Review by AK_the_Twilight

"Alien Vs. Hedgehog"

It's really hard to get excited about a new Sonic game. His legacy as platformer royalty has fallen. Unlike other 3D platformer heroes, Sonic hasn't been the most adaptive. 3D Sonic games have ranged from so-so to downright abysmal in the last decade, but still the blue blur keeps on trucking. After poor critical reception and lower-than-expected sales for games like Sonic and the Black Knight, Sonic Team began developing a new Sonic game. Presumably created to eliminate the “gimmicks” seen in earlier Sonic titles, Sonic Colors appeared to a lukewarm reception mixed with a dose of skepticism. 2010 brought Sonic back to the forefront of the Wii's repertoire of platformers with his newest adventure, this time in outer space. Sonic Colors doesn't fix every nagging problem seen in the 3D Sonic game series, but the improvements introduced do wonders to breathe new life into this struggling franchise.

Sonic Colors begins with Sonic and Tails skyrocketing into Dr. Eggman's newest creation, a massive theme park in space. Skeptical of the legitimacy of the doctor's plan, Sonic explores the park only to meet up with a helpless alien creature who (with help from Tails' and his translator device) says that his race is being captured and their energy harvested. Sonic and Tails discover Eggman's plot to use the alien energy to create a mind control device, which is to be used on Sonic's home planet. It's up to Sonic to rush through the theme park and save the day. It's a simple and generally unintrusive narrative, one that isn't hampered by love triangles or unexplained lycanthropic transformations. It's Sonic as he should be: running around at the speed of sound and saving the world. This is fine, but the dialogue is cringe-worthy to the highest degree. The writing will make you groan as many of the jokes and a lot of the humor is pretty schizophrenic. It'll underwhelm the older crowd, but alienate the younger crowd. If you can withstand the cheesiness of the cutscene dialogue, the story in Sonic Colors will feel memorable, mostly due to the fact it that throws the complex subplots out the window.

Sonic Colors is as straightforward as a Sonic game has ever been. There's no overly intricate hub world to wander around aimlessly in. There are no shooting, treasure-hunting, or fighting stages. There's just a world map connecting different acts in the story. Taking cues from Super Mario Galaxy 2, Sonic Colors removes every bit of extraneous gameplay with an easy-to-follow stage select map which lets Sonic dive into the acts with no frustration. You simply choose an open stage and complete it to open more stages. It's a bit linear, but it's so much better than having a tedious hub or frustrating sub-stages. Sonic Colors completes the equation the series has been struggling with for years now, practically eliminating every trace of pointless complexity and unneeded distraction that has since plagued the franchise.

Like the storyline and design, the Sonic Colors gameplay is all business. Sonic must simply run, jump, and slide to the end of the stage to complete it. That's it. The fact that Sonic Colors removes the ridiculous objectives of older 3D Sonic titles makes it truly feel like a comeback for the blue blur. The game frequently divides stages into 3D running sequences a la Sonic Unleashed's daytime levels and 2D side-scrolling sequences similar to Sonic Rush. The transition between the stages is seamless; there's rarely a moment where the shift in perspective gets in the way. The only serious issue with Sonic Colors' gameplay is something that has since been the bane of all Sonic titles: momentum. There's nothing more frustrating than running through the space theme park and getting hit by an enemy or wall, or at worst, falling into a bottomless pit. Though the game keeps the pace going better than any other 3D Sonic in recent memory, Sonic Colors still has those cheap obstacles, severing the speed factor and bringing the game to a screeching halt. When the game shows Sonic rushing through loops, corkscrews, and leaps, that's where Sonic Colors truly shines. Sadly, there are far too many moments of lost momentum to ignore. It's an improvement for sure, but Sonic Colors still retains many of the pacing issues that have made the series' recent outings so infamous.

New to the Sonic platforming mix are the alien Wisps, intergalactic creatures who can give Sonic new powers with the shake of the Wii Remote. After obtaining the powers of the Wisps, Sonic can earn new abilities like blasting through levels at the speed of light with the Laser Wisps or running on walls and ceilings with the Spike Wisps. With new powers to unlock and plenty of diversity in the abilities, completing levels using different Wisps gives the game some good replay value. Sadly, though, some Wisps feel tedious or just are a pain to use. Some Wisps slow the game down considerably or simply feel like a gamble to use without falling into a bottomless pit. The Wisps add some variety, but it would've been even better if the powers were more versatile or easier to use.

The storyline is brief, but there are reasons to revisit Sonic Colors. The long-time endeavor of getting S Ranks on each stage is definitely welcome and fortunately is nailed down to time, ring count, and other bonuses like homing attack or drift combos. There are also five red rings to find in each stage, many of which depend on precise use of the Wisps abilities. A solid multiplayer mode and the ability to upload scores to leaderboards give the game a much-needed boost in replay value. Sonic Colors' content isn't mind-blowing, but it feels refined and just ambitious enough to feel new, but still accessible.

Basing its presentation around outer space and amusement parks, you'd think that Sonic Colors would have a one-trick aesthetic, but that's not true at all. Sonic Colors' graphic design is cohesive, but adds enough variety and over-the-top action to be noteworthy. Different levels offer different environmental objects and the Wisp effects look great. When in motion, Sonic Colors is simply fantastic. Sonic's pastime of dashing through spirals and loops is represented with such power that right when the game starts feeling stale, something new and impressive will appear. The music is a solid mix of rock and techno, and the voice acting (despite the awful writing) is actually pretty good. Sonic's new voice actor Roger Craig Smith (best known for his roles as Chris Redfield in Resident Evil 5 and Ezio in Assassin's Creed II) is a good choice for Sonic's role, capturing Sonic's character well. The presentation in Sonic Colors is a massive step forward for the Sonic series, always bringing a clever energy to the game.

Pros
+ Spectacular aesthetic design captures the speed and elegance of the Sonic series
+ A solid balance of 2D and 3D sequences
+ Good amount of challenge and replay value

Cons
- Dialogue is abysmal
- Breaks in pacing and momentum are far too frequent
- Some wisp powers feel underutilized

Sonic Team must be commended for bringing Sonic back to his Sonic Adventure-esque roots, because Sonic Colors is a great platformer with an excellent amount of style and clever gameplay to spare. The Wisp abilities, for the most part, are implemented well and offer a good amount of variety and spice to the intergalactic platforming. A great presentation compliments the high-speed antics and clever level design superbly. Still, though, there's room for improvement. The gaps in momentum and remainder of random obstacles hurt what is otherwise a return to form for Sonic the Hedgehog. All in all, Sonic Colors is well worth your time. It's the best Sonic game available right now, flaws aside, and keeps everything that made Sonic amazing front and center. If the next Sonic installment follows Sonic Colors' example, then the future looks bright for the series, and maybe…just maybe…Sonic will be able to revitalize his legacy and take his platformer crown once again. For now, though, enjoy the energetic platforming rush that is Sonic Colors.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 05/26/11

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


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