Attempting to recapture that same feeling that kids in the 90s got from the Sonic the Hedgehog series, Sonic Superstars is throwing the titular character – and his friends – into another acceleratingly quick 2.5D platformer. Based on the same Retro Engine that brought the critically praised Sonic Mania to life, Sonic Superstars might just be the game that fans have been begging for.
Going Back to the Roots
Along with Sonic, you’ll have Knuckles, Tails, and Amy to choose from to join in on the adventure while you’re blasting through zones at incredibly high speeds. Each character has their own unique movement abilities that make them handle a little differently from one another. Sonic has an air dash, Knuckles can glide, Tails is able to fly briefly, while Amy can double jump around the environment. You can choose who you’d like to play as before jumping into a level, and there seems to be a lot of replayability here with trying to get a higher score and quicker time for each character on the roster.
I had the opportunity to play through 4 zones, while the full game will have a dozen for players to work through. Bridge Island, Speed Jungle, Pinball Carnival, and Cyber Station were the zones on offer during this hands-on preview. Each one had a distinct visual aesthetic to them, while also being backed up by some unique gameplay elements. Speed Jungle had vines you could grab to leverage yourself higher into the environment. There were even these extremely tense moments where a fog surrounded your character, limiting your visual surroundings so you could only see basically half the screen. That is a very chaotic feeling when moving at such fast speeds and not knowing if you’ll ram straight into a set of spikes losing all those precious coins. But that’s Sonic, replaying zones excessively over and over again until you learn the ins and outs of each level was one of the things that made the series so fun to play.
Another zone saw Sonic and his friends get zapped into a digital Tron-like world lit with colorful neon lights, while you scrambled around collecting pixelated coins and jumping on blocky enemies. At one point I was turned into a floating jellyfish, and then later a rocketship. I have no idea why, but it did change up the pace of the gameplay for a few moments while I was trying to solve these new puzzles it was throwing my way. The levels themselves seem quite open and large, with multiple paths to get to the end. During a few different moments, I was endlessly falling or repeating the same bounces over and over again while the screen kept moving. I kept thinking, “These levels are huge.” This did turn out to be a trick – I checked – but it still gave an extra sense of scale that these environments were enormous.
At the conclusion of an act, you might face off against a boss. Again, these present themselves as small puzzles you’ll need to try and crack. They weren’t anything too overly complicated, and once you figured out the gimmick, it was quite easy to deal with the repetition of the fight. You’re finally given a score at the end and a time for your run, only to go back in to try to beat it.
Something that sets Sonic Superstars apart from other adventures is that players will be able to use Emerald Powers after unlocking Chaos Emeralds. These emeralds are a staple of the franchise and have appeared in some form across the numerous games offering different secrets. For Sonic Superstars, they will give you various powers that can be triggered in a zone. One example saw the player character turn into a blob of water and then allowed them to traverse waterfalls in the world. Finding all of these and what other secrets they offer will definitely keep players occupied as they continue going back through the zones to learn every inch of them.
Although there is a multiplayer coop and battle mode option available in Sonic Superstars, I didn’t have the opportunity to check this out as I was flying solo during my hour hands-on with the game. Instead, I focused all of my time going through the zones and exploring different paths, while replaying them with the other characters in the game.
Sonic has definitely had his ups and downs over the years, but Sega did a great job with the classic Sonic the Hedgehog inspired title, Sonic Mania. I wasn’t someone who grew up playing a lot of Sonic, but Sonic Superstars definitely feels like it’s capturing that same sense of speed those 90s tiles were known for. I haven’t played a game in a long time where I’ve felt like my eyes needed a break because everything was going so fast. Fans of the Blue Blur should be in for a treat with this one.