These Hands on Deck: How is Sonic Colors: Ultimate’s Performance on Steam Deck?

Gotta *hic* go *hic* fast?

Hey, I’m back with another one of these! It’s round two for whatever the hell this Steam Deck column is, and maybe by part three I’ll understand it more. For now, it was a great excuse to revisit Sonic Colors: Ultimate, a solid (with caveats) port of an unsung banger in the 3D Sonic the Hedgehog canon. While this version has its issues compared to the Wii original, the convenience factor mostly makes up for it. Especially since Sega has been aggressive with Steam Deck compatibility from day one. So here’s how I feel after personally getting these hands on Sonic Colors: Ultimate on Steam Deck.

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There, I think, is an interesting takeaway here. While Sonic Colors: Ultimate is labeled “Verified” for Steam Deck, unfortunately that doesn’t mean there’s a perfect out of the box experience here. In fact, I waited longer than I wanted to write this up in hopes the lumps would get ironed out a bit. But that didn’t appear to be the case, and I’m not sure if there’s anything we can really expect to be honest. I’ll explain here, with the important asterisk that I barely know what I’m talking about with the PC gaming minutia Sonic Colors: Ultimate is contending with.

Hands. Deck. Filters.

Long story short, in this case “Verified” doesn’t mean “Flawless.” Specifically, nine times out of ten you’ll be having a great time with Sonic Colors: Ultimate on Steam Deck. The game runs at a smooth 60 frames per second, and does so at the highest resolution the Steam Deck can utilize. However, especially at the beginning of a stage when Sonic is warming up and getting ready to Go Fast, the game does inexplicably stutter. And while much less frequent, there’s an occasional “hiccup” during gameplay. Depending on how hardcore you are you may not even notice during levels, but you will notice as they start.

The vibrantDeck plugin sings with this game

Community engagement seems kinda low on this matter, especially since the more dialed-in parts of the Sonic fandom don’t really like this version in the first place. Due to various factors like the new music and some visual nuance, most Sonic Sickos are gonna tell you to just play the original via the Dolphin emulator. I haven’t tried that myself, mostly because I’m lazy and I’d rather use the AYANEO 2 for emulation. But there have been some small suggestions, such as turning V-Sync off and uncapping the frame rate to minimize the stuttering. I didn’t really notice a difference when I tried that, so it’s definitely a YMMV situation.

800p is such a weird choice

That said, if you can tolerate the level-opening stutters, Sonic Colors Ultimate looks and plays great on Steam Deck. The thing here is it’s hard to tell if the problems that do exist are addressable on the Steam Deck side, or if it’s a bigger issue with the game we shouldn’t expect a quick fix for. It’s been clear for a while Sega is a major supporter of this platform, with the vast majority of its games Verified soon after launch, if not day of. And with Sonic the Hedgehog as a series being so inconsistent in technical terms, it’s impressive to see several titles have that coveted green badge. Also, stop being cowards and play Sonic Forces because it whips.

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Lucas White
Lucas plays a lot of videogames. Sometimes he enjoys one. His favs include Dragon Quest, SaGa and Mystery Dungeon. You can find him on Twitter @HokutoNoLucas. Wanna send an email? Shoot it to [email protected].