simply don’t suit, and it becomes finicky and unfun. I played through a little of Sonic Mania again recently and I could really see the difference between a game fully designed around being a 2D platformer to 3D game with 2D sections peppered in. Sonic Mania is a fun, if sometimes a little frustrating 2D experience where the 2D sections in Sonic Colours Ultimate tend to do nothing more than slow the gameplay to a crawl. The developers obviously got a little bit better at this because Sonic Generations, the game that was created following this one, was much more consistent where the 2D sections are concerned. It is alarming and peculiar that a game that was originally 2D, puts 2D sections into a new game and they are without doubt the worst part of the experience.
Ironically, another area where the game becomes unfun are the areas in which you are put on rails and simply run forward whilst drifting around corners. The drift mechanic seems to be faulty, and I am unable to take corners at any degree of speed and resulting in me falling off of the edge.
Sonic isn’t all about running and jumping though as there is a special gimmick in this game, the wisps. Tying a powerup into the story of the game is good and helps make the world feel immersive and believable. However, many of these powerups are gimmicky and don’t add much to the gameplay. I mean, the drill wisp is pretty handy in aiding exploration in some stages, but others are forgettable and are almost never fun.  
And unfortunately, I continue to drone on here as Sonic not only controls a little iffily, but the level design is also oft uninspired and dull. The 3D sections are usually inoffensive but lack the explorative fun that the Adventure titles offered and are instead more linear romps similar to Sonic Heroes. It’s a little surprising that 2D sonic was known for alternate paths and exploration yet transitioning that exploration into the 3D space continues to pose a challenge to the creators of Sonic games. The aforementioned 2D sections are also not as good as the 2D sections in completely 2D games or the masterpiece that is Sonic Generations. This leads to most levels being forgettable and with no real set pieces to spark your memory.

And I would be doing you all a disservice if I didn’t mention the boss fights. You would think that a game that involves giant robots to fight would be inventive and constantly fun in coming up with new ways to surprise the player but here they are pretty dire. They go from inoffensive and fast, to tedious and slow and the final boss, in particular, is a huge pain in my tuckus. The game took me around 5-6 to beat. The final boss took me just under an hour. That means trial and error, 20% of my experience was dying to the final boss due to unfair patterns and outright boring design. If I were to come back to this game, I would stay way clear of a full re-playthrough and just play through the occasional stage so as to avoid the tedium. This might just be a sign of age as I have recently played through Psychonauts 2,  Crash Bandicoot 4 and A Hat in Time and the bosses in those games are superb. Heck, even Balan Wonderworld had better bosses than Sonic Colours and this is yet another strike against the game.
As a player, I mostly just play through the main experience once and don’t go back to explore levels and attempt to find my own fun. Played like this, Sonic Colours Ultimate is… mediocre. The aforementioned Red Star Rings do add an extra incentive to play through levels again and again to unlock extra content. This extra content neatly leads on to…

Disappointment Four: New Additions add very little
Credit where it’s due, Blind Squirrel Games has added a lot of small touches to this product. It is a shame then that these additions are inoffensive at best and detrimental at worst. Firstly, the game adds a new wisp to the mix; a green ghost that allows you to float through solid walls and aid your exploration through the stages. The problem is you move obnoxiously slow when using this powerup and I never really found it useful; instead opting to use the established wisps instead if I felt I needed to use a powerup. Players who enjoy exploring these levels for secrets may find something to like here but it’s not an addition that gets my motor going.
Another mediocre addition to the game is customisation. I don’t want to dwell on this because skins and costumes in games is one aspect, I couldn’t care any less about if I tried. I want DLC to add content, not a palette swap. However, as it is a game released in 2021, Sonic Colours Ultimate of course has to implement a way to customise the appearance of the iconic blue platforming legend. This might appeal to some but the idea of being able to change the colour of Sonic’s shoes is something I couldn’t care less about if it tried. I’d rather watch paint dry. And I’ve done this before; it isn’t fun!

Possibly the worst roller coaster… in the world

Moving past the mediocre and towards the downright bizarre we have a new mode, Rival Rush. After collecting enough Red Star Rings in a given world, you unlock a challenge race against Metal Sonic. There is no story reason for the character to be here and when attempting to click on this you are given a popup reminiscent of early 2000’s internet advertisement for penis enlargement pills. The lack of effort here is astounding; the JPEG versus menu is hideous; with the colours clashing and the odd silence that accompanies making the situation all the more bizarre. There are not even any voice clips or new sounds to give this addition any sort of weight or worth. It might be excusable if the races themselves were fun but there not! You just rush through the same stages you slogged through previously beating a fairly slow AI opponent. There’s no challenge. The main campaign is hardly Dark Souls, but you would think that an additional challenge mode might deign to up the difficulty a little but, alas, Metal Sonic is a pushover.
The final ‘large’ addition to the game is Tails assist. Sonic’s long time compadre rescues him from a pit whence you fall in one and returns you just before the drop. The fact that Tails isn’t playable and does nothing other than this is disappointing and the mechanic itself is rendered moot by the fact that the original game was already littered with checkpoints in an already easy experience. This is another addition that is nice enough, but it doesn’t add anything to the experience in the slightest and is as redundant as much of the game itself is.
The additions in Sonic Colours Ultimate are like a side of peas. They are very much there, and you can see them, but they don’t add to your meal. You don’t enjoy it more than your steak and you only eat them because they are good for you. It’s an obligation rather than something done out of pleasure. Like talking to your family or cleaning a toilet. And it’s on talk of toilets we move to our final disappointment…

Disappointment Five: Performance, graphical glitches, and load times
Probably the most well-reported and controversial area of this remake is the graphical glitches and performance issues. Luckily, my playthrough on the PS5 was mostly glitch free; far from the horrendous glitch fest that players on the Nintendo Switch have had to suffer through. I did have the occasional frame drop and graphical flare up but this was very occasional and really didn’t impact on my enjoyment factor. One area that did were load times. I find it completely bizarre and frankly unacceptable that this game has almost double the load times that the original Wii version did. Most load screens took between 10-15 seconds and whilst these are hardly game-breaking, they slow the pace down and act as another barrier to enjoying this game alongside the level design, below-par graphics, and tedious narrative.

There we have it. Five disappointments eloquently outlined. Despite these big five disappointments I have skillfully outlined, this game isn’t without fun.  Specifically, there are two areas in which this blue hedgehog simulator… functions well enough to not be a disappointment. I’m not trying to be unnecessarily negative about this game but there really isn’t anywhere in which this game excels.

The amount of content in Sonic Colours Ultimate isn’t lacking. The campaign may be short, but they are replayable and this increases the run time significantly. Alongside this is a mode known as the Sonic Simulator, which allows you to play through new stages in the guise of a simulator created by Eggman as a park attraction. This fits in with the created theme-park aesthetic and does add runtime. I don’t find these levels fun, but they are there, and they will surely find their audience. Collecting everything is an experience that would be fairly lengthy yet is something, due to my problems with the level design and over reliance on 2D areas, I can’t muster the gumption to keep plugging on.

The area in which even the worst Sonic games can bring some points back is the soundtrack and the soundtrack here, is good. Again, I prefer the soundtrack in almost every other 3D game in the series but what is here is good. I prefer the originals to the soundtrack and the remix of the main theme is… bad. Yet I can’t really hold this against the game as the upbeat techno-rock mix does sound good to my uneducated ear and make the experience just that little bit more enjoyable.

The Crux of the Matter

Overall, Sonic Colours Ultimate is a mediocre remake of a distinctly average Sonic game.
And this here is the crux of the matter. Sonic Colours Ultimate fails to live up to the legacy that the iconic mascot has ridden on for the majority of its life. While some fans continue to excuse Sega for their sloppy treatment of this platform favourite, Colours Ultimate is the latest example of a lacklustre product being released and hapless fans, like myself, buying it anyway. I bought Forces on Day One. I bought Sonic Boom on Day One. I bought Lost World on Day One. Continuing to abuse your fanbase like this will eventually bite you in the arse. Sonic Colours Ultimate isn’t the train wreck that Sonic 06 or Boom was, but it is so overwhelmingly average, that any fun the game does provide feels null and void. Like you are under anaesthesia and simply numb from playing through the game. I still like Sonic and I can still find some enjoyment in this experience. I have been overwhelmingly negative for most of this rant and that’s just because I am a fan who wants more. A more fulfilling experience. I could go level to level and identify bits of fun where they pop up, but I don’t see the point as these areas of fun are dissolved and covered by the miasma of mediocrity. And that poetic and flowery statement leads me to, the scoring. I think that this is a mediocre remake of an okay game. I didn’t hate my time with this game, but I wouldn’t call it fun.

A C is probably about right.

Sonic Colours Ultimate is like a ham sandwich. You take it to work and eat it for lunch. You enjoy it for what it is but, deep down, you wish it was something more. This game sustains you; it is nourishing but you don’t particularly enjoy it. Sonic Colours Ultimate, is, just, Barely Fun. So, I give it a score of 5.5/10

Much like the chilli-dog loving spiny mammal, I too must dash off and leave this game in my dust. And eat the aforementioned sandwich. This was my presentation on Sonic Colours Ultimate. I am Benjamin Wagner and I endorse this message.

5.5/10- A game that struggles to bring an oft-thought of hidden gem to 2021 standards, Sonic Colours Ultimate is only barely an average game

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: