Sonic Superstars has a casino level that's actually good

Sonic Superstars
(Image credit: Sega)

TechRadar Gaming is reporting live from Gamescom 2023 on the latest and greatest developments in gaming and hardware.

Sonic Superstars is just a couple of months away from its October 17 release date, and Sega was in attendance at Gamescom 2023 to show off two new zones from the game.

In addition to Bridge Island and Speed Jungle zones from previous versions, the Gamescom build introduces Pinball Carnival Zone and Cyber Station Zone, which you may have seen snippets of in previous Sonic Superstars trailers. I was able to play through all four Zones during my roughly 45-minute preview session, though only the first Act was available to play in those latter two stages.

In my interview with Sonic Superstars producers Naoto Ohshima and Takashi Iizuka, they let me know that the team was keen to really nail the physics and variety of stage gimmicks, to give it that classic Sonic feel. This was evident during my time with the game; all four playable characters felt fantastic to play, and there are fresh gimmicks throughout that add plenty of flavor to these all-new Zones. Including the surprisingly great Pinball Carnival. 

A genuinely great casino stage

Sonic Superstars

(Image credit: Sega)

Now, my initial thoughts upon loading into Pinball Carnival Zone were ones of trepidation. Even in the Genesis / Mega Drive classics, casino-type stages were something Sonic Team never really managed to get right. Sonic 2’s Casino Night is passable but feels out of place wedged between Aquatic Ruin and Hill Top. Sonic 3’s Carnival Night is a chaotic jumble of confusing stage gimmicks and disorienting navigation. Even 3D efforts like Casinopolis and Casino Park fall short, banking heavily on awkward pinball sections.

Such sections are still present in Sonic Superstars’ Pinball Carnival, but the stage itself has a brilliantly considered sense of flow. No longer are you stopping Sonic’s momentum to board slow elevators or rocking a barrel up and down to access new sections. Instead, gimmicks such as bumpers, scoring targets, and balloons you can bounce off are carefully placed throughout the level.

Completely gone is the stop-and-start nature of older Casino Zones in the Sonic franchise. I felt more like I was playing through a level akin to Chemical Plant or Hydrocity, two classic Zones that excel at mixing tricky gimmicks with high-speed sections. In other words, Sonic Superstars is striking an excellent balance between fun platforming challenges and a convincing sense of speed you’d expect from the very best Sonic games. Oh, I was also able to outrun the screen multiple times, just like in those Genesis / Mega Drive titles but Sonic Superstars’ 60fps performance held up immaculately during these moments, even when assets were flying past the screen at remarkable speeds.

Sonic Superstars is shaping up to be something quite special. Sonic Frontiers successfully revitalized the 3D formula last year, so here’s hoping Superstars can provide us with a quality 2D Sonic game worth revisiting for years to come. 

Want more Sonic coverage from the show? Read our exclusive piece on how a labor of love brought a 27-year old Sonic the Hedgehog statue to Gamescom 2023.

Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.