Sonic hasn't been well. Neighbors leave flaming bags of poo on his doorstep. He yells at kids to get off his lawn. Princess Sally ran off with Knuckles. His nineteenth birthday came and went with little more than a price reduction on his game collection on XBLA. Not even a birthday blowie from Big the Cat. Tsk tsk.
Hopefully, all that's about to change. Sonic Colors was announced a few weeks ago for DS and Wii, and VGChartz was invited to attend a behind-closed-doors with SEGA at E3 (with Patrick Reiley of SEGA U.S. and Takashi Iizuka, Producer of Sonic Colors) to see it up close and personal. I have to say: it's definitely a step in the right direction.
Sonic Colors starts where Sonic Unleashed left off. Unleashed was... not well received, to say the least, but mostly for the positively dreadful Werehog levels, which were slow and focused on fighting - two things that Sonic has never been about. Despite its harsh reception, many critics conceded that the runreallyfast Sonic levels in the game contained a glimmer of hope for the future of the franchise, like this is what Sonic in 3D could be like. SEGA listened to their fans. This game should be the Sonic game that makes people love him again (and yes, I know we say that every time).
Colors is set in "Eggman's Incredible Interstellar Amusement Park," which is a group of several planets (levels) chained together by some sort of energy link. By moving Sonic into a fantastically unrealistic place like a theme park in space (instead of his traditional reality-based worlds like jungles, underwater, and on oil rigs), it has allowed the level designers to really get crazy with their ideas; one level we were shown featured rail sliding segments and giant buildings reminiscent of the city in Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction.
Aliens known as "wisps" lived on these planets before Eggman (previously a.k.a. Dr. Robotnik in America) industrialized them, and it's up to you to be PETA's blue hero and save them. They're not just collectibles, however; the wisps give Sonic special powers. He has has same moves from Unleashed at first: boost, grind, and a homing attack. But wisps are a little different
Defeat an enemy, and earn a white wisp to fill your boost gauge. The colored ones are where the second part of the game's title come from, and they're the ones that really matter. Pick up a blue wisp and you'll earn the Sonic Laser ability, allowing you to do a crazy-fast aim + zoom halfway across the level, like Sonic's dash attack, but this can go in any direction, enabling you to explore levels a little more thoroughly. The yellow wisp gives Sonic a drill ability to go underground (or underwater) in some 2D side-scrolling sections of levels, always in control, and always at hyper speed.
You'll find different colored wisps as you progress through the game, and the new abilities will enable you to return to levels previously completed and reach new areas, like a Sonicvania mash-up. SEGA is hoping to reward unique uses of the color powers, and they're focus with the whole game this time is, "Is it fun?" People won't replay levels they've already seen without the promise of some reward for their effort. Luckily this game will entice you with... well, we didn't get that far in the demo. I asked, however, and was told, "Chaos Emeralds, and red rings that unlock new abilities." Gotta love me some Chaos Emeralds. Mmmm...
You'll be forced to mix and match powers to reach new areas in the game. Fingers crossed that the camera won't get in the way and it'll be self-explanatory enough understand and not at all like the first Sonic the Hedgehog reboot on the PS3 and 360. *shudder* I liked this one, though; it felt to me like a high-speed Ratchet & Clank, with a mix of humor, action, and slightly-off-but-not-too-far-off-the-beaten-path exploration elements.
Sonic Colors is coming to the Wii and the DS at the end of the year. The DS version will be a lot more akin to Sonic Rush, a side-scrolling action game that will use different colored wisps as power-ups. How many different colors? "A lot," Iizuka told us. That's a good number, I think. Between this and Sonic 4, our favorite blue hedgehog is looking to have a very good year.