Sonic Superstars Hands the Blue Blur a Hot Streak Preview 1

Sonic Superstars is fun to play, and that's something this scribe rarely — if ever — associates with the SEGA series. Two acts playable at Summer Game Fest Play Days revealed an enjoyable return to the side-scrolling days after 2022's well-liked 3D entry Sonic Frontiers, proving the blue blur has got what it takes no matter the perspective he's speeding along.

However, if you're searching for an in-depth analysis of how Sonic's latest 2D effort stacks up against the likes of Sonic Mania, we recommend looking elsewhere. There's no deep dive comparison here, for this writer has little in the way of meaningful experience with the franchise. When an email about an unannounced Sonic the Hedgehog game drops in your inbox, though, you've got to take the opportunity.

As the confirmation trailer at Geoff Keighley's own Summer Game Fest livestream revealed, we're going back to the 2D space after arguably Sonic's best 3D game in years, Our findings don't suggest this marks a drop in quality, though. Far from it. Featuring completely new levels, it's a spin on the SEGA Mega Drive classics that satisfies speed requirements, expansive level design, fun mechanics, and the need for new features. The roughly 15-minute demo featured the PS5, PS4 title's first two acts, with four playable characters to choose from: Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy. All come with their own unique skills, providing reason to jump back in after a level completion.

What ties the four famous faces together is Emerald Powers, an entirely new mechanic that allows you to interact with the environment in different ways. The first two levels allow you to swim up waterfalls to reach new areas upon finding the power-up, and later missions are said to let you change form and multiply. Finding the ability gives you a single chance to utilise its power, and then it's replenished at Star Posts. Even though there wasn't exactly an abundance of waterfalls in the first two missions, the limited use of Emerald Powers makes using them successfully all the more important, with various collectibles to find from start to finish. This feels like the right way to expand on the 2D Sonic the Hedgehog formula — at least when observed from a distance.

On top of Emerald Powers, mini-games can be accessed through portals spread throughout each level. Rewarding a type of collectible, you'll need to chase after Chaos Emeralds and work your way through spinning mazes. They're nothing challenging, but it's still a fun distraction from the speedy nature of the main levels. We weren't able to work out whether the rewards went beyond anything more than something to collect, so don't rule out another use for them in the main game.

With new additions on top of the classic Sonic the Hedgehog mantra, this is the type of gotta go fast gameplay long-time fans have come to appreciate. The four characters feel good to control, both on the ground and in the air. Then the platforming is satisfying, with ramps and boosts making you question where you might end up. Nothing revolutionary, of course, but when the quality of a Sonic title fluctuates so wildly from one instalment to the next, some home comforts can sometimes be enough. With lengthy levels — or at least the first two are — and cool set pieces to tie them up, Sonic Superstars has put the correct foot forward. 2D fans should sleep soundly knowing Sonic Team's next effort appears to be on the right track.

Sonic Superstars launches for PS5 and PS4 later this year. Are you excited about the blue blur's next 2D game? Let us know in the comments below.