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Sonic Colors (Wii) artwork

Sonic Colors (Wii) review


"The Sonic series has been a mess since Sonic Adventure was released over a decade ago. Now, I don't blame Sonic Team for trying something different in their first, real attempt to bring the series into 3D, however, at the same time, this risk created an identity crisis for the franchise. In nearly every game, there was usually more of something else than what made the Sonic series "Sonic": fishing with a big cat, beating up monsters with a Ristar-wannabe, searching for random emeralds with a con..."



The Sonic series has been a mess since Sonic Adventure was released over a decade ago. Now, I don't blame Sonic Team for trying something different in their first, real attempt to bring the series into 3D, however, at the same time, this risk created an identity crisis for the franchise. In nearly every game, there was usually more of something else than what made the Sonic series "Sonic": fishing with a big cat, beating up monsters with a Ristar-wannabe, searching for random emeralds with a confusing tracker, driving buggies equipped with guns, using psychokinesis powers from a hedgehog of the future, and so on. And whenever Sonic Team cranked out a good title, the best anyone could say is, "they kinda, sorta got it right." There were years when it felt like no one had a clue how to make a great Sonic game anymore, nor understood why the original titles were fantastic in the first place.

You know why Sonic the Hedgehog 1 is still such a fun title? Here's the secret: it's a cleverly-made PLATFORMER. Every stage is so well-built, so big in design, that it's ripe for exploration. Just going straight isn't the only choice in reaching the end of a level, it's just an option. You could spend a lot of time discovering new paths, either in the sky or underground, and be rewarded with rings, 1-ups, and, in later games, special stages. Even though some of these games could be finished in under one hour, the replay value is very high thanks to solid platform design. Not speed, a plot resulting in an apocalyptic ending, or other silly gimmicks, those should always come second.

I bring this up because Sonic Colors is the first game in a very long time to follow these principles so close to heart. It also follows the structure of Sonic Unleashed's Day stages, which means you'll get a mixture of third-person and "2D" angles that flow seamlessly together in every Act. However, don't assume Sonic Colors is simply SU minus the Werehog, because that's not even close. I mean, SU is a good title (I'm going by the Sonic Team version), and its Day stages were a step in the right direction for the series, but it wasn't 100% there. Sonic Colors is there, even though it may not seem like it at first.

The first area, Tropical Resort, is fun to play through as you watch Sonic speed through enemies, skate on rails, and jump on platforms above spikes and pits, all while enjoying a glowing view of the planet right outside the space amusement park you're in. But you also notice a bunch of little things and locations that can't be entered right away. For now, you think nothing of it, complete the area, then move on to Sweet Mountain, one of two following locations. Minutes into that goofy place, where huge donuts are moved around by cranes and giant missiles filled with literal sweetness tries to take you out, you stumble onto a power-up! Upon activation, Sonic suddenly transforms into a drill, and you find yourself speeding through layers of cake filled with many rings, power-up refills, and pipes leading in all sorts of directions.

While having this little voyage in the ground, dodging robotic mole rats in the process, it suddenly dawns on you that this handy item can be used in the first area to gain access to those once unreachable spots! With the help of this and other varying powers that can be aquired throughout the game, Sonic Colors constantly turns into a bigger and larger title. Sweet Mountain's third act, an already big map full of twists and turns with the help of the rocket item, grows in size when you obtain the spike ball ability. With this power-up, you can roll on walls and break through certain blocks, shoot, if you search enough, you can find a sequence where you can roll around on a moving platform, picking up rings in awkward spots and trying to avoid death by keeping up with the little floor piece. And that drill is going to be very helpful again when Aquarium Park is in reach, since you can swim around the robotic sea life in the ginormous lakes placed between Japanese castles.

That doesn't mean this title is devoid of any variety when these special items aren't being used, far from it. In an early part of Sonic Colors, you'll be chased by a one-eyed, flying jar (??) that throws spikes, ala Lakitu, then in Starlight Carnival, have to avoid hitting speeding robots by moving left and right on a thin strip, floating in space amongst a legion of starships plastered with neon lights. In a later part, you'll find that the only way to move from one part of an Act to the next is to keep pace with a moving spring platform. Doesn't sound bad until you see a ton of rings and other goodies on the sidelines that'll entice you to jump off. And in one other segment, Sonic will constantly be moved from the floor and the ceiling while trying not to be pushed off the screen by blocks that come out the walls.

What's most surprising about the in-depth level design, besides it being in a modern Sonic title, is that it actually helps strengthen other aspects that have been in other Sonic games for years. The ranking system is one such feature; in previous titles, I really didn't have much of a desire to S rank everything, especially since certain gimmicks turned me off. However, because Sonic Colors has such well-built, playable environments, featuring many flexible ways to finish an Act, attempting S ranks actually feel like fun accomplishments. Same goes for the 180 red rings scattered throughout the game. I thought it would get repetitive quick, but most of the red rings were cleverly hidden, forcing you to take leaps of faith more times than you thought you should. Just like its ancestors, it may be a short game, but it's also exploding with replay value.

As solid a game Sonic Colors is, it unfortunately has some minor faults. One of the final areas, Asteroid Coaster, is a letdown compared to all the locations that came before. It's not terrible, but you don't feel the same effort was put into it as the rest. I mean, one Act simply involves running in a circle. What's up with that? And there's a bit of riding around in "slow" roller coasters, which isn't all that great considering Sonic has been skating faster on similar rails in earlier areas. The other disappointment is the inclusion of three normal bosses. And there are six normal areas. You can guess what they did. But! These issues became insignificant when I went back to the other places and was reminded that this is a solid platform game and the first great Sonic console release in a freakishly long time. Throw in fantastic music (the only thing that's stayed consistently good for two decades), a plot that doesn't take itself seriously, imaginative, colorful locations, and bonus levels that are a throwback to the heyday, and you have yourself a wonderful package. I'm really hoping this is a new beginning for the series and that it only gets better from here.

For once, I'm very optimistic for Sonic's future, so don't you dare release another gimmick game involving ghost hunting or photography, Sonic Team.

Rating: 9/10

pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (December 01, 2010)

PickHut has this weird fondness for the Sega Saturn. Even though he's aware that most of the game's are either decent or terrible, he still wants to play them.

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