Review of Sonic Superstars – Teamwork Folly


    Sonic Superstars takes a step back to the Genesis-era 2D platforming that put the series on the map and takes a leap forward by allowing three more friends to join the adventure. While the former succeeds in providing a largely nostalgic experience, the latter fails to allow partners to have the same amount of fun.

    As Sonic, Tails, Knuckles or Amy, you’ll spin your way through a whole new batch of beautifully designed zones. From the twists and turns of Speed ​​Jungle and lush greenery to the golden architecture of the Golden Capital, Sonic Superstars shine with bright colors and whimsical designs for Bednick’s new gallery. Unfortunately, the soundtrack lacks the same heft as previous 2D entries. The music isn’t bad, but outside of a couple of tracks, most of the tunes aren’t memorable and don’t hit that next gear of toe-tapping goodness that I’ve come to expect from the franchise.

    However, platforming holds up its end of the bargain. The physics perfectly replicate the feel of Sonic’s Genesis Adventures, allowing me to slide comfortably through the process like wearing old gloves. Sonic’s friends sport their familiar features: Tails can fly and carry partners, Knuckles can climb walls and glide, and Amy sports an enemy-killing double jump. Each pulls its own weight, so the choice comes down to a matter of preference. Amy became my favorite besides Sonic himself.

    Zones are massive, multi-dimensional obstacle courses filled with viciously placed enemies, death traps and new traversal moves. I loved the mechanics like jumping on high-speed roller coaster trains in a casino zone or transforming into a pixelated avatar in a cyberspace inspired world. Other challenges are a pain, such as carefully navigating a pitch-black forest with only a glowing butterfly for light – an idea that doesn’t suit Sonic’s fast-paced playstyle. In addition to traditional mainline acts, new character acts provide reasonable avenues to sample other heroes while advancing the narrative.

    As a whole, the levels do a good job of capturing the core fun of Sonic: dashing through elaborate obstacles at breakneck speed while avoiding hazards at the last second. It also means they play the same trial-and-error design ethos of classic games. You often can’t assess risk – or can’t until it’s too late. While nothing new, I was sometimes frustrated by this approach as going too fast often resulted in hitting something that almost felt like you were being punished for doing what Sonic and his friends do best. Designed to give Death can feel cheap in some cases, so I’m thankful that Superstars did away with the limited life system of classic games.

    Chaos Emeralds now grant new powers upon collection, accessible via the weapon wheel. Powers like Avatar and Vision let you send attacking clones across the screen and reveal hidden circles and platforms, respectively. My favorite is the bullet, which lets me fire myself in a select direction for an explosive boost. Since Chaos Emerald portals are hidden rather than visible at checkpoints, these options are completely optional and easy to miss. Thus, while these skills may be useful, they are not essential or even critical. I often forget I have them and rarely feel guilty about not using them anymore. Anything can be easily conquered with your base moveset, and while the powers aren’t lacking, they aren’t as meaningful to the experience as I’d hoped.

    Unfortunately, the newly added four-player co-op confirms my biggest fears: 2D Sonic isn’t built for traditional multiplayer, at least not with all participants sharing the same screen. Even playing with one other person can be messy, as going faster or slower than your partner forces you to come back to them again. Sonic games are all about speed, and levels play out multiple paths, but because players aren’t free to explore independently, you’re rubberbanded together. This creates inconsistent instances of partners disappearing and retreating if they zigged to your spot, which can be annoying in the middle of a difficult platforming sequence. Co-playing feels less like working together and more like fighting to stay together.

    Furthermore, the superstars are conflicted about which player he prefers. Usually, player one is in charge, meaning if someone else dies, the game continues with the focus on the leader. However, in some cases this is not the case. In the casino zone, I almost died several times; On a few occasions, the game focused on my partner, who kept moving, and I just respawned. In other cases, the camera followed me to my death, resulting in a team game over. Other challenges are not suitable for multiple players. The aforementioned Illumination Focused Zone is a nightmare for others as only one player can block the light, forcing everyone else to either stay too close or walk around blindly. Co-op has been limited to local play due to quality concerns, but I can’t imagine how much it would suffer from online play. As it stands, the co-op is functional and can be unintentionally fun in terms of pure chaos, but doesn’t feel completely thought out.

    Battle mode, a Versus destination consisting of bland, one-note mini-game encounters, isn’t worth exploring. Character customization, in which you assemble robots using parts purchased by spending special coins found in levels or special challenges, is also uninteresting. A second, more difficult campaign later in the game offers the most compelling reason to stick with the Superstars after you foil Dr. Eggman’s plans.

    Despite some major caveats, I mostly enjoyed Sonic Superstars as a solo trip down memory lane. The platforming feels good, the levels are mostly fun, and the presentation looks great. Ripping through robots hitting loop-de-loops and bounce pads still brings a smile to my face. But the game’s new additions either feel unnecessary or ill-advised, watering down an otherwise respectable package. Sonic Superstars offers a solid return to the series’ oldest and most ardent followers, with some hedgehog-sized pitfalls along the way.


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