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Sonic Superstars is the quality modern 2D Sonic game I never thought would exist

Sonic Superstars brings the blue blur's 2D form into the modern era like never before
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It’s happened. It’s been decades, but it’s finally happened – Sonic Team has released two good Sonic games in a row for the first time since… honestly? The original trilogy. Last year’s Sonic Frontiers gave us a new take on 3D Sonic and now Sonic Superstars has come along and gives 2D Sonic a breath of fresh air for the first time in ages.

The new visual style is the most striking change, and while I’d still say I prefer the modern pixel art of Sonic Mania, this has plenty of pop and fits in with what you’d expect a modern 2D mascot platformer to look like. It’s bright, colorful, and isn’t afraid to experiment with strange visual techniques. There’s one level in particular where Sonic becomes a 3D-pixelated form of himself and it’s adorable.

Sonic Superstars Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy in cyber space

It feels lively too, which is something Sonic games don’t always remember. Sonic 4’s worlds were nice and bright, but they were also motionless and stale. Superstars injects personality into its world design and level backgrounds that feel like a full 3D realization of the classic 2D designs – something the series has never quite managed until now.

The new 3D designs have also managed to give each of the playable characters a stronger sense of personality than before. The 2D games always did a great job of this for their limited resources, but these games enhance the charisma of the animations, with plenty of little touches in the characters’ basic actions differentiating their personalities.

Gameplay is just as good as it’s ever been, all of the weight and momentum that makes Sonic’s speed so satisfying remains completely intact, with no annoyances like the homing attack getting in the way – they even kept Sonic’s Drop-Dash move from Mania. The character differences spill into gameplay too. Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles still have their unique abilities from the classic games, and Amy has been given a double jump that doubles as a hammer attack for her special move.

Sonic Superstars Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy

What’s more is that no matter what character you choose to play the main stages, you will have the opportunity to play character-specific stages throughout the story. These levels shine brightly, as they are built entirely around one character’s moveset, unlike the main stages which have to accommodate all four characters.

Speaking of four characters, you can also play Sonic Superstars in co-op, but I don’t recommend it.

While the camera does its best to accommodate everyone on the screen at once, the levels feel like they’re designed for single-player first. They’re still fun to play with multiple people, but the nature of Sonic’s level design – with multiple paths through each zone – can create problems if there’s a skill gap between players.

Sonic Superstars Sonic Knuckles and Tails doing a loop

Since the camera can only track one player at a time – and makes sometimes questionable choices of which player to follow – one or more players will often be wiped off the screen because they went down a different path. It leads to gameplay where either the more skilled player has to slow down or the less skilled player just gets carried along, not really playing the game.

It’s very clear that Superstars’ stages were designed with single-player as the focus, but I prefer that to the alternative because the single-player experience in Sonic Superstars is fantastic. The level design in this game is just as good as the classic 2D games and makes the most of the momentum-based gameplay, offering plenty of opportunities to optimize your speed. Naturally, there is also a Time Attack mode to put your skills to the test.

Sonic Superstars Sonic running from a giant mechanical shark

My only complaint is that the default camera is just a little too zoomed in on the character. It isn’t the '90s anymore, we have HD screenspace, and the camera being just a little further back would make it a lot nicer to see what’s coming. It’s a strange decision, as they got it right all the way back in Sonic Generations, and even Sonic Mania didn’t have the camera this close. That said, after an adjustment period I stopped noticing it as much, so it’s not that big of a problem.

After it became clear that a Sonic Mania sequel was never happening, I resigned myself to the fact that we’d never see another 2D Sonic game anywhere near that good ever again, but I’m thrilled to say I was wrong.

Sonic Superstars is the modern 2D Sonic game I never thought we’d get. It updates the visual style in a way that feels true to the classics while bringing in top-tier level design that allows the core platforming mechanics to shine. In a week when both Sonic and Mario are launching new games, it’s a good time to be a 2D platforming fan.

Score 9/10

Version tested: PS5

  • Visuals: 9/10
  • Sound: 10/10
  • Gameplay: 9/10
  • Technical: 9/10

Sonic Superstars technical performance

Sonic Superstars runs flawlessly on PS5. The game easily hits a smooth 60fps and stays there even when you’re blasting through levels at the speed of sound. My experience was mostly bug-free, save for one instance on the game’s final level where some anti-gravity mechanics caused me to clip through a wall and into an earlier part of the level. It only happened once in the many times I interacted with that mechanic though.

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You can pre-order Sonic Superstars on Amazon and get it in time for launch on October 17.