Sonic Superstars preview: High speed, no drag

Sonic Superstars
(Image credit: Sega)

Sonic Superstars feels fast. There’s an almost-tangible sense of kinetic energy and movement as you tear through different levels. This doesn’t just force you to pay attention, lest you tumble to an embarrassing death between the immaculately crafted levels, but also marks the game out as one to watch; a potential redemption arc for the recently maligned blue speedster.

So intense is this momentum that often it’s hard to keep track of where you’re at on the screen, as your character pinballs between different elements of a level with a ferocious intensity. One moment you’re rolling through a tight tunnel, the next you’re bouncing off of springs, rattling through different obstacles that will launch you between different elements of a level. 

Throughout it all, Sonic Superstars feels intuitive and varied. Pretty much every object that I plowed into increased or hindered my momentum, but it was clear in advance what would happen. This is good because there’s no time to solve a puzzle or size up a jump when you’re setting land speed records. 

Sonic is still front and center - he’s the one in the title after all - but he’s brought pals. Tails is back and can fly propelled by his, er, tails. Knuckles is back and remains a big old edge lord that can glide and climb walls. Amy Rose also appears with her special ability of “having a big hammer”, playable for the first time in a 2D Sonic in two decades, and ready to lay waste to enemies. Each of these play differently, although I split my time between Sonic and Knuckles for most of my 30-minute session. 

The new art style ditches the pixel-ly style of the likes of Sonic Frontiers for a simple and clean feel. It can make the characters look a little bit rubbery, but overall it looks immaculate and it’s really smooth in movement. Fans of Sonic The Hedgehog and Sonic The Hedgehog 2 will immediately feel familiar because the physics feels spot on: muscle memory from childhood play sessions meant that I knew exactly how each jump was going to land, and this helped me to get to grips with the decision making Superstars demands of you every step of the way. 

Boss fights feel close to the Sonic the Hedgehog standard too: simple mechanical challenges that largely entail using a one-off mechanic to get to a point where you can bounce on Robotnik's big bald mechanical head.

Something that I briefly got to see was Sonic Superstars’ Emerald Powers, which let Sonic (and chums) use the power of the chaos emeralds. The one I saw during my play session let me turn into water, descending and ascending waterfalls. There will be several of these powers in the finished game, and they should mix up that classic Sonic gameplay, without changing the feel of the whole thing. 

We didn’t get to try the co-operative multiplayer, which is a shame, because I'm curious to see how this will work in Sonic Superstars when the focus is all about moving as fast as possible. If well executed, it could earn a list amongst our best co-op games of all time, however, it is unclear as to whether or not Sonic Team will be able to stick the landing. That said, my first impression of Sonic Superstars is a positive one, and it could be a perfect upcoming game for those desperate to feel the need for speed.

Sonic Superstars is currently slated for a late 2023 release on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC. 

Jake Tucker
Editor in chief, TechRadar Gaming

Jake Tucker is the editor in chief of TechRadar Gaming and has worked at sites like NME, MCV, Trusted Reviews and many more. He collects vinyl, likes first-person shooters and turn-based tactics titles, but hates writing bios. Jake currently lives in London, and is bouncing around the city trying to eat at all of the nice restaurants.