Sonic has had a tremendously troubled past. Outside of Sonic Mania, the series has hit a lull for several years now with lacklustre titles such as Sonic Forces and Sonic Lost World - the poor hedgehog can't catch a break. However, back in 2010, Nintendo Wii owners were treated to a 3D iteration which seemed to capture the spirit of the series that fans wanted. While we had the fantastic Sonic Generations in 2011, we never got to see the fuss for Sonic Colors - until now. A remastered version has finally arrived on Xbox and has proved all those years of hype were right.
The plot sees Dr Eggman open an amusement park, which of course, Sonic and Tails investigate as it all sounds pretty suspicious. To no one's surprise, it's all a ruse and Eggman is in fact trying to collect aliens known as Wisps, each packed with unique abilities. It's a simple baseline but acts as a means to get to the true nuts and bolts of the game - fast-paced platforming.
Thankfully, it absolutely nails the gameplay in almost every facet. The signature platforming style is there in full force with incredible level design. What other Sonic games lacked was maintaining the sense of momentum, halting players in their tracks constantly with roadblocks to slow them down. Fans should fear not with Sonic Colors: Ultimate, as the sense of speed is exhilarating, seamlessly blending in precise platforming, enemies and other challenges along the way.
You'll be whip dashing your way through stage after stage, perfect for speedrunners and anyone who wants to feel the classic Sonic formula in a 3D setup. It also helps that each of the several worlds you visit is gleaming with neon bright lights, stunning vistas and colourful backdrops, all of which are emphasised further in the remaster, despite being an 11-year-old game. Unfortunately, the cutscenes seem to be upscaled versions of the original Nintendo Wii version, looking relatively ugly in comparison to the rest of the game.
The stages are given even more personality with a set of new abilities. As you progress through the game, you'll meet different Wisps, each with their own special power-ups to use. For example, an early cyan coloured one allows you to laser your way through enemies, speed through hidden paths and give you a well-needed boost if needed. This is just one of many you unlock throughout the game, all of which provide new skills and means of traversing the stages. By the end of the game, you have so many at your disposal that a replay plays out as a completely different experience.
Visiting old stages is perhaps one of the most addictive elements to Sonic Colors: Ultimate. Going back to collect red stars, most of which are locked behind challenges that require different Wisps, invite a great sense of replayability. A first playthrough may only take a few hours, but going back to 100% each world is where the true enjoyment lies. Finding new paths and exploits for each stage is an addictive loop and kept us coming back for more.
The only drawback is the rewards you unlock in the game never truly feel worthwhile. Special coins can be used to purchase a variety of cosmetics and player emblems but considering you're constantly travelling faster than the speed of light, it never really draws too much attention. With SEGA putting so much emphasis on additional content for the upcoming Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania, albeit behind paywalls, we would have loved to have seen more creativity thrown into pushing players forward.
Addressing the elephant in the room, with all the bugs that have been reported in the Nintendo Switch, we never ran into anything during our playthrough. It seems some of the ones players have found happened after completing a variety of tests, so we can't confirm their existence. As it stands, playing the game naturally presented us with zero issues with a smooth 60fps on Xbox Series X. Outside of the pre-rendered cutscenes, it's been lovely overall.
Sonic Colors: Ultimate is a fantastic remaster of a much-loved title in the series. There are a few hiccups in the road, with awful cutscenes and lacklustre unlocks. It's classic Sonic in a 3D setting and your enjoyment will stem from your love of the series. If you're looking for a reinvention of the formula, this probably isn't for you, but if you want to experience the iconic series with refined gameplay, beautiful visuals and tons of replayability, this is the best 3D Sonic game to grace Xbox since Sonic Generations.