People can’t get enough of the blue blur (particularly older-gen fans) so it makes sense that Sonic Superstars is being served up as a true-to-its-roots fully 2D platformer akin to the SEGA Genesis glory days. It’s been a while since the last new 2D release, Sonic Mania which received near-universal critical acclaim, hence it’s more than about time we’ve received a mainline follow-up.
Make Haste! But Also—Don’t!
Running through an entirely brand new set of stages as 4 different characters can be a lot of fun, especially when the overall smart level design effortlessly puts players into a flow state. The controls and weight of Sonic and his friends will feel familiar to long-time fans. But at certain points, the game just randomly cuts the momentum. The game might demand that you slowly push a block, or stop Knuckles from quickly gliding over an updraft for no particular reason… Because going fast is banned in these places or something. I don’t know. Regardless, there can be very strange shifts in kinetic energy at points.
That being said, the general level design does inspire a moderate amount of replayability, with multiple branching pathways and hidden goodies that actively encourage exploration. For the adventurous types out there, they can stumble upon an elusive series staple, the Chaos Emeralds through a swing-to-the-target style of minigame that combines speed and strategy in an exciting way. Once they’re all collected, Sonic and friends can utilise their super forms for temporary invincibility, higher jumps and a faster pace in each stage.
In that same vein, players can also unlock hidden power-ups per Chaos Emerald that recharge after each checkpoint, like a parade of marching Sonic puppets or a bullet that flings you around like an out-of-control meteor. The two I mentioned are definitely the most functional, while the others are more context-sensitive. But still, these power-ups are a nice new addition to the series and bring forth a variety of different gameplay capabilities, even if they take some getting used to.
A Tad More Salt & Pepper
Although the up to 4-player Story Mode is relatively enjoyable, it can be a little chaotic when everyone’s moving at high speeds and through confined spaces. Whereas the tacked-on Battle Mode minigames are so vapid, anyone who isn’t a diehard Sonic stan will drop them as fast as they picked them up. One game has you mashing the attack button to shoot out electrical blasts in a 2D arena, while another has you trying to survive on a rotating gauntlet with falling platforms. It may sound okay on paper, but execution is a completely different reality.
The same goes for the boss encounters, as they can quickly begin to feel a bit stale or protracted as the adventure goes on. Sometimes they’ll stick around for several minutes as you wail on them again and again, including multiple attack phases that don’t allow players to strike back until the boss has finished their entire sequence of assaults. Not that amusing, I’ll say. Whereas others—without spoiling anything—simply aren’t engaging enough boss fights.
The story (if you can call it that) is not the main selling point of Sonic Superstars either. There are very, very small sprinkles of animation from the main cast after certain levels, but it could be removed entirely and no one would honestly bat an eye. The music isn’t particularly memorable either. Even if the tunes sound like a typical Sonic OST, they don’t give players much to cling to. Apart from a small selection of tracks, this original take is definitely on the lower rungs of Sonic’s lustrous musical spectrum. Also, why can’t the audio settings be changed during a stage? Making players go all the way back to the main menu feels criminal here.
That all being said, if you’re looking for some solid 2D platforming with a few hidden collectables, branching pathways and neat new power-ups, you can definitely do much worse. Even though the music, story, Battle Mode and boss encounters are underwhelming, to say the least, there’s still enough Sonic-style pizzaz to tide over fans and newcomers alike.
By Anthony Culinas – Reviewed on PS5
Sonic Superstars is a pretty decent throwback to the original 2D titles. With up to 4-player co-op, new abilities to experience and completely new stages to run through, this 5-hour adventure is generally filled with well-crafted stages and platforming gimmicks, even if some of them love to kill the momentum.
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