I have to say that it is weird to see Sonic appearing on a Nintendo machine. When I was growing up the 16 bit console war between Nintendo's SNES and Sega's Megadrive was fierce. On one side we had Mario the face of Nintendo and on the other Sonic the supersonic blue hedgehog was championing the cause for Sega. The idea that Sonic would appear on a rival's machine was absurd, but things change. Sega never managed to repeat the success of the Megadrive (shame because the Dreamcast was a fine machine) so they eventually gave up on making consoles and concentrated on software.
Although Sega's machines didn't sell all that well their mascot Sonic still does. He has appeared in numerous games on pretty much every console and handheld that will have him. Ironically enough he seems more at home on Nintendo's Wii as opposed to the PS3 or 360. Sonic even teamed up with Mario in an Olympic game and was a character in Nintendo's popular Super Smash Brothers Brawl. Many old school fans however like to hark on that the newer 3D Sonic games aren't any good, especially when compared to the 2D classics on the Megadrive.
I feel that is unfair as I personally enjoyed playing the Gamecube versions of the Sonic Adventure games. I even liked the team based Sonic Heroes and spin off Shadow the Hedgehog. I cannot however defend some of the later Sonic titles such as the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog which I gave up on in frustration due to the many bugs and glitches it had. I also failed to complete Sonic and the Secret rings due to the motion controls which I couldn't get used to. Will the new Sonic Colours prove to be another dud? Let us take a closer look and see.
Sonic's arch enemy Dr Eggman (some of you may know him better as Dr Robotnik) says he is sorry for his past evil deeds. To make amends he has created a theme park that orbits the earth for the general public to enjoy. Sonic however isn't convinced by the announcement and sneaks into the park to investigate. Once there he learns that all is not well. The theme park is made up of a number of small alien worlds. Eggman has enslaved the alien inhabitants called wisps and is using their energy to power a mind control ray he intends to use to conquer the world.
The player takes control of Sonic as he goes from level to level trying to foil Eggman's scheme by freeing the aliens and smashing the generators that power the theme park. In terms of story this is nothing as epic as the plot of the Sonic Adventure games. For better or worse Sega have opted to keep things simple in this instalment. It's just Sonic and Tails taking on Eggman as it was in the older games. I much preferred the Sonic Adventure stories over what we get here, but I understand some people didn't care for those due to their large cast of supporting characters.
I think the story we got in the Sonic Adventure games was aimed more at teenagers whilst Sonic Colours is targeting a younger audience. The cut scenes you get after completing a few levels feel like something out of a Saturday morning cartoon filled with silly humour which kids may like, but older players will find corny. We get a number of lame jokes were Tails unsuccessfully tries to translate what the aliens are saying along with Eggman yelling at his idiotic robot henchmen. I personally didn't care for the cut scenes, but it didn't ruin my enjoyment of the game. Story isn't exactly a big deal when it comes to platformers and if the story clips really irk you it is possible to skip them.
As with most platformers the aim of the game is to move forward and reach the end of the stage. Standing between you and the goal are Eggman's robot lackeys and numerous obstacles including pitfalls, spikes, flooded areas and so on. I like the way the levels are designed as they give you a nice balance of challenging areas were you have to be careful and wide open stretches were you can appreciate the speed Sonic is known for. Although you just have to head forward to reach the end you will often find that there are different paths you can take to complete a stage. This is nice for people who like to explore a stage or those trying to find the quickest route to clock the fastest time which will earn them more points and a higher rank.
Sonic has a number of moves at his disposal which will aid him in his progress. As always he can jump into the air and curl into a spiky ball to destroy enemies. Other moves he can perform include a sliding tackle to squeeze under low ceilings (and knock down enemies), a stomp which breaks destructible blocks and a wall jump which has him bouncing up between two walls. When travelling through the stage be sure to collect the rings that are scattered about as insurance. Like with most Sonic games, getting hit by an enemy means that you lose your rings. If you don't have any rings when hit you lose a life which will take you back to the last checkpoint (or start of the stage if you are all out of lives.)
Why is this game called Sonic Colours you may ask? It's due to the different coloured wisps you encounter in the game. As you travel through a stage you'll come across these little guys trapped in glass capsules. If you smash the capsule and set them free you will be granted the wisp's power for a short period of time. Each wisp gives Sonic a unique ability and these are...
1. White: Touching a white wisp fills up the boost bar at the bottom of the screen. Providing that you have some boost stored up you can press the relevant button to make Sonic dash faster than usual. Handy for making a quick escape or zooming over water (take that Jesus.)
2. Cyan: Unleashing the cyan wisp's power will transform Sonic into a laser for a split second. As a bolt pure energy Sonic can ricochet off walls at super fast speed allowing him to get to hard to reach places.
3. Yellow: The yellow wisp turns Sonic into a drill which can bust through blocks and tunnel underground. The drill form even works underwater allowing Sonic to move faster than usual in the watery levels (which is helpful as the blue hedgehog can only hold his breathe for so long before drowning.)
4. Blue: A very versatile power. It turns Sonic into a cube that can destroy blocks. It also turns blue rings into solid platforms for a short period of time which allows Sonic to traverse over long gaps.
5. Orange: Probably my least favourite power. It turns Sonic into a rocket which sounds cool, but all the rocket does is fly straight up. You cannot control the ascent and once it wears off Sonic just plummets down to earth.
6. Green: If you want to fly forget the orange rocket and get this guy instead. It allows you to turn into a spaceship that can hover over obstacles. The spaceship form doesn't move too fast, but it can perform a quick ring dash whenever you come across a line of rings.
7. Pink: Turns Sonic into a spiky ball. In this form he can grip onto walls and even the ceiling. Very helpful for getting past certain stages or reaching hidden powerups.
8. Purple: The craziest form of them all. It turns Sonic into a snarling beast which rushes forward eating up any enemies that get in his way or even solid objects. A little hard to control, but good fun while it lasts.
GRAPHICS / SOUND
Compared to other Sonic games and other games on the console I would have to rate Sonic Colours favourably in the visual department. The cartoony character models are nothing special, but the levels are impressive with backgrounds full of detail. Like in Sonic Unleashed the point of view keeps switching from a side scroller, akin to the old Sonic games, to a third person view were the camera follows Sonic. Despite the changes in angle and stuff on screen the action moves at a brisk pace with no slowdowns. I was also pleased to see that unlike the Sonic Adventure games I didn't experience any issues were the camera position made it hard for me to see where I was going.
Sound wise I noted that once again the characters had changes in their voice actors. This new bunch of actors, in my opinion, did a better job than the last group. Sonic sounds much better and the guy playing Eggman did a stand up job with the maniacal laughter and evil speeches the doctor spouts. The in game music was top notch although I imagine some people may not like the game's cheesy theme song. I much preferred the rock tracks used in other Sonic games, but cheesy as it was I had to admit that the main theme was catchy.
I would have to say that the game's lifespan is its biggest flaw. At first glance Sonic Colours seems like a sizeable game. Along with some short introductory stages and final level you get six worlds to beat. Each world is broken down into six acts and has a boss to defeat. Unlike older Sonic games you also get a choice of which order to tackle the levels. After finishing the first part of the game I got a choice of two worlds and beating those unlocks the final three. The main game is single player only, but there is also an optional world which can be played with two players or a computer controlled partner.
Sounds like a lot until you get to the end and note that that main story can be completed in under five hours. You get some acts which are a decent size, but there are also a few that won't even take a minute to complete. This may not be too bad for someone who likes beating a game quickly to move onto the next one, but if money is an issue you may want to rent this or wait for the price to go down. You can extend the game's life by replaying levels to find the hidden red medals and get the highest rank possible for each stage, but if you are not a completionist there isn't much else to keep your interest.
It looks like Sonic's reputation will start to improve if they keep releasing more games like this. The franchise's stock took a dip after some sub par releases, but Colours is good return to form. It does however feel like it is missing something. I enjoyed playing the game, but it wasn't one of those titles that hooks you in. I was content to play a bit here and there over the course of a week until I finished it unlike other Sonic games which I just couldn't put down.
Fellow Sonic fans should however enjoy it. The only reason I am not rating it higher is due to how quickly it can be finished. That was due to the short length of some acts and not due to the difficulty. Although the game isn't all that challenging there were a few tricky parts that I had to try a few times to complete. The only other complaint I have is that they reused the same bosses a couple of times which is a bit lazy. They tweaked their appearance and their attacks, but they were essentially the same boss. Very strange as normally the Sonic games have some creative and varied boss designs.
Don't let all that put you off though, this is a fine platformer for the Wii (and there aren't many of those on not featuring Mario.) Younger gamers who Sega seem to be targeting should like this as well as older Sonic fans. Props to Sega for offering four different control types. I played with the classic controller, but the game also supports the Gamecube controller, Wimote by itself or with the nunchuck. After my experience with the Secret Rings it's nice not having to worry about motion controls.
Review originally posted on Ciao (December 2010)