SEGA is still trying to capture that magic we all experienced back in Sonic Generations. However, instead of simply making a Generations sequel, the Sonic Team keep churning out new ideas and some hit while others don’t (looking at you, Sonic Forces). Thankfully, the past two Sonic games have been okay. Sonic Frontiers offered an open world to explore and some wild new gameplay mechanics. Sonic Superstars, on the other hand, has toned things down for an old-school platforming approach which encourages multiplayer.
Sonic Superstars is essentially a four-play co-op game that stars Sonic, Tails, Amy and Knuckles. They head off across some vibrant new areas to stop Dr Eggman from doing all sorts of bad stuff. The game has all the makings of a classic Sonic The Hedgehog game and it works…. most of the time.
If you have played any Sonic side-scroller in the past few decades, there’s nothing new here. You start on the left-most part of a stage and have to run through various obstacles while collecting rings, bashing enemies on the head, looping around loops and in the end hitting a robot a few times to defeat it.
Each of the 11 worlds in Sonic Superstars offers enough variety to keep things fresh. Of course, you can just dash through everything and get to the end of each stage faster than the timer but you’ll miss all the exciting side paths and discoveries along the way. Sonic Superstars also brings the same relentless platforming gameplay to the table whereas a simple missed jump could result in you missing out on a whole area to explore. In a way, it encourages replayability as it should.
While Sonic Superstars might sound like a rehash of every other game in the series, it actually brings some fresh new ideas to the table. Firstly, the worlds I explored throughout the game are actually quite fun and refreshing. SEGA hasn’t taken the same old areas and rebuilt them for Sonic Superstars. These all offer some nice gameplay mechanics to master too. Vines which shoot you up into the air and even wind that helps carry your character across areas.
Sure, we have seen most of these mechanics somewhere down the line, even if they appeared decades ago but they make each area feel new. Getting around these stages is also different depending on the character you choose. Sonic can do his Drop Dash spin rolly thing, Tails can fly into the air, Knuckles can glide and climb up walls and Amy, who is relatively new to the whole gameplay, can double jump.
These stages are also enhanced by the Chaos Emerald skills which are unlocked as you progress through the game and find the hidden gems. Each gem comes with its own skill and is helpful at certain times. However, getting these Chaos Emeralds is a chore on its own. Throughout each stage, I had to find the golden ring to jump through. Once found, this entered the mini-game stage.
Here, I had to move my character closer and closer to the dashing-away Chaos Emerald. I then had to swing from balls floating in the air in hopes it propelled me closer to the gem. I don’t think there’s any real skill to these minigames. If anything, it felt horribly clunky and I was just lucky at times. The whole thing makes no sense as there’s no physics in his realm so you just float around and hope your swing moves you closer to the gem.
But once I had the Chaos Emerald I was then able to trigger the ability whenever the stage prompted me to. Each gem had a tied-in ability too. The Blue Chaos Emerald granted the Avatar ability. With it, I could duplicate my character into multiple ghost-like variants which dashed across the screen. Along the way they collected rings, defeated enemies and bashed boxes.
The Water Emerald let me ride up waterfalls. While at first I thought this was pointless, there were actually a surprising number of stages I could use this on. Even levels prior to finding the Emerald included some. So it was helpful when doing a second run of the game.
These powers are nice to have but not really important to progression. If anything, you can play the game without them and never even have to look their way. This is an issue with the majority of Sonic Superstars. There isn’t much to do here. The game has done away with lives so you can die over and over again. Boss fights take way too long and are clumsy due to their time-gated attack patterns. Stages, while having a few different paths to explore, don’t have anything worth going back for.
Sonic Superstars also wants you to complete the campaign a number of times in order to unlock the super final boss challenge. This challenge was fun but definitely not worth slogging through the game twice for. This also means you’ll need to put up with some of the not-so-great stages at the same time.
There are medals to collect across these stages. These medals are used to purchase parts for your online avatar character creature thing. However, the selection is lacklustre and if you’re not going to play multiplayer, which is a very different mode with shallow mini-games, these medals are a waste too.
Sonic Superstars also has its 4-player co-op and it is just as clumsy as everything else. Each player shares the same screen so essentially, you all need to keep up with each other or you’ll spend your day being teleported to the leader on a constant basis. Given how fast the game is meant to be played, this doesn’t work. One little bump of a speed pad will send the leader flying across the stage with everyone else scrambling to catch up. It is fun at first but slowly gets frustrating.
Sonic Superstars isn’t the worst Sonic game around. If you love the series, getting through the campaign twice and finishing off the final challenge is enjoyable. But I don’t think its multiplayer and co-op component is a selling point here. In fact, the game is just better alone which defeats the whole point of this reimagined game.
This Sonic Superstars review is based on a PS5 code sent to us by SEGA. The game launched on 17 October for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch and PC. You can pick it up physically for R1130.
Sonic Superstars is a return to form for the series which encourages co-op play. Sadly, the game is best played solo due to cumbersome mechanics and shallow multiplayer modes that aren’t much fun even with the best people.