Is Sonic Colors: Ultimate a good game or just a good 3D Sonic game?

Is something good just because you’ve convinced yourself it is? This is the question swirling around my mind as I play Sonic Colors: Ultimate (on PS5 for those who care) having last played it in what seems like an entirely different life and world on the Wii.

Is Sonic Colours: Ultimate, a slightly spruced up and tweaked version of the 2010 game, good or do I just have memories of it being good? And were those memories of it being good created due to memories of other Sonic games being good? And which ones were actually good? Was it just the core Mega Drive/Master System series and Sonic CD? Is every thought about a game beyond that a lie?

I’m not entirely sure where I stand on this, to be honest, but I do know that Sonic Colors: Ultimate is a fairly good 3D Sonic game. For me it’s not up there with Generations, but it’s better than Sonic The Hedgehog (2006). That’s not saying much, I know, but I don’t think the last 11 years have been especially kind to how this plays.

There’s a mixture of on-rails and slightly less on-rails but still quite tunnelled 3D sequences and side-on platforming, but whereas Generations had great 2D sections, in Colors I find the camera is a little too close, which makes gameplay a little awkward. The way Sonic grabs onto walls can also cause some unwanted chaos, although I admit that some of that might be slightly down to a lack of skill.

Sonic games love a bit of a novelty (hello, werehog), and Colors introduced wisps. These come in a number of different colours, each one giving Sonic a unique ability. They are a very mixed bag, either working okay or being downright odd.

The wisp that turns Sonic into a targeted laser beam that shoots through a stage and bounces off objects is neat enough, although feels a little out of control at first. But in addition to that, and others that let you drill or become a rocket, some are completely bizarre. One wisp turns Sonic into a square block. Yes, a block. This ability flips the status of some other blocks or removes them entirely, but it has to rank as one of the most unoriginal special abilities ever created in a video game.

Colors isn’t a particularly long game to breeze through, but the longevity comes from collecting everything, which is tied to the wisps you’ve unlocked. Certain items can’t be obtained on your first play through, so you’ll need to return with new abilities. Added to Ultimate are tokens that can be collected and spent on cosmetics, which is neat enough although a bit limited in scope.

One neat addition over the Wii original is that you now never run out of lives. You can just keep retrying and retrying, which makes for a less frustrating experience and should open the game up nicely for younger players. As the game is really about getting high scores and ranks, this doesn’t really hurt anyone, and it’s a big bonus for accessibility.

Visually this is a decent upgrade of the Wii game, although most of the improvements come in terms of resolution and frame rate (Switch is stuck at 30 FPS, sadly). Cutscenes stick out as being rather ugly, clearly taken from the low-res efforts on the Wii, and the level select map is clunky and would have benefited from a revamp.

Sonic Colors: Ultimate, then, exists in this strange world of 3D Sonic games, where we’ve almost been conditioned to take less than stelar games and just accept that’s about as good as they get. Colors sits near the top of that pile, but I don’t think it’s significantly better than Forces, a game almost unanimously panned, and that says it all really.

Played on PS5, with code supplied by the publisher, SEGA.

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