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Sonic Superstars Works Surprisingly Well In Co-Op

Sonic Superstars is bringing proper cooperative play to a series that has often, as far back as Sonic the Hedgehog 2, let a second player pick up a controller and play as Tails while the camera followed the blue blur. Playing the 2D platformer series alongside your friends isn’t a new concept, but when I got hands-on time with Sega’s upcoming retro-styled yet modern take on the series, I was frequently surprised at just how well Superstars manages to make levels built to be played alone work well when played with others.

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If you haven’t been paying attention to Superstars, the game blends classic Sonic side-scrolling action with an updated 3D art style, the gameplay augmented with special abilities that you unlock throughout. This includes cloning yourself and having your copies attack enemies all around the screen or turning into a liquid version of your anthropomorphic hero to run up waterfalls. So far all of these have felt like fun additions and added layers to Sonic’s usual deal of running to the right really fast, even if some of my long-held frustrations with the 2D iterations, like slippery movement, are still present.

But during this latest demo I finally got to play Sonic Superstars alongside someone else, and it opened my eyes to how well the game manages to implement cooperative level design into something you can, theoretically, finish by yourself. One level had a gimmicky section that paused all the platforming to toss myself and my co-op partner into a massive gridded maze, covered in hazards, in which directional inputs sent us spin-zipping between junction points. While I barrelled toward the objective, my teammate was able to travel elsewhere on the grid to collect rings to ensure at least one of us could withstand hits from Dr. Eggman’s robots. Once I reached grid’s end and could jump to solid ground, Superstars’ camera followed me, and my teammate was able to warp themself to my position so we could proceed. Good work, bud.

There were a few small moments like this when I thought of how I would have navigated that situation if I was playing alone. It would have taken longer to collect those rings and also to reach my goal, adding seconds to the completion time in a game that rewards you for reaching your goal faster. But because I had a friend with me, we were able to coordinate, separate, and regroup to play more efficiently and get out of there faster. Sonic Superstars’ stages might not require having pals on hand, but they certainly feel like there’s something added by having others play alongside you.

That being said, I only got to play Sonic Superstars with one other player, and I’m curious to see if those small moments of rewarding coordination can devolve into complete chaos if you have too many cooks in the kitchen. For some people, that’s probably half the appeal of a four-player co-op mode, but the Sonic series is no stranger to sensory overload in its fast, flashy, and sometimes hectic presentation, and I’m curious to see if I could even stand playing through this new spin on the Sonic formula with that many allies. But I guess we’ll find out when Sonic Superstars launches on Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Switch on October 17.

Also? Make Shadow a playable character, cowards.

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