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Sonic Colors (Wii) artwork

Sonic Colors (Wii) review


"It's taken a decade, but it's worth it."



After the tragedy that was 2006’s Sonic the Hedgehog, I thought The Blue Blur was finished (after all, it was terrible) especially when comparing him to the consistency of a certain evergreen plumper. Not only did Sega have different ideas, and decided to release the mediocre Sonic Unleashed, but Sonic Team ran with the Unleashed formula and released a Wii exclusive: Sonic Colours. Combining the breakneck speed of Sonic Unleashed and more traditional 2D Classic Sonic-esque platforming, Sonic Colours is a curious proposition.

The premise of Colours is simple: seven acts per world, seven worlds to play through. As I played Sonic Colours the direction of the game was obvious: no superfluous gameplay. You are launched straight in. Players consequently realise the game’s greatest strength - the level design. Sonic Unleashed forced players to move forward, creating tight spaces to encourage a sense of speed, with little platforming and removed momentum from being a reward as you constantly held down the boost button. In Sonic Colours we are presented with multiple routes in generally 2D environments, with the Mega Drive mantra of higher routes being more rewarding holding true. However, this does vary, and this is where Sonic Colours break new ground.

As is customary, and often a dread-filling moment, Sonic Team continued their idea of introducing additional elements to vary Sonic’s gameplay style. This time, we got Wisps: Super Mario-esque powerups that turn Sonic into a drill (accompanied by an announcer blaring ‘DRILL!’), a spike (‘SPIKE!’) or a cube (‘CUBE!’) among other power ups. These allow Sonic to interact with the environment, granting access to different routes - Spike allows you to cling to walls and get into tight spaces and Cube turns blue coins into solid blocks to move across. Unlike the Werehog these are not permanent, and last for brief periods of time, so while stages are built around these powerups they are certainly not intrusive - you can avoid them completely in almost every stage and have to at first. The benefit of this is that later levels require genuine skill; make sure to combine traditional platforming elements with quick reflexes or face restarting at a checkpoint.

Though the Wisps are only a part of Sonic Colours. Truly Colours provides some of the most memorable gaming experiences from any Sonic game I have ever played. From the awe-inspiring Carnival Zone to the it's-so-good-I-could-almost-eat-it Sweet Mountain Zone, Colours utilises the lack of realistic environments perfectly and creates a beautiful package despite the limitations of the Wii's hardware. No more does Sonic have to run through a forest, or an empty city or a beach. Instead Sonic flies towards a giant burger, a ship from another dimension or rides on a rollercoaster that you are not quite sure will ever end, in what is one of the most beautiful games to release on the Wii (and the most stunning Sonic the Hedgehog game). All of this is combined with fantastic music, with remixes of the initial tracks being played throughout the rest of each world. Some parts of the soundtrack lack memorability, but that doesn’t mean Sonic Colours should be ashamed of itself. The result is an engrossing and very enjoyable experience from level to level.

However, Sonic Colours isn’t perfect. Sonic’s physics sometimes don't lend themselves to platforming, with the ‘lighter’ Modern Sonic (as opposed to the heavier, Classic Sonic) causing me to overjump or mistime platforming sections. This certainly isn’t Sonic the Hedgehog 4, but to me this was apparent in sections where the camera zoomed out and due to my attention being divided between focusing on the stage and focusing on a miniature version of Sonic I found myself dying without even realising. Considering Colours puts such an emphasis on platforming, it's unfortunate I was fighting against the game at times.

The seventh stage in each world is, naturally, a boss. Here Sonic Colours brings together all of the game's elements: speed, platforming and the new power-ups. Whether you’re running towards a ship dodging left and right to avoid bullets flying at you, using giant cannonballs to navigate towards a switch that needs to be pushed while not getting hit, or trying to not drown while leading rockets towards a glass seal that you need to break, Sonic Colours provides great variety (though I did find it quite easy). Sonic also has to fight the same boss twice, the twist being it will be harder and more dangerous than before. Some would say that at this point Sonic Colours is lazy for recycling the same roster of bosses, but the variety in level design that leads up to these points - and the increase in difficulty - meant I neither realised nor cared. Here it is up to you as the player to find out how to finish quickly, while getting as many rings as possible and trying to find that elusive Wisp power-up to gain the advantage. The beauty of these boss fights is that even though Wisps aren't required, to S-rank you might have to replay once or twice. This is where Sonic Colours offers its real depth.

Despite the main game being short, the lure of S-ranking and the collectible red rings is worth coming back for. While the ranking system is now a familiarity, the red rings aren’t: five throughout each level that earn extra points and unlock additional multiplayer levels. These certainly do require Wisps to find and sent me back and forth across stages. I was often required to use quick timing and button presses to get to a red ring before the time ran out, only to be an inch away from getting it before I fell to my death.

The multiplayer mode also unlocks new levels as you collect red rings, a co-op New Super Mario Bros. Wii style adventure - The Sonic Simulator - where you and a buddy can navigate a series of classic stages while playing as a robot version of Sonic. Unfortunately this mode feels tacked on, despite the allure of Chaos Emeralds and the potential of one-upping friends by finishing first. Getting caught behind friends if they run ahead and the lack of ability to avoid dying happened too often and isn't fun. Combine that with a HUD that stopped me from conveniently seeing bottomless pits, along with objects that consistently caused me to lose rings despite my best efforts, and this multiplayer mode felt like a fast and loose attempt to add extra content. Much like the ability to speed run the whole game in one sitting and post times through leaderboards, Sonic Colours was best enjoyed as an individual experience for me.

Despite some flaws, Sonic Colours provides a superb package that is not to be missed. Not only is a game of this quality remarkable considering Sonic’s recent dips in form, but the game - history aside - is excellent. Great music, superb level design and clever usage of the new Wisp mechanic provide plenty of variety. The inconsistencies are still there but, ultimately, Sonic Colours proves that The Blue Blur is not ready to hang up his shoes just yet.

Rating: 8/10

itsjoncharles's avatar
Community review by itsjoncharles (June 14, 2011)

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honestgamer posted June 14, 2011:

This was a great review. There were some sentences near the beginning that felt like they were trying to do a bit too much all at once, but that problem went away after the first paragraph or two and your organization was fantastic. Points flowed into one another well and (as someone who played the game extensively) I found myself agreeing with you throughout the review and appreciating the support you gave each point. I hope that we see more reviews from you soon!
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itsjoncharles posted June 15, 2011:

Thanks!

I thought at points there were some paragraphs lacking in depth (I didn't really develop on the multiplayer mode that much), but overall I tried my best. It helped I've been playing the game for a while and I've thought, and discussed, it a lot.

And I will do more reviews. It's just finding a game I feel confident talking about.

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