Review by demonfang178

"There just might be hope for 2-D Sonic gameplay afterall."

Introduction

Yes, you did read that title correctly. The vast majority of this game is 2-D and even the 3-D proportions aren't terribly significant. But, make no mistake, if you started reading into Sonic Colors and thought the level design in the early promotional videos was incredibly shallow, then you'll be pleased to know that it greatly improves later in the game. Why Sonic Team didn't showcase the actually great designed stages is beyond me. Questionable business practices aside, let's get to the actual review.

Level Design

Psychologic dictates that people typically remember the first and last items the best so I'll start with what I consider to be the game's strongest tenet.

The majority of stages start up with Sonic running in a seemingly open area or dodging danger automatically to hype you up for the initial stage. Sadly, the area isn't as open as you'd think. These opening 3-D environments are very straight forward and leave little for exploration or diversity as they are usually used for an automated spectacle or something arbitrary. That's when the stage shifts to a 2-D plane that the true level design shines. This is where the game gets creative and fun with its gimmicks. Whether it's being upside down, bouncing on moving springs, avoiding world-specific traps, or using Wisps(basically temporary power-ups that you choose when to use) to open new paths, they are usually pulled off rather well. However, certain gimmicks like the lollipop swings in Sweet Mountain are underwhelming and you only see them used once or twice. It's just disappointing, that's all.

<Gameplay

It's what compliments the level designs. The game plays similar to Sonic Unleash, but better in almost every, single way.

Wisps

They're cute little aliens who grant Sonic a specific ability. You'll find them conveniently shattered or hidden through levels and unlock more of them as you progress. Some have abilities that don't particular last too long(Hover), some take a good deal of control away from the player(Frenzy), and some have one-shot uses(Laser), meaning some slight pre-planning is in order. But one thing is certain about all of them: they all add a good layer of variety to the gameplay cake and allowing access to certain, sometimes hidden areas is just icing.

Controls

In 3-D, at times, the game will require you to perform those maneuvers of yesteryear like drifting or quick step. Sonic drifting makes Need for Speed drifting look smooth in comparison and quick step is very responsive. The latter's issue is that you can't configurate quick step to the shoulder buttons on the Nintendo Gamecube controller and thus you must push left or right while holding forward. A minor gripe. And then there's jumping. Oh yes. Players of the game know exactly what I am talking about on this one. Sonic jumps are...well, floaty. I am not a fan of that word but he is. It takes him about a full second to achieve maximum height in a jump. This will undoubtably throw off anyone who has played a platformer ever. Sonic also supports a double jump ability that launches him about one full inch, but without mastering the timing of his first jump, it's near worthless. Wisps' controls and everything else like running and boosting is very flexible.

Story

Fact is, it's in the game so I gotta review it. Dr. Eggman has built a gigantic amusement park in space that tethers several planets to it claiming it is an attempt at redemption for his many, many past crimes. Sonic, being the only sensible person on the entire planet, calls Eggman's bluff and goes to investigate along with Tails. Surprise surprise. Eggman's up to his widespread wacky world domination disposition and it's to Sonic and Tails to fully uncover the plot and put a stop to it.

Pacing

One thing the story really lacks is decent pacing. You, the player, knew Eggman was up to no good from the get-go otherwise this wouldn't be a game. But it's not long before the characters confirm this. You, through cutscenes, learn the full plot about halfway through the game and, on top of everything else, the game hints the early on that something would go wrong regardless of Sonic's actions.

<Characters and Voice Acting

The cast has been greatly reduced to just Sonic, Tails, Eggman, Orbot from Sonic Unleashed, and now Yacker( a Wisp Tails tries to communicate with) and Cubot. They're all okay on their own and their voices are easy on the ears. Even Cubot whose voices changes constantly throughout the game. The voice acting is okay as well. The problem comes like the dialogue. The dialogue teeters on embarrassingly laughable to surprisingly laudable. There's some middle ground at times.

Graphics

The graphics are stunning. There's detail everywhere and the background stays moving as you do so. Very little of the environment gets recycled and it's just so beautiful that you almost wish you could fully explore it. Throughout Tropical Resort you'll notice the planet in the background as you race on rails, flying cars with variety, and even little food joints to the side. There is just that make detail. Every zone feels unique in their own right.

<Music

Like level design to gameplay, the music compliments the graphics and sets the atmosphere. Most of it is great and some are just okay, which is to be expected. Different stages in the same zone have similar music but change it to fit the atmosphere it is trying to create. Calm music for precision platforming and intense music for serious stages. Only downside is that there is no Sound Test or anything, which admittedly is a pretty big downside.

Replay Value

To go through the main story will take about 5 - maybe 8 hours. Yes, this game is short. However, in each stage are five hidden red rings that you can collect, which encourages exploration in and of itself. These unlock Game Land stages, which is a sort of two player mode with some throwbacks that and, in my honest opinion, beats Sonic 4: Episode 1 in terms of level design. Then there is S ranking stages if you're into that, speedruns, or just replay a stage for the heck of it. A game doesn't need an abundance of missions and whatnot under the guise of extending game time to have replay value. For those who don't know how to entertain themselves, this might be a disappointment, although this is a pretty good game to learn how.

Conclusion

Sonic Colors just might be the best Sonic game in a long time. A very long time. Story has rarely ever been good in a Sonic game and this is no exception, but that's not a key point. Even though the level design can sometimes have a Crash Bandicoot-esque vibe, it's fairly good...in 2-D. The Wisps are fun to use and plainly enhance the game no matter how you look at it. The biggest shortcoming is that the game is short. But make no mistake, the longevity is there; the game just isn't going to hand it to you like they have done in the past.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/19/10

Game Release: Sonic Colors (US, 11/16/10)


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