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Sonic Superstars – Review

Sonic Team has done it again! And by done it again, I mean created a truly mixed bag: a game that’s great in some areas, so good that it almost makes you think Sonic is “back again”, only to sabotage itself with poorly implemented new mechanics and some baffling design decisions.

At its best, Sonic Superstars is pure classic Sonic excellence with fun, fast, 2D platforming through a variety of charming levels. It’s brought down by some truly frustrating boss battles and the completely uninteresting battle mode, but if you’re a Sonic fan, you’ll probably still enjoy yourself most of the way through. 

Sonic running through Green Hill zone

You probably won’t be too surprised to hear that Dr Eggman is up to his old tricks again, and is capturing little animals and making nasty robots in Sonic Superstars. This time he’s got a couple of new recruits helping him though in Fang, who you might recognise from the arcade game Sonic the Fighters, and a brand new character, Trip. It’s up to Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy to race through levels and beat up some bosses to save the day as ever, and hopefully grab a few Chaos Emeralds as they go. 

If there’s one thing to compliment the game for, it’s the visual detail they’ve put into it. The use of bright palettes really compliments the spirited experience the game aims to deliver. Its beautiful models extend from the iconic characters to the comically interesting enemies you encounter, such as a mechanical mosquito with a hilariously long proboscis or a giant monkey robot that pokes itself to death. On top of that, they also did an incredible job designing the levels and ensuring that they rarely feel lifeless.

Amy, Knuckles, Tails and Sonic getting ready to start a level

The most frustrating parts are the boss battles. They range from impressively mediocre to downright uninspired. One of the boss battles in particular is a dull repetition of the same encounter, split into two parts, and if you lose you have to begin the whole battle from the start. At least the bonus stages are decent and can be found through giant rings, with each allowing players to earn coins and catch Chaos Emeralds. 

There’s a good reason for grabbing the emeralds this time around too, as they unlock powers that characters can use. These powers include being able to turn into water, summoning copies of yourself to help in fights, and a vision power that reveals hidden objects. There are seven powers in total and the giant rings that access the special stages are scattered through the zones. 

For Sonic Team to make Sonic Superstars with the intent to add multiplayer 2D Sonic gameplay, they for sure screwed it up here. It’s kind of crazy how bad it is with only two players. The game has a hard time figuring out who to follow, whether it’s the player who’s ahead or the one who just fell down the level. There’s no clear indicator of who the camera will follow. 

Sonic coming out of a loop during a sunset backdrop

Fortunately, the inclusion of co-op does make the solo experience better. From the jump, Superstars features four playable characters, each of which has their own traversal gimmick. Tails can use his helicopter tail to fly vertically, Knuckles can climb walls, and Amy Rose has a double jump. Each ability totally changes how players can explore a stage, making hard-to-reach routes more easily accessible depending on the character. It’s essentially the concept of the new Chaos Emerald’s powers but delivered in a more natural way. 

Despite its excellent level design, Sonic Superstars often feels like a game at odds with itself. The “gotta go fast” philosophy is often placed front and centre, with long stretches of twisting tracks, springs, and loops being a recurring theme that will see the scenery melt into a blur and give an exhilarating and highly nostalgic rush. However, many of the later levels do not support this, and force you to take your time to navigate a series of obstacles that make the game feel more like a 2D platformer than a traditional Sonic title. 

Amy and Sonic running while Tails and Knuckles float through the air during a sunset

The timing and level of precision required for jumps feel particularly harsh at times given the frailty of the characters: as always, being hit with no rings results in death, and being hit with rings will see you lose all of them and prompt a frantic rush to re-acquire as many as you can before your limited invulnerability wears off. Speeding through levels also carries with it the almost guaranteed certainty of missing out on Emerald Powers, which towards the end of the game begins to feel like a punishment for your earlier haste, necessitating replaying earlier levels at a much slower pace to uncover their secrets or face more difficult platforming segments and boss battles. 

Amy Rose running through a level

Sonic Superstars feels like a classic Sonic game in both good and bad ways. If you love the thrill of zipping across the screen and trying to react quickly to sudden obstacles and enemies, you’ll have fun here as the colourful levels keep delivering surprises. But when it comes to the boss battles, you may find yourself descending into a retro rage. Unlimited lives are one thing, but you’ll need unlimited patience to really enjoy this one. 

7/10 star rating

Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows

Publishers: SEGA

Developers: Sonic Team, Arzest





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