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Sonic Colours review

“This is the best Sonic game since Sonic 3 and Knuckles”

After the tragedy that was 2006’s Sonic the Hedgehog, it would have been natural to think that 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, which perhaps did not sway the opinion of those doubters despite definite advances in Sonic’s core gameplay style, but Sonic Team decided to run with the Unleashed formula and release a Wii exclusive: Sonic Colours. Combining the breakneck speed of Sonic Unleashed and more traditional 2D Genesis-esque platforming, Sonic Colours is certainly a curious proposition. Perhaps it begs the question at this point how, or why, Eggman continues to bother tracking Sonic down (heck, the poor guy has even formed an alliance more than once and failed). Regardless, Eggman is back with a brand new plan: Eggman’s Incredible Interstellar Amusement Park – a giant theme park exclusively for Sonic and friends to enjoy. That means no playing as everyone else and Sonic, no guns and definitely no kissing. So with that in mind it’s up to Sonic, and Sonic alone, to save the day. Again.

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: for starters you are launched straight into playing it, no cutscenes or hub worlds beforehand to be found here (even the cutscenes are infrequent, and short, and enjoyable with a combination of witty dialogue and solid voice acting). The player is thrown into the game straight away, immediately realising arguably Colours greatest strength: the level design. Sonic Unleashed forced the player to move forward, creating tight spaces to encourage Sonic’s sense of speed with minimal platforming. In Sonic Colours we are presented with multiple routes in generally 2D environments, with the Genesis mantra of higher routes being the better choice generally holding true. However, this can vary, and this is where the stages of Colours really become apparent.

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: Mario Galaxy-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, or you can turn blue coins into solid blocks that you can move across (in the case of Cube). Unlike the Werehog these are not permanent, and last for brief periods of time, and while you have stages built around these powerups they are certainly not intrusive – you can avoid them completely in almost every stage and often have to at first. The benefit of this is that in later levels you have to act quickly, combining traditional platforming elements with quick reflexes or face restarting at a checkpoint. Fortunately this forms the majority of the game, and for the most part is done very well.

Though the Wisps alone don’t make the game, but rather the levels themselves as mentioned. Truly Sonic Colours provides some of the most memorable gaming experiences from any Sonic game I have ever played. From the awe-inspiring Carnival Zone (which will blow your mind) 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 hardware. No more does Sonic have to run through a forest, or an empty city or a beach. Instead you’ll be flying towards a giant burger, a ship from seemingly another dimension or you’ll be riding 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 perhaps the most beautiful Sonic the Hedgehog game). All of this is combined with fantastic music, with remixes of the initial theme tunes being played throughout the additional levels. Though while the whole soundtrack isn’t memorable, most of the tracks are and you will be humming them in your head or playing the level again to hear it again and again. There may not be the next Hydrocity Zone, but that doesn’t mean Sonic Colours should be ashamed of itself. The music is fantastic, and the soundtrack will certainly be worth a purchase.

However Sonic Colours isn’t perfect. Sonic’s physics sometimes do not lend themselves to platforming, with the ‘lighter’ Modern Sonic (as opposed to the heavier, Classic Sonic) causing the player to over-jump or mistime jumping sections. This certainly isn’t a Sonic 4: Part Deux, 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. Admittedly this was rare, and came from when I was double jumping unnecessarily. The issue remains though, and was probably the biggest complaint about Colours I found throughout my whole experience and would be the number one required improvement in any potential sequel.

As said, Sonic Colours features seven stages per world. The seventh is, naturally, a boss. Here Sonic Colours is inventive, combining all three core elements of the gameplay: 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 you need to push while not getting hit, or trying to not drown while leading rockets towards a glass seal that you need to break, Sonic Colours certainly provides lots of variety (if being a little on the easy side at times). You will also have 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 palette of bosses, but the variety in level design that leads up to these points – and the increase in difficulty – means that you more than likely will neither realise nor care. 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 that can give you the advantage (and usually a lot more power). The beauty of these boss fights is that even if you don’t use a Wisp power you can still win, but if you want that S-rank you might have to replay once or twice. This is where Colours offers its real depth.

Even though the main game of Sonic Colours is very short – perhaps too short, especially when combined with the generous difficulty level – 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 scattered per level that earn extra points and unlock additional multiplayer levels. These certainly do require Wisps to find and will require you to go underground, overground and everywhere in between if you want to get the maximum out the game. Often you will be required to use quick timing and precise platforming to get to a red ring before the time runs out, and chances are you will be an inch away from getting it before you fall to your death.

The multiplayer mode also unlocks new levels as you collect red rings, a co-op Super Mario Bros Wii style adventure – The Sonic Simulator – where you and a buddy can navigate a series of classic stages in a somewhat peculiar setting. Unfortunately this mode feels tacked on, despite the allure of Chaos Emeralds and the potential of one-upping your best friend by finishing first. Not only is there little incentive to play the game, but the ability to quickly get caught behind your friend if they run ahead (and the lack of ability to avoid dying) means the mode can quickly become frustrating. Combine that with a HUD that stops you from seeing what’s in front of you from time to time, and objects that you can interact with which will consistently cause you to lose rings despite your best efforts, and this multiplayer mode certainly feels tacked on. Much like a mode which allows the player to speed run the whole game from start to finish and post your score via a leaderboard, it seems that Sonic Colours was primarily design to be an individual experience.

Despite a few 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 – reputation aside – is an excellent product. Excellent music, superb level design and clever usage of the new Wisp mechanic provide a great deal of variety. Indeed there are some weak points, but these are almost trivial. Certainly, Sonic Colours is not an adventure to be missed.

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