Review by hellstormi

"Does Sonic Colors have what it takes to overcome the dreaded "Sonic Cycle"?"

From average to mediocre games, Sonic hasn't had a bright history within the realm of 3d. In November of 2010, a new title emerges called Sonic Colors but does it overcome the infamous “Sonic Cycle”?

Story:
Sonic and Tails ride a space elevator to Dr. Eggman's Interstellar Amusement Park as he calls it. The doctor claims to be humble and that the park was built as atonement for his previous schemes. Obviously, Sonic and Tails believe it to be suspicious of the doctor to change his tune so quickly. The two set out and find that Eggman has been kidnapping little alien creatures known as wisps for another diabolical scheme to rule the universe.

The story is decent for a Sonic game, never leading to excessive melodrama or trying too hard. It's a fun plot to see unfold especially when Sonic's character is revealed as obnoxious and talkative. Even with very few characters, the writers do a very good job of fleshing out their personalities from just being cliche drones. Sonic appears as the quick and loquacious hedgehog who seems to talk even without anyone to listen but the player. With Roger Craig Smith (Chris Redfield in RE5) doing the voice-work for the hedgehog, it's no wonder the story seemed hilarious in its own right. New voice actor Kate Higgins makes Tails sound less of a raspy voiced girl and more to an actual young boy. Tails comes off as the intelligent technician you expect also showing some spirit and is aware of his own quality instead of just aimlessly admiring Sonic. Mike Pollock continues to do an excellent job voicing Dr. Eggman. Throughout stages in the game, he speaks through a loud speaker to guide fellow visitors through his hazardous amusement park and “persuade” Sonic to come to him with excuses such as “we've found your keys… yeah that's it!” Eggman has with him two robots called Cubot and Orbot (from Unleashed.) that have their own unique personality and add to the comedy of the game even though it was made for a younger audience. It would have been nice if the two drones appeared in cutscenes more often instead of only in Eggman's scheme speeches. The story written by the writers of Madworld and Happy Tree Friends flows through well without forcing exposition and ends on a good note. If you pay even close attention you'll notice the writers even slipped a Madworld reference into a cutscene.

Gameplay:
Think Sonic Unleashed without the werehog gimmick and various power abilities adding to the mix. Sonic runs from a constantly switching 2D to 3D plane. The 3D areas are usually speed based while the 2D areas are more platforming based. Sonic carries all of his abilities from Sonic Unleashed back into Sonic Colors besides the excessive boost move. In place for this, he has been given the ability to double jump when no enemies are around to home on. It really helps in a tight situation when the platforming gets rough.

If you are familiar with the gameplay and controls of Sonic Unleashed then you'll feel right at home with Colors. Unlike its predecessor, Sonic Colors feels like it's a much more polished version of unleashed, with specific sections of stages to handle well and lacking the constant glitches. The controls are responsive and easy to handle even with the Wiimote and Nunchuck.

In Sonic Colors, you are able to use the abilities of small alien creatures known as wisps. There are seven in total and the first grants Sonic his generic speed dash from Unleashed and the Rush series though isn't as fast nor lasts that long. One such ability called “Cyan Laser” has Sonic roll in his trademark spindash to smash through a group of enemies like bowling pins. The ability doesn't just have you roll into a random direction but predicts Sonic's trail in his laser form so the player will easily be able to perform it quickly. The third ability is called the “Yellow Drill” which allows Sonic to dig through certain ground and water to grab rings and other goodies from within. Number four of the wisps is the “Orange Rocket” which shoots Sonic up once into the sky and has him glide his way to the ground soon after. It's disappointing that this specific wisp isn't really wired into the level design but is more of a pacing technique to reach higher ground. The fifth wisp in the list is “Green Hover” which (as the name says) allows Sonic to temporary float into the air. It also gives Sonic his light dash from previous entries in the franchise, allowing him to dash through a line of rings. The sixth and next to last wisp is “Blue Cube” which transforms Sonic into a “blue cube” and has him smashing the ground like Kirby in stone form. Smashing the ground breaks nearby objects that stand in Sonic's way but also transforms special blue rings into blue cubes that can be traversed to access optional pathways and secrets. Each time Sonic uses his power, the blue cubes and blue rings switch form allow for actual platforming and puzzle elements instead of just dashing to the goal. The final wisp is “Purple Frenzy” which has Sonic transform into a purple chomping monster that devours everything in its way and grows when literally eating through the stage.

Everything is spot on in the gameplay department though there are a few flaws here and there. Even with its new style of gameplay, Sonic Colors delivers when it comes to nostalgia. (May I even say more-so then Sonic 4?) Old enemies appear throughout the game such as Buzzbomber, Grounder, and even the lovable Crabmeat show up, ready to have a taste of Sonic's new powers. There are a few annoyances to add with the great gameplay. The yellow spring makes a welcome return as a tedious gimmick which suddenly stops the intense flow of the game. These annoying yet thankfully short stages contain a yellow spring that you follow in the direction it moves toward over bottomless pits and above enemies which may knock you into a pit if not careful. It's surprising that the pace is killed by these stages of lackluster quality. Water stages also become a problem due to some being on rails with currents whishing you away from the goal and being able to infinitely jump underwater ruins what could have added a nice challenge though that is just nitpicking. Luckily these problems are few and far between leaving most of the game to daytime stages that surpass Unleashed in design.

There are stages gained by collecting red rings called Sonic Simulator stages in which you play as a mechanical Sonic through test stages. Each song has an 8-bit rendition of the level the stage is based on. There are 21 simulator stages altogether with 3 acts each for their respective Chaos Emerald. These Sonic Simulator stages are bland and sometimes tend to carry on for too long. (With one player of course.) After beating the stage once, there is no reason to replay them unless you want beat your time and score. However collecting them all nets you a special prize that hasn't been seen since the 2D games. With only one Wiimote, I have not played the multiplayer so I am unable to verify if the lag is horrendous, good or if the multiplayer in general sucks.

Design:
This is where Sonic Colors really shines its brightest. This game literally has the best graphics on the Wii to date beating Super Mario Galaxy outright. Unlike SMG which only has a few actual modeled planets in the background along with a BG image, Sonic Colors has a large draw distance with most of the background objects modeled. In one level, Sonic runs over a digital road in space while Eggman's fleet of colorful ships warp into the carnival while firecrackers crackle in the air and in another, rides a rollercoaster through a comet containing nuclear green volcanoes, spewing acid all over. There is sparse popup (I have yet to see any at all.) and the frame rate is an impressively constant 30 frames per second, even when things get really intense. Loading screens feel non-existent with stages booting up as fast as you select them. The engine is the most polished I've seen since Sonic's debut in 3d. Sonic lacks the ability to glitch and run through walls and fall into cheap pits underneath the detailed architecture. Sometimes the engine may seem a bit too polished, with invisible walls blocking your way if you want to go and recollect something you previously missed, preventing any game breaking though this is only a problem if you are trying to experiment with the game's already impressive engine. Unlike in Sonic Unleashed where to survive, memorization was the key to avoid cheap deaths; Sonic Colors warns you of instant kill hazards beforehand, preparing you for death defying platforming without the need to replay a level a million times. Prior to the final level, if you die then it's your fault.

It's easy to tell that Sonic Team had fun designing this game. The egg-pawn which were generic in the past are finally given their own identity. In each stage, the egg-pawns are given their own look depending on the theme. In the second level, Sweet Mountain, the egg-pawns are all dressed up in chef attire, traversing the mountains of hamburgers and giant donuts. In the oriental theme park, Aquatic Park, the egg-pawns wield katanas while dressed as Japanese samurai, ready to cut Sonic down when he comes near.

As good as the game actually is, Sonic Colors actually suffers for being too good. What does that mean you ask? Well before the game was released I've browsed through footage of first couple of stages from the E3 demo. I could see the player using the wisps to their full potential, digging for secret rings with the Yellow Drill and gaining bonuses for tumbling egg-pawns with Cyan Laser. When you first play the game the wisps are unavailable to use at your disposal and the game forces you to play the stage like a generic platformer without any of the powers. Yes, eventually you'll unlock them all but depending on who you are, you may or may not want to replay those prior stages with the newly obtained wisps. It's not to say it was a dumb choice on Sonic Team's part because I understand it is for the sake of replay value and boy this game has a lot of that. The problem lies in the fact that the stages aren't mandatory to be played with full control over the wisps. So for anyone who plans to play the game once through will not be as satisfied as those who actually replay the game. It is a shame that due to the wisps making the levels more lively and complex compared to the hold right to win stages in its predecessor, Sonic Unleashed.

A weird design issue I had was the timer in a stage. Whenever you die, the timer doesn't reset and makes it seem like you took 8 minutes when you technically took 5 to beat a stage. Perhaps it's for the sake of perfection if you want a good time; either way I find it an odd design choice.

Another problem is the way the game is paced. Each level consists of six acts and a boss battle. "Six? That must be a lot of stages for each level!" You may think until you actually play the game. The first act of each level is usually the most epic and well designed stage of level consisting of presentation not found in prior games. After completion you'll head on to the next act, only to find it much shorter though still fun like the first act. Then on the 3rd act, the stage will take a minute or less to beat along with some arbitrary platforming which will make you scratch your head in confusion. The rest of the acts then become rehashes of previous acts with platforms swapped in different locations; basically, the same physical stage with a less inspiring path and if you're unlucky, a yellow spring. (Though in a few levels Act 6 is close to the best act in the level in terms of quality.) At the end of level, you'll reach the boss and the flow will suddenly retain itself. Half the bosses in the game are also rehashes of previous bosses but more difficult to battle. Its things like those that make you think why the developers cut corners and hadn't given us six epic, good length acts. That would have made the flow perfect. Things get cheap near the final boss where checkpoints suddenly disappear and a certain level proves to be very anticlimactic. No Doomsday Zone really sucks…

Sound:
I must say that Sonic Colors has one of the best soundtracks, if not the best soundtrack of the year. Lead Composer, Jun Senoue tosses the lackluster attempt of revisiting the genesis era with Sonic 4 out of the window in place for the exotic sounds in Sonic Colors. In each level, the music isn't too forced, or dull at all. Every track is given something that makes it fit into the level it is placed in. From the Japanese techno beats in Aquatic Park to the funky orchestra in Sweet Mountain to the satisfying jazzy guitar riffs in the final stage, (Which I must say is better then the actual stage.) the music will keep you hooked until the end. In the Sonic Simulator stages 8-bit renditions of each level will play through the acts. There are a few exceptions to the sound however. Depending on your taste, you will either love or hate the vocal themes. A few of the normal boss themes also seem a bit underwhelming compared to the rest of music within the game. The budget was high on this one and it really shows. Hell buy the soundtrack, it's that good! :)

Conclusion:
Sonic Colors is perhaps the best 3D Sonic game to date though it suffers for having been in development shortly yet the polished engine proves that Sonic Team has the potential of making grand Sonic game. The game is gorgeous, has an astounding soundtrack, epic act 1 level design. It suffers from short first playthrough and various corners cut though don't expect to find any glitches about. (Rarely, if at all.)

If you just want to run through the levels and enjoy the sights, the game will clock in at about 5 hours. However if you're a perfectionist, the game will definitely be worth the money you spend. There are a dozen things to do after completing the game such as collecting all 180 red rings, completing all 21 Sonic Simulator stages for the Chaos Emeralds, and testing your skills on the challenge mode.

If you're a Sonic fan or a fan of platformers, this game is a must-buy for the Wii. You won't be disappointed unless you're just going for the ride one time. This game is meant to be played more than once.

Sonic Cycle, thou'st has been bested.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/11/10

Game Release: Sonic Colours (AU, 11/11/10)


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