It’s kind of funny to think that at the beginning of the 2010s, Sonic Team started the decade off with the release of Sonic Colours on the Nintendo Wii, a colourful (pun entirely intended) and excellently crafted platformer that was loved by all. Now in the 2020s, Sonic Team are starting this decade off with Sonic Colours again, but this time remastered, under the title of Sonic Colours Ultimate.
Considering this year marks Sonic the Hedgehog’s 30th Anniversary (where does the time go!?), Sonic Colours is one of the most beloved entries in the series, and it seems fitting to not only revisit this classic but share the adventure with today’s generation of fans. With updated visuals and extras to boot, I really loved the experience of this game getting the remastered treatment.
The general lowdown of Sonic Colours’ story is very simple: Dr. Eggman, Sonic’s arch nemesis, has created an interstellar amusement park, to offer his ‘remorse’ for his past actions and as a gesture of proving he is no longer the evil doctor he was once before. Of course, Sonic and his trusty sidekick Tails decide to check out the amusement park and discover that it is home to a race of various cute little aliens called ‘Wisps’, that all have different and special powers. Unfortunately, Sonic and Tails discover Eggman is up to his usual tricks, as the amusement park is really just to enslave and steal the powers of the Wisps, to overtake and conquer.
A lot of things work well with Sonic Colours. For starters, the story is very simple and easy to navigate through. Consisting of only just Sonic, Tails, Dr. Eggman and the introduction of the Wisps (who have since become a staple of the Sonic series), it’s your standard ‘hero versus evil’ platformer, which doesn’t involve twists, turns or multiple villains lurking in the shadows to only rock up towards the climax of the game, something that previous Sonic games started to do beforehand when entering the 3D era. Sonic Colours Ultimate shows off Sonic and Dr. Eggman’s disdain for each other and why they’ve been at it for years. A very simplistic story, but when done right, simplicity can be better than complexity.
Gameplay wise, Sonic Colours Ultimate plays fantastically. Sonic (the only playable character in the game) can run, jump, double jump, stomp and do his traditional homing attack on enemies here, shifting and changing from 3D to 2.5D to 2D perspective platforming, while also continuing the ‘boost’ mechanic introduced in the series several years earlier. Depending on if Sonic has any boost in his boost meter, you can run very fast and knock enemies out of your way by boosting at high speeds and honestly, it feels amazing to do so. But the real crux of gameplay here lies within the Wisps.
Sonic can absorb various Wisps, only one at a time, to use their special powerup to progress through stages and there are several. For example, one powerup turns Sonic into a cyan laser and allows you to ricochet off walls and enemies to knock out of your pathway. Another allows Sonic to turn into a spiky pink ball that clings to any surface, and there’s even one that enables you to turn into a drill to go underground, allowing you to access secret and hidden pathways that may be below.
These Wisps are the gimmick to the game, but they work so well. Using these powerups can allow you to discover different pathways, find hidden red rings (the game’s collectable item that are scattered all throughout each Act in every Zone, with 5 hidden in every Act) and extra rings to boost your score for the end level ranking. It’s incredibly fun and feels great to use all Wisps to navigate through various Acts across multiple Zones in the game.
While Sonic Colours Ultimate may be a remaster of the original game, Ultimate takes things a step further with adding a brand-new wisp that was not present in the original Nintendo Wii game, The Jade Ghost Wisp. Originally introduced in Sonic Team’s 2019 entry Team Sonic Racing, the Jade Ghost Wisp allows you to, as the name implies, turn into a ghost and bypass walls to access areas not normally accessible. It’s a cool wisp that I really loved, and to make sure the Wisp didn’t feel added on for no real reason, certain collectable red rings’ locations have been adjusted and tweaked from the original Wii version to be hidden in areas to accommodate the Jade Ghost Wisp’s inclusivity as a powerup. I really liked this, as it made the game feel fresh and new by having to actively seek out these red rings in new areas. It’s nice to see a minor change like this made to ensure Sonic Colours Ultimate doesn’t just feel like a rehash and nothing else.
But what else does Sonic Colours Ultimate offer that the original game did not?
For starters, the PS4 version of Ultimate runs at a lovely 60FPS and 4K resolution. Gone are the days where the game originally only offered 30FPS and 480p resolution. Honestly, this is the way Sonic Colours was meant to be played. The game is more vibrant, colourful (more so than before) and is visually stunning. Certain textures look much more detailed, such as the brick layout of the footpaths looking more realistic, and background carnival rides in Tropical Resort looking clearer and not so blurry. Even the model of Sonic himself looks so much better! In the original game, Sonic’s eyes had a weird white ‘dirty’ glow to them that I always found off-putting. In Ultimate, I personally believe he looks a lot more ‘cleaner’ and overall nicer to look at with a better shade of blue, red shoes and white eyes.
In saying this, unfortunately, this was not present in the in-game cutscenes, with these simply being upscaled instead of redone from the ground up like the gameplay graphics are, and it’s clear you can tell it’s a remaster with the very Nintendo Wii looking cutscenes that don’t use Sonic’s updated Ultimate model. There’s a glaring difference and I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed.
Despite looking quite the part gameplay-wise, I did encounter some weird pop-in texture issues with certain breakable blocks or ships that appear whenever I was running across 2D sections of the game. While it may not appear to the casual player at first, anyone with a keen eye will spot this and it will be a little distracting and annoying after once you see. Considering this was never an issue in the original game, it’s weird.
Sonic Colours Ultimate also offers new collectable content in the game, known as Park Tokens. These tokens can be found in many places throughout every level and are used to unlock cosmetics to change Sonic’s appearance such as his gloves, shoes and even the colour of his aura when boosting! I honestly love this feature and adds so much replayability. It’s not a compulsory feature, however. So, if this is not your thing, you don’t have to do anything with it, but for me, I found it so cool to change Sonic’s entire look. For example, when you can make him appear like he is on fire when he runs at full speed.
If that’s not enough, Metal Sonic makes a return in Ultimate, and he’s here to race! Adding on to the new features not present in the original game, you can race against Metal Sonic to the finish line in one chosen act of each Zone you can travel to. Beating Metal Sonic gives you Park Tokens, which allows for more cosmetic unlockables.
I thoroughly adored this new addition and also found it surprisingly tough to win all races. You really need to know your way around the level to reach the end, so you don’t lose. Metal Sonic is no pushover. Each race gives you an indication of who is in front with a sidebar map, so you know who is winning and losing. A very welcome addition in my eyes, with a banging track to boot to get you pumped.
Speaking of tracks, Sonic Colours Ultimate has an entirely redone soundtrack that impresses, mostly. While the redone Aquarium Park and Asteroid Coaster tracks all sound fantastic and on par with the original tunes, some sound a little flat and missing that attitude of spunk that the original offered, such as, Sweet Mountain. Luckily, the game plays both new and old tracks of each level as you go through the 6 levels of each Act, so you feel as if you are getting the best of both worlds musically, which I felt was very clever.
I haven’t even mentioned the Tails save feature exclusive to the Ultimate version! While collectable lives are still a thing in this game, as per the standard with platformers, they are now in the form of an icon of Tails’ face. The actual change made here is that if you happen to fall to your death, Tails will now save you and bring you back to a platform, with all your rings and score intact, and with brief invincibility for a few seconds.
While some may find this makes the game ‘too easy’ and with no option to turn this off, it didn’t bother me at all. In fact, one of my annoyances with the original game back in 2010 was how Colours’ difficulty spike would go up so randomly at certain parts of the game, and a cheap death would occur. Here, Tails can save you and ensure you don’t lose your rings and score to achieve that S rank if you happen to be on a winning streak. It’s a neat feature, and I didn’t mind it one bit.
Although, Sonic Colours Ultimate looks the part, there were some unfortunate technical mishaps along the way. Certain musical cues would not play. There would either just be a few seconds of dead awkward silence, such as loading up a race against Metal Sonic, or some Wisp powerup themes that would not play, leaving you only to hear the sound effects as actions are made in game, and the normal stage music will only return once the Wisp powerup runs out. Even the stage clear music theme would sometimes not play when your score is being tallied up after you finish a level, and Sonic simply stands there in silence.
While these were minor and weren’t excruciatingly awful, I did encounter two crashes in my playthrough that were more concerning. During a race against Metal Sonic, the game froze, and another time I completed a level, only once, I continued to the map screen right after and the game crashed, booting me out of the game back to the Playstation home screen.
I feel a little conflicted because while these were the only main issues of concern I had during my playthrough, all these bugs are still unfortunate and should not be in the game at all, especially considering that the Nintendo Wii version did not have any of these issues. Again, it’s not really acceptable that these exist in a port to a console that is much more powerful than the Wii ever was, but this was as bad as it got for me. It’s nothing to really go insane and declare the game is borderline unplayable over (I hate to beat a dead horse, but this isn’t Sonic 06 territory, and we know the history behind that unfortunate trainwreck).
I am positive that a patch will be implemented in the not too distant future to fix these issues, but to me, this also says more about the state of video games of today and the idea that developers are willing to pump out games that may not be truly finished, only to release patches to fix everything, days or weeks after release. We really shouldn’t accept this, but I digress, this is a topic for another time.
If you’re willing to look over the potential occasional crash you may experience and the missing audio musical cues from time to time, Sonic Colours Ultimate is a gorgeous, lush and fun time with new additional content that I adored. Perfect for newcomers who may have missed the original game due to it being a Nintendo exclusive past, Sonic Colours Ultimate is the best way to witness Sonic Colours.
Sonic Colours Ultimate is now available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PC. A PlayStation 4 review copy was provided for review purposes.