Sonic Superstars (2023) Game Review – An entertaining platformer with a few setbacks

An entertaining platformer with a few setbacks

Sonic the Hedgehog has maintained a massive following over the years despite its franchise teetering between mediocrity to critical acclaim. From stellar gems like Sonic Mania to the lackluster Sonic the Hedgehog 2006, fans can’t help but get excited for whatever Sega and their developers have planned for the iconic Blue Blur. Although Sonic Superstars isn’t a masterpiece by any means, it’s a game that delivers enough enjoyable material to warrant gamers’ time. 

Sonic Superstars is a 2.5D side-scrolling platform game developed by Sonic Team and Azrest. In it, players can play as Sonic, Tails, Amy, or Knuckles. You must traverse several zones to stop Doctor Eggman, Fang the Hunter, a mysterious robotic individual, and their army of giant technical-infused animals from taking over the world. Each zone offers rings for you to gather, enemies to vanquish, special and bonus stages for you to find, and various contraptions and hindrances to overcome. 

Despite having aspects found in previous side-scrolling Sonic the Hedgehog titles, Sonic Superstars delivers new content for players to try out. For instance, Chaos Emeralds gives players access to nifty abilities that will assist them in completing zones in a faster and more leisurely manner. Additionally, you can play the game with 3 other players in local co-op multiplayer. There’s also supplemental story content for you to unlock after beating the main campaign and a battle and time attack mode for you to try. 

As touched upon earlier, Sonic Superstars introduces many distinct zones for players to traverse through. Each zone carries a bit of the old and new with its design, giving players a sense of familiarity and novelty. From the Studiopolis-like Pinball Carnival Zone to the technologically advanced Cyber Station Zone, there are many gimmicks, enemies, and sites for you to discover in each area. However, some areas can feel bland, too gimmicky, and a chore to play through. 

Bridge Island Zone, while different in name, feels a bit too similar to the iconic Green Hill Zone. Then you have Press Factory Zone’s second act which has you stuck in a slow-paced underwater course where you have to press buttons to avoid instant death. Moreover, the special and bonus stages, while fun at first, get boring over time. Whether it’s zipping through the skies to collect an emerald or traversing a maze to collect specific coins for battle mode items, they’re not as amusing to play as the previous games’ bonus and special stages. If the game had more varied special/bonus stages or better incentives, these would’ve been more enjoyable.  

The characters carry similar baggage. From Sonic’s drop dash ability from Sonic Mania to Knuckles’s iconic gliding mechanic, you’ll appreciate the developers giving each character a skill for you to mess with. Unfortunately, the characters can feel stiff to control at times, hampering the momentum and speedy gameplay fans grew to adore from past titles. Fans will dread the characters’ sluggish movements the most when fighting bosses or voyaging through the game’s loops or foreground-to-background-themed mechanics. 

The new Emerald powers provide a nice twist to the Sonic formula though. From the chaotic Avatar power-up (sends clones of yourself on the screen to collect goods and hurt foes) to the useful Bullet power-up (sends you soaring through long distances), you’ll adore using them to get through the game’s difficult bosses and obstacles. At the same time, you’ll wish Sonic Team and Azrest incorporated obstacles based around these powers to make them feel more integral to the gameplay. 

Moreover, the game’s difficulty curve could’ve been handled better. While most bosses and levels offered a fair amount of challenge, some were overly difficult. For example, many players would’ve appreciated it if there was a slight drop of rings inserted in some fights. It was strange for later battles to exclude rings while earlier ones remained consistent on the distribution side of things. Additionally, some boss phases had hazards that contained weirdly elongated hitboxes. Unfortunately, some boss battles weren’t as enjoyable to complete compared to others, so if battles had remained more consistent from a fairness angle, each would’ve been a blast to play. 

As for the game’s multiplayer components, it’s fine at best but many will prefer playing the game solo. This is due to the game feeling a bit chaotic when another player joins the fray. The battle mode doesn’t offer much value either since it feels overly simplistic and lacks depth. From dodging enemy attacks to collecting items, it’s expected to keep your expectations low if you plan on tampering with this mode. Thankfully, the additional story chapter you unlock after the game will provide you with substantial bonus material to play. 

While the game has its lows, it has highs worth nothing. Graphically, the game looks amazing. Although some levels felt more unique than others thematically, they all looked polished and full of life. From the gorgeous grassy terrain in its nature zones to the vibrant architecture found in its futuristic and intricately designed ones, it was difficult to remove my eyes from my television. The game also features an exceptional and unforgettable soundtrack that players will likely jam to as they soar through the game’s zones and bosses. 

In conclusion, Sonic Superstars isn’t a masterful Sonic the Hedgehog side-scroller. However, it’s not a downright terrible game either. It’s an entertaining gem that shines in some areas but shrivels up in others. Despite its flaws and failures, it contains a decent mix of new ideas, flashy zones, and charming character moments to make you smile.   

 

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  • Verdict - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
7.5/10

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