What do you get when you take the classic gameplay formula of the Sonic games from the Mega Drive era, sprinkle in some fancy modern visuals, and add a touch of multiplayer madness? Yep, it’s Sonic Superstars, the latest release in the iconic hedgehog’s franchise that embraces the nostalgic gameplay that players would’ve enjoyed in the 90s whilst also adding a fresh (albeit unrewarding) multiplayer twist.

Check out some screenshots down below:

It wouldn’t be a Sonic the Hedgehog game without Dr Eggman trying to pull off some nefarious scheme, and Sonic Superstars is no different. This time, the action takes place on the Northstar Islands, with Dr Eggman looking to convert the giant creatures that live there into Badniks to do his evil biddings, with two minions helping him along the way: Fang, who made their debut back on the Game Gear, and Trip, a newbie to the franchise. Of course, it’s up to Sonic to thwart his plans, but he’s also brought Tails, Knuckles, and Amy on the adventure to give a helping hand.

Players can play as any of the four characters, with each having their own unique abilities to add to their appeal. Sonic is all about speed and can use his drop dash to maintain momentum as he zooms through levels, Tails can momentarily fly around to reach areas that are inaccessible for others, Knuckles is able to glide and climb walls, whilst Amy has a double jump as well as a handy hammer that she can use to wallop enemies. Much like previous titles in the series, it’s surprising how much of a difference these abilities can make in some levels, so there’s plenty of fun to be had playing as each character and seeing what they have to offer. Personally? I’ll always love Sonic, but found myself preferring Knuckles when playing in multiplayer.

“It manages to capture everything that made the 16-bit releases so fun with the balance of speed, precise platforming, and all-out action, but also introduces plenty of new little ideas to modernise and innovate the formula.”

Speaking of multiplayer… it isn’t the best. It was one of the heavily advertised features of the game and it looked really cool in the trailers, but when actually playing, it’s not that much fun. Sharing a screen can be chaotic, especially since the camera tends to focus on one player and forces the others to spawn near them to play catch up, whilst the speed orientated gameplay and differing character abilities makes it hard to immerse yourself in the action. It reminded me of playing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 with my cousin when younger, where I’d be forced to play as Tails and find myself left behind… except three players have to go through the woes of that this time around. There is a Battle Mode that’s a lot more interesting (especially since players can create their own robotic characters), but as a multiplayer experience, Sonic Superstars falls way short of the mark.

It’s a good job playing solo is a ton of fun then, with the game sending players through twelve vibrant zones that are well designed and offer plenty of slick set pieces. Each zone is brand new to Sonic Superstars too, so you won’t be re-treading familiar territory like in recent 2D releases in the series – there are plenty of wonderful sights to be seen, and with each stage they offer bursting with colour and life, it’s a real treat to zoom through them. Interestingly, you’ll also find some stages that are exclusive to specific characters, which further incentivises playing through with each one if you want to experience everything Sonic Superstars has to offer. It manages to capture everything that made the 16-bit releases so fun with the balance of speed, precise platforming, and all-out action, but also introduces plenty of new little ideas to modernise and innovate the formula.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Of course, you’ll also be seeking out the Chaos Emeralds when playing through the game, with each unlocked by completing a bonus level found in certain stages. Best of all, they grant additional special abilities this time around, with the Avatar ability allowing you to create clones to help attack enemies, the Vision ability revealing hidden secrets in each level, the Water ability allowing you to travel up water streams, and the Slow ability allowing you to slow down time, just to name a few. You’ll even unlock a special character-specific ability when you’ve got all seven Chaos Emeralds, with each giving them more attacking prowess when dealing with enemies in their path. It adds a clever twist onto an optional collectible that somehow makes the Chaos Emeralds even more alluring, even IF their use isn’t necessary to progress through the game.

The boss fights can be a real treat too, with some finely crafted nasties to take on that require different strategies (and a bit of patience) to conquer. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few duds that can feel a little repetitive and take WAY too long to defeat, but the majority are impressive encounters that offer some neat little surprises as well as a destructive presence. Again, the varied character abilities can make some tougher than others depending on who you’re playing as, but they’re well-balanced showdowns that are a lot of fun to be a part of.

Sonic Superstars Review

Sonic Superstars disappoints with its multiplayer action, but offers an enthralling and nostalgic experience when played solo. It captures everything that made the 16-bit titles so much fun to play, but also has plenty of innovative ideas on show to ensure players are always doing something that feels fresh and enjoyable. The new stages look wonderful too, whilst the Chaos Emerald abilities give the gang plenty of new tricks to use (even IF they aren’t imperative to your success).

It is disappointing that the multiplayer mode isn’t very intuitive and there are a few boss battles that could feel like total duds, but these issues don’t stop Sonic Superstars from being a blast to play. Just be warned: if you were hoping for an enjoyable co-op experience, you might want to look elsewhere.

Developer: Arzest
Publisher: SEGA
Platform(s): Xbox Series X|S (Reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC
Website: https://sonicsuperstars.com/